'The Politics of Craft: After Ford 151' takes as its inspiration the idea of the Arts & Crafts as a resistance movement. Through a rich array of historic and contemporary objects, craft and fine art (some derived from Grizedale's own archive), the show charted the Arts & Crafts trajectory through modernism to becoming a cornerstone of our understanding of the contemporary design object.
The slightly smartypants title of the show references Aldous Huxley’s book 'Brave New World', in which a dystopian - or ‘negative utopian’ - future defines itself through the machine age. Huxley dates this era to the birth of Henry Ford, the inventor of the mechanised production line. As Ford was born in 1863, this exhibition begins in the year A.F. 151 (i.e 2014).
The exhibition engages with historical ideas around both mass mechanical reproduction and craft to encourage the position that contemporary art and design should have a use. It presents Grizedale Arts’ own politicised history of design - a brave new world of objects and ideas that serve as a provocative reassessment of the Arts & Crafts legacy. In a sense, 'The Politics of Craft: After Ford 151' is a story of the failure to date of the political ambitions of craft and design; its utopian ambitions in tandem with an uncomfortable relationship between the hand, machine and economics.
The skeletal central structure within the exhibition is a representation of the ceiling of St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross, a now-ruined Modernist building within a woodland in central Scotland. This roof structure was interpreted by the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh School of Architecture’s Sutherland Hussey Architects and is presented in the exhibition in cardboard, assembled from flatpack. The piece also forms a tribute to former tutors Isi Metzstein (1928-2012) and Andy MacMillan (1928-2014), the architects responsible for St Peter’s Seminary’s original design. The ruins of St Peter’s were acquired by now-defunkt Scottish arts organisation NVA, who spent nearly a decade re-invigorating the building before in 2018 reluctantly abandoning the project.
The exhibition was curated by Korean curator Jina Lee and Adam Sutherland and first shown as part of Grizedale Art’s fifteen-year retrospective; ‘The Nuisance of Landscape (2014)’. The exhibition was most recently displayed at The Glasgow School of Art, and ran from 7 Feb - 8 Mar 2015.
An accompanying text by Michael Davis can be read in the PDF below.
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