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Intersecting Discourses: Inflecting Craft and Heritage

Changes in Heritage (New Manifestations)Notions of HeritageArts
Changes in heritageNew manifestations of heritageNotions of heritage
Regular session
9:00, Sunday 5 Jun 2016 (3 hours 30 minutes)
Russell Staiff argues that heritage discourse and practice are tightly interwoven with the theoretical legacy of the visual arts, specifically citing the shared concerns of formalism, iconography, aesthetics and modernism (“Heritage and the Visual Arts” 2015). Yet craft, as a field of knowledge, is often subsumed under the visual arts, when in fact its materialities, functionality, concerns about skill and preoccupation with the local (whether understood as geographically or politically constituted) invite an examination of its own intersections with current heritage concerns. Furthermore, craft has been associated with nationalist agendas since the inception of late-19th-century craft and heritage discourses, both linked by the writings and practices of William Morris. Diasporic, indigenous and post-colonial communities have well often turned to the preservation of tangible craft objects and intangible craft practices to define their political, social and cultural heritages. Susan Pearce has speculated that the designation and accumulation of community and national heritage objects mirror how the family constructs its own heritage through gathering and displaying valued objects, many of them crafted (“The construction of heritage” 1998). In the context of the “post-industrial” West, concerns for the futures of fine and traditional craft practices have recently been expressed in craft council policy statements in Canada and the United Kingdom and are seen in the development of ecomuseums in France, contexts in which craft heritages are tied to economic interests.
This session proposes an examination and discussion of possible intersections of the narratives of craft and heritage with the goal of exploring the economic, social and cultural sustainability of craft practices. Questions that might be addressed include:
● How do heritage narratives inflect the production, marketing and consumption of craft objects?
● Are heritage narratives that privilege traditional craft skills and the idea of functionality incommensurable with contemporary craft practices and objects?
● Can North American and Western European professional craft practices along with their attendant narratives find a relevant place within heritage studies?
NSCAD University
Postdoctoral fellow
Department of Art History, Concordia University, Canada
Associate Professor of Craft

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