So as the holidays approach I am (probably like many of you..) ‘running behind’. My dissertation proposal was to be finished six weeks ago, and my Christmas shopping is not anywhere near finished…
Any yet, the important things remain in good order: we are healthy, happy (most days!), and together. So, tomorrow night our little family will host our annual holiday gathering and double-time the occasion to also accept donations for the local women’s shelter (last year we collected clothes and other household items for Syrian refugees to Canada). Each year my husband and I look forward to this gathering, we used to host a similar party in our younger years living on the West Coast – the difference being that in those days we lasted easily into the wee hours!
This may be my last post until the new year, so I thought that I would combine some of the our family’s holiday preperations with the most current strands of the praxis of my research. I’m repeating myself to remind that the work is feminist, creative and activist oriented. I hope that I am able to put what follows into perspective regarding those three guiding principles:
I have been an artist my entire life; my extensive experience in the Arts, combined with a strong commitment to human right issues, ideally positions me to undertake my doctoral research project. I exhibit my artwork in a wide range of venues including artist-run centers, educational institutions and commercial art galleries, as well as during international residencies such as The Banff Center for the Arts in Banff Alberta, and JIWAR in Barcelona Spain. In addition to a decade of teaching experience, I have over the course of my career hosted a discussion series at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, taught at the Metchosin International Summer School for the Arts and wrote regularly for a free arts and culture magazine. I also served two years on the board of directors at Open Space Artist Run Center in Victoria BC, during which time the center was engaged in major infrastructure planning. My artwork is part of collections internationally and here; my work was purchased for addition to National Art Bank of Canada in 2004.
When I was eight, a primary school teacher told my parents ‘Danielle doesn’t seem to think about things in the same ways that most of the other children do’. This blueprint of my dissertation may – or may not – be further demonstration of that…
My dissertation is titled, Just Making It.
At its heart, my research is about handmade objects called craft which constitute – and thus can be investigated by – a range of disciplines. Such crafted threads are woven through each component of my dissertation as they are part of my daily life, and as such live in my work.
This post today is my attempt to actually show how I live these concerns, and passions that I write about my dissertation:
Women’s art, made with either material and/or techniques of craft, suffers the effect of a lower appraisal then men’s; this is due to an affect which ‘craft’ has on gallerists, collectors, critics, museum directors, and educators. I am asking, How can social and cultural understandings of craft be reimagined to repair such negative effects which the current feminine affect has on the category of craft itself, in addition to pedagogical contexts, and art world economies in the Euro-American context?
I argue that “craft” suffers from a form of gendered essentialism. My research asserts that the feminization of materials and techniques used by women creates an affect of ‘softness’ around them. In our current society, as in a boxing ring, softness is understood as notion of weakness, or as a ‘lesser than’ status.
Artist, creatives, crafters, makers, we are all doing ‘our thing’. As communities of INDIVIDUALS none of us will, or should, perform those expressions in the same way… Importantly, none of our expressions need be deemed ‘lesser than’.
An academic in the field of education, Joe L. Kincheloe defines bricolage at length in the following way;
[…] bricoleurs move into the domain of complexity. The bricolage exists out of respect for the complexity of the lived world. Indeed, it is grounded on an epistemology of complexity. One dimension of the complexity can be illustrated by the relationship between research and the domain of social theory. All observations of the world are shaped either consciously or unconsciously be social theory – such theory provides the framework that highlights or erases what might be observed. Theory in a modernist empiricist mode is a way of understanding that operates without variation in every context. Since theory is a cultural and linguistic artefact, its interpretation of the object of its observation is inseparable from the historical dynamics that have shaped it. The task of the bricoleur is to attack this complexity, uncovering the invisible artefacts of power and culture, and documenting the nature of their influence not only on their own scholarship but also on scholarship in general. In this process bricoleurs act upon the concept that theory is not an explanation of the world – it is more an explanation of our relation to the world (pp. 1).
(*Remember the television show MacGyver from the mid 1980s, and how he was always “making do” with whatever was on hand? He was a form of ‘Bricoleur’!)
For more, click here for more information about Bricolage in Educational pedagogy.
Celebrations done, begun, and in the planning.. What follows below is my holiday “bricolage”!
Snow, holiday concerts, and sliding at the park!
Lights! (for the tree) Camera! (to capture the quintessential holiday experience) Action! (..the real story)
I want to look back to the summer (just for a second) to create a link between the familiar experience of decorating our homes for the holidays, and on my experience of participating in making (making in, and the making of) communities this past summer when I travelled to Spain. I was there to work with artists at JIWAR, and to volunteer in the neighbourhood of Berga with their preperations for the Festa de Gracia 2016. During that time I had the privilege of meeting multiple generations from several different families as they worked together to prepare for the celebrations; participation was always valued over any attempt at “perfection”; they repeated that.
Theorist Elaine Dissanayake also talks about the value of making, or what she refers to as “wasting time” her terminology. In her 1992 essay “The Core of Art: Making Special,” she explains:
We could understand the arts etiologically by considering them as ways of making important things and activities “special.” That is to say, I emphasized the “behaviour” or activity [..], rather than, as other art theorists have done, the results: the things and activities themselves as “works of art.” (E. Dissanayake, 2003)
I hope that this has illuminated a few small moments, and elements from my personal experiences in such “behaviours” of art, and how I view time the spent together with family and friends making operates as a kind of binding, tightly joining us all together – unique individuals – within our unique communities.