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The Power of Making: Victoria and Albert Museum,

22 Dec

ArtSlant – September 6th – January 2nd, 2012, Victoria and Albert Museum,

“Power of Making is an exhibition about the breadth and depth of craft’s presence in modern life. The featured objects have been selected to highlight both age-old skills and contemporary techniques, from traditional stone walls to machines that can make other machines. Each exhibit demonstrates refined craftsmanship, meticulous control or ingenious application.

The exhibition is structured in groups of objects that share certain attributes. Some have been created using related techniques or materials. Others are connected by their appearance, or by their makers’ motivations.

There is no set path to follow. Power of Making is intended to encourage exploration and imagination, in the open-ended spirit of the works on display.

Types of making

Makers use numerous different skills and techniques to shape their materials. All these techniques may be considered as falling into one of just three types.

Adding techniques connect, layer or combine materials. They include welding, soldering, veneering, weaving, embroidery and painting.

Subtracting techniques remove materials. They include cutting, carving, engraving, drilling and grinding.

Transforming techniques alter materials themselves. They include throwing clay, blowing glass, forging metal, and baking. The transformed states may be temporary or permanent. Irreversible transformations occur in processes like vacuum forming, stereolithography and casting.

Every object in this exhibition has been made by adding, subtracting or transforming material, or by combining these processes.

Learning a skill

Too many people never get a chance to experience the highest levels of making. Most can make something, at least at an amateur level, and many reach a professional standard. But there are many layers of expertise beyond that. It may take years to attain complete mastery.

At every stage in the learning process, a maker’s relationship to materials and tools changes dramatically. What may at first have been frustrating becomes pleasurable. Makers start to think through their materials and skills, almost unconsciously. Once they learn how to use and care for a tool, makers might start modifying it, or even invent a new tool to replace it. In all these ways, learning a skill is a way of opening up future possibilities and challenges.

In the zone

Advanced skills may take a long time to learn, but the feeling of being ‘in the zone’ can be experienced by anyone – from a four-year-old to a master artisan. When you are absorbed in making, things happen that you didn’t plan. The experience is intuitive, like sport, and it can be meditative, like music.

This sensation of effortless flow is a reward in its own right, but it is also a situation of intense learning. Makers who are immersed in what they are doing build on existing skills and discover new ones. Innovations in making happen, more often than not, when they are least expected.

Making new knowledge

All knowledge about making was once new. Someone, sometime, had to formulate it. But there is a big difference between established, ‘traditional’ forms of making and those which are innovative. Both are crucially important, and both can be expressive, but they serve different purposes.

Traditional ways of making have accumulated over generations. They are passed down from person to person, often through apprenticeships, and learned through repetition. Innovative making is less rehearsed, and may be less reliable. But it is more exploratory, with the potential to open up dramatic new directions. This can involve redirecting existing skills, or creating new ones from scratch.

All knowledge, even the most traditional, can be new for any individual. But some knowledge is new in the world. This exhibition celebrates both these types of discovery.

Thinking by making

Many people think that craft is a matter of executing a preconceived form or idea, something that already exists in the mind or on paper. Yet making is also an active way of thinking, something which can be carried out with no particular goal in mind. In fact, this is a situation where innovation is very likely to occur.

Even when making is experimental and open-ended, it observes rules. Craft always involves parameters, imposed by materials, tools, scale and the physical body of the maker. Sometimes in making, things go wrong. An unskilled maker, hitting the limits of their ability, might just stop. An expert, though, will find a way through the problem, constantly unfolding new possibilities within the process.”


The Kaleidoscope Mind: Some Easy Ways to Teach Creativity – The Atlantic

28 Nov

The Kaleidoscope Mind: Some Easy Ways to Teach Creativity – The Atlantic.

The term kaleidoscope is Greek and is loosely interpreted as “an observer of beautiful forms.” So what, then, is a kaleidoscope mind? The Hans family would say it’s “a type of mind that is agile, flexible, self-aware, and informed by a diversity of experiences.” It’s a mind that is “able to perceive any given situation from a multitude of perspectives at will — selecting from a rich repertoire of lenses or frameworks.” They would say that a kaleidoscope mind is playful, and it must be able to “see patterns, connections, and relationships that more rigid minds miss.” And they would say that a kaleidoscope mind can be taught.

As biochemist Szent Gyorgyi once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” You’ll find that as you start to see differently, creativity comes easier. And just like a kaleidoscope, any way you turn will produce creative thinking.

