thoughts on “of a piece”

My thoughts on “of a piece”. Like Zhang Kaiqin’s thoughts, this essay was originally published in Chinese and was written for our WeChat public forum.

最近在东湖的深圳美术馆举办的名为“温度”艺术展上,“握手302”策展团队受邀创作和展出了一个作品“还没定”。这个作品是以“握手302”一贯的创作策略,用社交的方式请所有愿意参与的朋友共同完成创作,我们用带来的废弃旧衣物,配以东门布料城清货的辅料与饰品,用手工编织缝制出心仪的布艺。这一次我们策展团队唯一给出的限制原则就是,不能碰工作台上还未制成的半成品,但对在墙壁上展示的已制成品,任何人任何时候都可以拿下来再加工。这听起来很像是“自由软件”的“开放源代码”的挪用。但是当有人这么问我们时,我们的回答通常是“不,这个作品不是你想的那样,也不是我想的那样。它还没定呢!” /For its recent invitational exhibition, ThermoMatter, the Shenzhen Art Museum commissioned Handshake 302 create the freeform quilt Of A Piece. Its fabrication incorporated Handshake 302’s commitment to bringing as many people as possible into the creative proccess. We used discarded clothing, accessories and trimmings from the Dongmen Fabric Market, and simple sewing tools to make individual “patches” for the quilt. The rules of engagement were simple: don’t touch a patch that is on the table, but any other patch, piece of clothing, and accessory could be picked up and used in a new patch, or could be sewn together to create larger sections. In a sense, the project was an exercise in “repurposing open access materials” or “fashion making”. However, when asked what the project was about, we simply answered, “That’s still up for grabs!”

究竟什么还没定?为什么不定?总之何以我们用“还没定”来形容我们的所作所为?其实在我们主创的策展团队(马立安、张凯琴、雷胜、刘赫、吴丹等五个人)每个人心里,也是一人一个见解甚至一会儿一个主意。此时,刚刚飞了上万英里,在美国密歇根州铁山狄金森县的舅舅家湖滨度假小屋里正在倒时差的我,倒是开始有了些新的启发和感受。/What exactly was up for grabs? Why did we refuse to determine the meaning of the piece? Why, in other words, did we use the expression “up for grabs” to describe our art practice? In fact, each member of the curatorial team (MaryAnn O’Donnell, Zhang Kaiqin, Lei Sheng, Liu He, and Wu Dan) had their own opinion about what we were doing. At any rate, these are the questions I’m asking myself as I sit, several thousand miles away, on the porch of my uncle’s home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

我想先从时差说起或许是理解这个作品的一个很好角度。我相信当有了飞机这个东西之后,我们大多数人都是开心至极的。因为过去要花几周甚至半年时间才可以到的地方,现在我们最多花十几二十个小时就到了。感觉上,我们的生命被节约了,我们花同样的时间却可以走更多的地方见更多想见的人和事。/All this to say, today I’m thinking about “Of A Piece” with respect to jetlag—and yes, its keeping me up at unusual hours. I’m sure that the invention of airplanes has brought great joy to many people, after all, we can easily and quickly circle the globe. I arrived in the U.P. within 30 hours after departing Hong Kong and it feels as if I’m saving time; time that might have been spent travelling hither and yon, I’m using to visit family and friends in distant places.

但健忘的我们在生命经验里多了一个东西——“时差”,可这件事却没有被认真讨论过。虽然很明显“时差”是我们无法适应飞机速度的生理产物,但没有人愿意承认这个事实,只是把它作为一种不得不付的代价推给每个人自己去解决。“时差”是个极好的例子说明今天我们人类对高技术的认同态度,在某种意义上用“舍身取利”来形容一点都不过分。我们当下的社会无论东方西方,先发后发的社会都不约而同的患有“高新技术热”的症状。甚至所有一切堪称“高大上”的时尚背后无不有“高新技术崇拜”的影子作祟。/That said, all this travel has me jet-lagged. Today, I’m thinking that instead of pondering what it means that our bodies are unable to adjust to travelling this fast, we dismiss jet lag as the “price” of modern travel. In other words, jet lag exemplifies our tendency to explain away the physical symptoms of living hi-tech lives. Indeed, the way we view technology verges toward worship—the cult of hi-tech modernity.

