Friday, 15 May 2009

We Built This City

E Voila – here we have a group of crafts people, we could call them makers, working together - collaborating - on a project in Kensington, London’s fanciful West End: land of tallish stately houses, painted white, land of locked shared gardens in fashionable squares that aren’t square, land of the Temple of the Applied Arts and The Royal Dinosaur Paddock, Land of the most excellent Polish restaurant, Daquise, descended from Polish inward migration round one, (circa 1945). Here, in a swanky, if ever so slightly frumpy, naff part of the metropolis, was, (trumpet blast):
We Work in a Fragile Material!!
A charming group of Swedes with green fingernails had come to build us a new city. Quite unlike those pesky Danes that preceded them a few centuries ago, they built, wove, constructed, plaited and stuck things on and painted them.
Well, imagine my surprise to find, here in Kensington - KENSINGTON of all places - a Greenham bender!! Sisters – we’ve arrived! We are in Kensington. A Bender in SW1!! No, seriously, it gets better – this bender is ‘supported’ by South Kensington Estates. We’re part of a cool urban regeneration project. Whooood a’ thought it? They even had a spider web !!!!!!
Now, for those youngsters who have absolutely no idea what a Greenham bender is, check this out. Those nice people at the Guardian have made us our very own website – here.
So, ‘We Built this City’ was a faultless exercise in marginal refuge/ee migratory construction, combining basket weaving, papier mache, other kinds of weaving, and the careful tearing up of the Metro, London’s esteemed free newspaper.
It resembled a cow’s stomach, it had four chambers, all of which looked like they were chewing cud. The ‘skeleton’ of the structure was - oh, you know, basket weaving material, and there was chicken wire and papier mache stuck on the chicken wire and painted in parts and, I loved this bit, decorated here and there with pistachio nut shells – the makers having first eaten the said nuts presumably. This was a real Greenham touch.
Inside things got really dinky. There was, as I said, a spider’s web woven out of string, cute little papie mache cups and a tea pot and some ‘clay pots’ made of papier mache and light bulbs on long wires – now we didn’t have them at Greenham – and candles – we had tonnes of them.
‘It’s supercraft’ said one of the team. ‘We also make non-material things but we bring our craft minds to it.’
And ‘supercraft’ it was. It was also funny and delightful and cooperative and un-precious. I wrote this the same weekend I saw it. It was the latest offering of the 6pm project space, curated by Marie Torbensdatter Hermann and hosted by her and co-curator Edmund de Waal. For no particular reason, other than having got distracted by something else, I am posting it now, almost three weeks later and, coincidentally, the Crafts Council’s flagship enterprise, Collect, opened last night at the Saatchi Gallery. This is the Craft Council’s annual fit of decorative craft debauchery, an absurd fetishisation of binge-consumption, belching quietly in time to the theme tune of late consumer capitalism. You can almost see those posters, cant you? Labour isn’t working – brilliantly crafted politics at the time, courtesy of the watchmaker’s son, even it did consume itself into oblivion. Shudder. Ah well, I shall repair to a supercraft tent – now, where did I put those bolt cutters?

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