Friday, 2 March 2012

Stitches and Hos at the Ikon

Had a fabulous afternoon yesterday at a workshop at the Ikon Gallery hosted by Sara Fowles from the now famous Kings Heath knitting group Stitches and Hos which was held as a response to Ikon's current exhibition How to Use Fool's Gold by Irish artist Sarah Browne.   Browne explores redundant technology,declining economies and leftover industries in communities such as in  A Model Society (2007) where she focuses on the traditional handknitted lopi sweaters of Iceland. Before the current financial crisis Iceland was declared the happiest nation on earth.   Browne advertised for knitwear models in Reykjavik newspapers and then surveyed respondents about the quality of life in Iceland. The sweaters have been knitted with their comments and phrases as part of the design  such as ‘no war’ and ‘rotten politics.’
A Model Society (2007)
No War

Minority Complex

Unfortunately there was not enough time to do any knitting at the workshop so after looking round the exhibition we embroidered postcards with our own comments on 'What makes us happy about Birmingham'.  I am a Brummie and feel proud of the city I was born in. What makes me happy is the wonderful canal system that wends its way through the city.  We have a lot to celebrate about our beautiful city (and anyone that knocks it should visit first) especially since the regeneration of the canal basin so my postcard was a response to that. The finished postcards will be posted to Sarah at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver where her exhibition will transfer to after finishing at Ikon.

In Browne's Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2009) is a carpet made from surplus wool stocks from the Donegal Carpets factory in Ireland. Donegal now produces carpets by machine or outsourced labour. It was hand-knotted by two of the factory's previous female employees. A film in the exhibiton shows the two women knotting ferociously at a rate of about 500 knots per hour.
Browne's other exhibits include her response to the demise of the French Franc showing film of a  ticker-tape countdown clock  which is counting down the hours, minutes and seconds to the last francs to be exchanged on 17 February 2012.

This is a great exhibition which in the case of the Icelandic Lopi sweaters and the Donegal Carpet is particularly relevant to my own art practice on embroidery. Sarah Browne exposes how craftsmanship is being destroyed both by the economy and technology.   Outsourcing and machine processes are deskilling people and its a great waste of resource, craft and tradition.

If you are a fan of walking there is another exhibition at Ikon well worth seeing, by British artist Hamish Fulton who describes himself as a 'walking artist' but I will tell you more about that in my next post.

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