就拿“创客”(Maker)这个新潮事务来说,为什么一上来它就直接和IT超人和“创业明星”绑在一起?是否与当代社会的偏见与崇拜有关呢?在我看就是这么回事。无论是英语还是中文中“创客”的最直接的含义是“动手解决问题的人”。甚至只要是手工能解决的,都不一定求助于机器。我相信“创客”的神髓除了赋予人更大创造精神之外,解除对机器以及对专家的依赖和崇拜更是其最核心的价值观。/Consider, for example, recent the recent deification of “maker” culture. Why do weassociate “making” with IT and its internet stars? It may be as simple as thatwe’re so used to valuing hi-tech inventions above all others that we forget we’ve been making mudpies and snowmen, cookies, clothes, and clubhouses since we were children. So thought experiment du jour: What if we think of “maker culture” as making salient the importance of human hands in all cultural activity, including the design, deployment, and use of robots. In other words, at stake in the brouhaha over “making” is learning to see (again!) that value can only be created through human labor.

正是基于对“动手解决问题”的考虑,我们这次的作品选择了人类最古老的手艺,编织和缝制。我们相信这门手艺比目前流行的“IT +创业”的“创客”定义更能表达“创客的精神”——包括发明、制造、分配等社会功能。我们想表达的是,创客并不陌生,因为我们人类一直都是。只是我们在有了工业有了高技术之后慢慢的,我们忘了曾经我们必须靠自己的双手解决生存的难题。/The issue of overlooked human value is central to Of A Piece. Weaving and sewing are two of humanity’s oldest technologies. Handshake 302 believes that textiles, rather than IT and robotics more fully embody the social contradictions inherent to “maker culture”, which range from invention through the production and allocation of objects. In point of fact, there’s nothing new about “making”; human beings have been “weaving the tapestry of life” for millennia. The fantasy of hi-tech making is that there might be manufacturing without human labor, but even noodle robots need someone to prepare the dough, put the dough in a tray, and flip their switch.

编织和缝制另一个重要的含义是性别分工的社会意识,曾几何时所有的家庭贡献是没有货币价值的,但它们却是靠母亲妻子女儿们日以继夜地工作支撑的。在我们历时二周的共同创造中,总共有150个人参与了创造。我们不得不说的一个事实是在参与的成人里只有几个男人被他们的妻子或女友逼迫参加的,但是在参与创作的小朋友中,性别比例倒是大致相同。因此,我们倒是应该扪心自问一下,是否编织和缝制手艺人没有被纳入时尚的“创客”的定义是社会的性别歧视的潜在表现呢?那么,我们是否应反省一下我们的经济制度里所谓的“新经济”是否有意无视和贬低“女性”的社会共享呢?/Indeed, the fiber arts of weaving and sewing also remind us that production is gendered and thus it is easier to overlook or de-value the contributions of women and children to making society, even though women and children “manned” the factories of the Industrial Revolution! This deep history continues to inform our understanding of the fiber arts and their exclusion from “making” discourse. Of a Piece unfolded over the course of two weeks, and over 150 people participated in its production. However, with the exception of a few men, most participants were women and children, with roughly an equal number of boys and girls, begging the question of how social discourse shapes which forms of production are socially valued and celebrated, and which forms of production are invisible even in plain sight?

当我们说我们的作品叫“还没定”,并非因为这个作品没有意义,而是这个作品向每一个人提出一个问题:你该怎么想和怎么做?而“还没定”可以是你的借口,不去想也不去改变。也可以是你的出发点,重新选择你的道路。/All this to make a simple point. When we say that the meaning of Of A Piece is “up for grabs” we’re not saying its meaningless. Instead we’re proposing that art practice, like any other kind of making, should be re-thought, creating new ways of being in the world.

2 thoughts on “thoughts on “of a piece”

  1. Hi Mary Ann! Nice to meet you. Just relocated into this area as an admissions consultant so I find your blog relevant and fascinating!! Looking to tap into the expat community so if you are available to meet up, I’d love to hear more about your thoughts of the city.

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