crafting the art world
although my own work is concerned more with the infolding of craft into the spheres of technology, primarily through the platforms used for ubiquitous and wearable technologies, i nonetheless remain fascinated by the way that crafting has come to redefine a number of artworld spheres. while betsy greer argues in her MA thesis that crafting (in particular knitting) holds within it the potential for a radically subserversive performative community-building, i wonder if (or how) this holds true when the use of craft begins to intersect with the profitability of global art markets, creative industries, and the seedy underside that continues to define the sweatshop production of textiles, yarns and clothing.
in large part, these are questions that remain unanswered and largely undiscussed in the burgeoining field of art-craft (of high craft or fine craft or whatever you want to call it). so too is the role played by craft in the proliferating discussions over creative economies, creative cities and cultural capitalism. on the other hand, to define something is often to pin it down thereby adding boundaries to the direction that it might take. but on the other hand, these are also, i think, important questions for those of us who are both academics and practitioners (and there seem to be a growing number). though these are questions that will certainly come up in my work, for the moment i'm just collecting, questions as much as artists.
one of my recent favourites in shirin neshat's film women without men. i haven't seen the film, but have obsessed over the still images from it.
From a review of Shirin Neshat by Britta Schmitz:
"Neshat's most recent works, "Mahdokht" (2004) and "Zarin" (2005), constitute two independent sequences of what is to become a five-part feature film entitled "Women without Men". The novella of the same name by Shahrnush Parsipur was published in 1989 in Tehran and subsequently banned. Today the author lives in exile in America.  The book comprises several metaphorically related short stories about the lives of five different women who are suffering from their respective situations and run away. They ultimately find themselves in a garden where they seek to form their own new society. Writing in a feminist, mythological terminology, Shahrnush Parsipur describes the cultural and religious social pressure facing women, which often leaves them with no other resort than to go mad or commit suicide. The book proved to be an immense provocation to the Guardians and Administrators of the Revolution under Khomeini.
Following the election of President Khatami in 1997 life in Iran changed; and even the rules governing the wearing of the chador are now observed with increasing carelessness.  With each millimeter that overcoats have become shorter and tighter-fitting, Iranian women have gained new ground in terms of self-determination. Color permeates the cityscape, the provocative game of concealing and revealing is flourishing, as is a nascent fashion industry devoted exclusively to the veil and chador. Satellite television and the Internet are essentials for city-dwellers without being considered a sign of "Westernization," but rather posing questions as to a unique, non-Western identity.
Since the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York, many things have changed in the USA as well. The declared "clash of civilizations" has changed the land of individual liberty and the culture of critical faculties. Shirin Neshat's response to these changes has been seismographic. As an artist with a transnational education and consciousness located within Western discourses, who has played an important intermediary role between Western and Iranian, or Islamic, culture, she has an unusually clear view of the vulnerabilities of a particular society.
In a certain sense, "Mahdokht" and "Zarin" are strange and new in her oeuvre, since Shirin Neshat refuses to fulfill any "orientalist" expectations. Both films are produced entirely in color; Zarin is structured like a feature film and includes spoken language. The frequently cited dualisms of black and white, male and female, are abandoned by Shirin Neshat in favor of a style closer to magic realism.
In "Mahdokht" the camera emerges from graywhite surroundings and travels along a clear and lively stream, passing through an opening in a clay wall into a luxuriant, green garden. At the beginning and again at the end she is shown floating, like Ophelia in a white gown, dead upon the still and shallow water as though sleeping; swathes of mist cover her like a veil. Children and the young Mahdokht play in a fertile, paradisiacal landscape and Mahdokht is consumed by the thought of knitting an inordinate amount of children's garments with yellow wool. She wishes she had a thousand pairs of hands in order to carry out her mission. At an almost crazy speed she knits with the yellow yarn strewn throughout the surrounding landscape while hordes of children frolic around. "Mahdokht" features an almost surreal ambiguity, though it refers to an infertile civilization in search of revitalization - here in the image of a woman (Mahdokht) obsessed by fertility. Mahdokht, the mother of civilization, Mother Earth and the vitality of the garden, has drawn the wrong threads together and ha departed from life in a state of despair. What remains are lichen and seeds with which she will spread herself across the world.
In the novella by Shahrnush Parsipur Mahdokht wishes she could turn into a tree: "She wanted to grow on the riverbank with leaves... She would give her new leaves to the wind, a garden full of Mahdokhts... She would become thousands and thousands of branches... She wanted to, and it is always desire that drives one to madness. 
The central place in both the novella and the film is the garden, for the garden is a motif of major importance in the Islamic world. Islam and Iran are renowned for their gardens which embody a stark contrast to the seemingly infinite expanse of the desert and offer something of a reflection of the garden of paradise. The idea that a human being in a garden can become a tree is a widespread metaphor in Iranian mythology which stands for the human being's rootedness within the community. The transformation of a woman into a tree would allow her to found a new society, a female society and to be included in a community. She would not be coerced into adopting a passive role, or forced into a private, shielded domain of society. Rather she would become the active figure in determining her own way of life."