Some are “handmade” more equally than Others: Desiring Craft, Knowing to Do-ityourself and the Politics of Trans

-place exchange Producing handmade 2.0 – transnational aesthetics and cultural economies – shifting value chains – supply production chains Affective needs - first world Bodily needs – third world Where do materiality or corporeality lie/mean? Valueing affect – a “middle” issue – affect as work – how to value non-labor work as paid labor Affective linkings from the empowered giver position other as automated digital subaltern 2.0

On a trip to Paris in 2012 summer, I visited the Château de Versailles as most tourists do. As expected, I encountered endless rooms full of exquisite furniture and paintings. Suddenly, in one of the rooms, I came across something hanging from the ceiling – a large orange crocheted object– that was not in sync with the time period. Upon closer inspection, I learned that this (title of her piece), was part of an exhibition of contemporary artist Joana Vasconcelos (http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/2012/05/joana-vasconcelos-is-chateau-deversailless-first-female-artist/ and http://senatus.net/article/joana-vasconcelos-exhibitionchateau-versailles/ ). I was delighted to find Vasconcelos‟ hand-crafted crocheted sculptures interrupting the hand-loomed silk brocade other lush handcrafted artefacts from the past. I came away with – well, a discussion happening inside my head about textiles as media and the politics of craftivism. The artist does not claim the term craftivism. Yet (as the first woman artist to inhabit Versailles) her work invites a reflection on the raced, ethnic and colonized presences, which are either absent or form a menial backdrop, in the paintings and other objects in the chateau. On the web site, we learn that the artist invites her artwork to be read as a confrontation with the Palace. The exhibit invites the tourist to stage a different confrontation: a consideration of the critical role of race, class, gender and colonialism in historical context and how textiles might be read as one strategy for the practice of media criticism. Locating when and how practices such as weaving or crocheting can be read as a part of media history, and as rebellion, resistance or protest, is a complex matter. Reflecting on craftwork as media and as a media of potential rebellion or protest highlights the present day feminization of craftwork in relation to another moments of class exploitation and other instances of struggle against forms of domination and oppression. The question

must be raised – when are craftivisms and handmade-only movements effective as critique and how? In terms of feminism, craftwork may be is often associated with work of young women in North America, using “craftivism” openly as mode of critique and protest or a way to create awareness for issues in public space (see http://craftivism.com/definition.html for a quick definition). For instance, various “stitch and bitch” groups (taking their motivation from Debbie Stollers series of “Stitch „n‟ Bitch” books) have formed in various parts of the (mostly) western world and women and men. Some of these groups engage in public campaigns such as raising funds for Cancer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stitch_'n_Bitch) and knitting warm clothes for Occupy protestors. This form of craftivism uses craft, openly, to make visible a particular issues by inserting objects in public spaces. However, craftivism does not always signal open, visible rebellion, protest of advocacy in public space. There exists a history of crafting resistance that questions the politics of visibility. As Jack Bratich writes “a conventional practice can be used for hidden purposes (the quilt as camouflage)” Take for example the case of the Underground Railway quilt-maps, where craftivism functioned as a means for slaves fleeing the South to the North with a roadmap of their escape route. (Bratich, 2011). In such an instance secrecy is key. In fact, because of the way handcrafting can be camouflaged as hobby or a chore done within the domestic space, whether as necessity or as leisure activity, its effectiveness is also camouflaged and risks domestication. Further, it is also true that, depending on the context – time, place, kind of craft, gender – the mere act of taking up a crochet hook, a spindle or knitting needles and inserting the practice into one‟s daily routine can be considered revolutionary. Gandhi‟s careful, strategic use of spinning as symbol and as daily habit/practice contributed significantly to the mobilizing of a whole nation into collective action. In this instance he was able to mobilize “the masses” precisely because spinning and weaving were livelihoods that still sustained contemporary communities. And here it is important to recall that prior to the introduction of technologies such as the spinning Jenny, hand-spinning (whether on a spindle or a spinning wheel) was a form of non-formal (mostly performed by women and people from lower caste) labor that was in actuality crucial to the materialization of cloth. Mechanization of the spinning process on the other hand, was initiated in Britain with the invention of the Spinning Jenny. The Jenny was a technology that came into being through local needs and socio-economic circumstances within a British context, yet laid foundations for neoliberal economic processes related to capital and wage distributions and mass production (some of this is mapped by Robert Allen http://www.econ.yale.edu/seminars/Kuznets/allen-101007.pdf). The struggle against mechanization within the British context, as writers such as Adrian Randall have pointed out, was about a shift in organizational hierarchies and community cultures. The spinning Jenny as innovation on hand-spinning was not economically profitable within the Indian weaving context, however. Various reasons for this include the cultural

habitus that came with Spinning Jenny and how the politics of colonization intruded on the ways in which spinning (women‟s work) required a shift in the way women negotiated their family care and spinning productivity. A majority of the production process of cotton cloth for everyday wear was shifted from India to England during the Victorian era while the raw material was still be taken from colonized India. The portable charkha was Gandhi‟s innovation developed as a response to the Spinning Jenny and related innovations. His call to Indians across class, caste and gender boundaries to cultivate a habit of spinning as a daily practice was a necessary cultural shift needed to make his innovation effective. The regular activity of hand-spinning functioned symbolically as a protest against a particular form of colonization. This form of resistance to colonial rule worked well because the colonizers were imposing industrialization and imposing a governance logic (including taxation, forms of deskilling, exploitation of raw materials) that benefitted the colonizing nation more than the colonized one. While hand-crafting functioned as resistance in this instance – one might ask – what about this spinning movement was “craftivism”? One might also note how this strategic insertion of spinning into the daily routine of millions of people in a colonized nation functioned to produce both a critique of the Western narrative of Industrial progress and a material mode of resistance against oppression. In the case of Vasconcelos‟ exhibit at the Chateau – we have two contexts of “textile.” One is the context of the brocade furnishings already in the Chateau, such as Marie Antionette‟s bedspread. The other context of textile is visible through the crochet objects that Joanna has placed strategically side-by-side with these furnishings. It is this confrontation and juxtaposition that opens up multiple ways of telling/implying labor and colonial history in relationship to media. Where much existing labor history does not weave the social and the economic in all its nuanced complexities, the exhibit moves us to think about the different kinds of bodies engaged in laboring over handmade products media- across time. We are forced to consider placement and displacement in relation to race, colonialism and gender – side-by-side with class – not as add-ons to class or as ethnic enclaves bracketed for delicate handling.

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