A secret history of craft told through lost and overlooked texts that illuminate our understanding of current art practice.

“Craft” is a contested concept in art history and a vital category through which to understand contemporary art. Through craft, materials, techniques, and tools are investigated and their histories explored in order to reflect on the politics of labor and on the extraordinary complexity of the made world around us. This anthology offers an ethnography of craft, surveying its shape-shifting identities in the context of progressive art and design through writings by artists and makers as well as poetry, fiction, anthropology, and sociology. It maps a secret history of craft through lost and overlooked texts that consider pedagogy, design, folk art, the factory, and new media in ways that illuminate our understanding of current art practice.

Recently, the idea of craft has been employed strategically: to confront issues of gender or global development, to make a stand against artistic academicism, or to engage with making processes—some distinctly archaic—employed to suggest the abject and the everyday. Craft activism, or craftivism, suggests a new political purpose for the handmade. Deep anxieties drive today's technophilia, and artists, designers, and makers turn such anxieties into a variety of dynamic engagements. The contributors' reflections on new technologies and materials, lost and found worlds of handwork, and the politics of work all throw light on craft as process, product, and ideology. Craft will serve as a vital resource for understanding technologies, materials, techniques, and tools through the lens of craft in contemporary art.

Artists surveyed include Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, El Anatsui, Carl Andre, Aaron Angell, Ruth Asawa, Phyllida Barlow, Louise Bourgeois, Neil Brownsword, Annie Cattrell, Edmund de Waal, Harun Farocki, Lucio Fontana, Karl Fritsch, Martino Gamper, Theaster Gates, Gee's Bend Quiltmakers, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Sheila Hicks, Donald Judd, Ana Lupas, Lu Shengzhong, Enzo Mari, Mario Merz, Martin Puryear, Jessi Reaves, Bridget Riley, Ettore Sottsas, Studio Formafantasma, Francis Upritchard, Peter Voulkos  Writers include Glenn Adamson, Elissa Auther, Reyner Banham, Jean Baudrillard, Susan S. Bean, Walter Benjamin, John Berger, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Giovanni Contini, Alfred Gell, Cathy Gere, Walter Gropius, Henry Heerup, bell hooks, Ulrich Lehmann, Lucy R. Lippard, Sarat Maharaj, Karl Marx, Sadie Plant, Nancy Princenthal, Rainer Maria Rilke, John Roberts, Kenneth E. Silver, Jenni Sorkin

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