Filed under: art-icles | Tags: guerrilla knitting, martyn smith, old roads, oldroads.org, spinhandspun
Earlier this year, Martyn Smith of Oldroads.org asked me a profound question regarding the viewer’s experience of public yarn art. He separated my work [read, guerrilla knitters: our work] into four categories:
- The knitted object itself
- This object in installation
- The installation’s document in photographic form
- The photograph or object’s installation in a gallery
Which of these four categories is the art?
At the time, I argued that all categories were art, with each experience prompting different aesthetic interpretations.
Among other things, the object itself conjures knitting’s associations with time, focus, patience, design, and (for some) its historical framework as a woman’s craft.
Of course, the experience of a public installation depends on its intended goal, be it to challenge knitting’s reputation as a pastoral craft-form intended to keep women occupied in the home, juxtapose our industrial landscapes with handmade reminders of our humanity, reclaim public objects as our own, or to offer an unexpected change in scenery.
The photograph, then, documents the artist’s act and intended public statement, yet lacks the transcendental “ah” moment of an unforeseen first-hand encounter. Roland Barthes best describes the difference between a photograph and the human experience it represents in his book Camera Lucida. He writes, “The Photograph… becomes a bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination, so to speak, a modest, shared hallucination… a mad image, chafed by reality.”
Installed in a gallery, the craft is validated and accepted as a form of high art. But like a photograph, guerrilla knitting exhibitions deny viewers the excitement and secrecy of discovering these works on the streets.
Martyn’s question is alluring, and I find myself reconfiguring my original response near-daily.
I am curious, guerrilla knitters: What is your response? I would like to hear your thoughts in the comments section of this page, and will pose the same question in a forum on Subversiveyarn.ning.
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