 

Creative Criticism: Notes from an interview with Camelia Elias

14 Nov

Keep it simple.

Write elegantly.

Create correspondences.

If you must write textbooks or introductions to this or that concept –  à la what is most commercially valuable for Oxford and Harvard – then make sure that you won’t be afraid to say ‘fuck’  a few times, provoke the establishment, or show what an idiotic idea the idea the that the democratization of writing means adopting a non-offensive stance is.

Allow yourself to move with ease between beliefs.

Create improbable scenarios, and the sillier the better. We need more laughter.

‘Know thyself.’ Write for yourself and strangers. Don’t write for peers.

Presume nothing. Assume nothing.

Write for the occasion, even if the occasion means that you will be read by no more that 2 people.

Value ‘nothing’, silence, and the usefulness of the useless in creative academic writing.

Think with the heart and the gut.

Fly.

B: EyeCorner emphasizes creative criticism. What is “creative criticism”? Why is it important in the current lit-crit landscape?

CE: The importance of creative criticism is also politically determined and linked to the need to counter the illegitimate act of measuring, quantifying, and weighing academic discourse in the age of ‘open source.’ The whole idea with peer-reviewing and gate-keeping is becoming more and more abhorring, and of course impossible to maintain, especially when we can all agree that, if there is knowledge in the world, we need to let it flow, rather than barricade it behind concrete walls. Sure, the ones against the ‘everything goes’ philosophy will do anything to hang on to the moribund tradition of ‘we must not let errors into the world,’ but the way I see it, that merely emphasizes the general stupidity that informs such endeavors. To give you an example, I like to read esoteric and hermetic texts, and what amazes me the most is that it is almost always the case, than not the case, that what we come to appreciate in them is the ‘creative errors’ connected to their reception. For instance, people believed that the Zohar originated with the mystic rabbi Simeon bar Yohai some 2000 years ago. The Kabbalist texts have been greatly inspired by the Zohar, and a good deal of brilliant writing and wisdom has been produced throughout the following centuries. The fact that the historian Gershom Scholem proved that the Zohar was written around 1100 did little to remove the Kabbalists’ enthusiasm for the now ‘fake’ text. The same goes for other texts. The Emerald Tablet and the Golden DawnOrder, all claiming mysterious origins for their foundations, have not suffered from dismissal either, when it was proved that they based their claims on inauthentic sources. What we still appreciate is the ingenuity associated with their building up systems of thought that were not imagined before. In other words, such texts and contexts can be said to have produced a lot of creative criticism, which means rigorous thinking that is not deterred by factual knowledge.

EyeCorner Press is interested in another kind of potency, namely, that which leads to a form of insightful criticism that leaves us in a state of astonishment, open-hearted, and in awe of open ends. In other words, to answer your question, we use creative criticism in the same way that Raymond Federman used to talk about what he termed ‘critifiction.’ We follow his ideas to legitimize our own condition for being in the world, the world of a myriad of texts published by all sorts. Here’s what he says:

“The term critifiction is used because the discourse that follows is critical as well as fictitious; imagination is used in the sense that it is essential in the formulation of a discourse; plagiarism [read play-giarism] because the writing of a discourse always implies bringing together pieces of other discourses; an unfinished endless discourse because what is presented here is open at both ends, and as such more could be added endlessly.” (Critifiction, 1993: 49, author’s emphasis)

B: Do you perceive any hostility toward post-structuralist writing/methods/philosophy, and, if so, how do such hostilities manifest?

CE: I like this question, though, I have to make an effort not to answer it without disclosing general dismay at all rationalists, literalists, and positivists who are convinced that what makes their academic life worth living is the idea of exactitude and promptitude in relation to all things ‘fuzzy.’ The reason why there is hostility towards post-structuralist writing is because such writing allows itself to be imprecise. Of course, and as a general rule, all those against it, don’t bother to ask or look for the motivation behind such ‘imprecision’. And why, well, because one takes one’s name at face value, for you see, if you are a rationalist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you, by definition, are exempted from having to really engage with all that which does not bear your name. But then, also by definition, if you are a realist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you will also be self-righteous, and see it as your duty to denounce that which you don’t understand. And so it goes. People have been burnt for having contrary ideas. I myself prefer it when precision interacts with how it manifests itself in some higher order, higher even than itself, and then I like to see how this precision relates to a dynamic system of thought that is ever changing. And that’s all, but mind you, people have been burnt for even less.

See: Original Interview of Camelia Elias with Biblioklept

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

4 Nov