Design Culture Salon 21: Queer Craft…?

20 May, 6:30pm, Clore 55, V&A

Queer Craft…?

Queer has a double meaning: both as an umbrella term for marginalised identities and also as a deconstructive technique. When coupled with craft which also has a fluid meaning, the subject area provides opportunity for debate and multiple readings. Craft has historically been linked to issues of identity since the work of William Morris, through to its adoption by feminist and postmodernist artists.  More recently, craft techniques have been adopted by artists addressing identity politics including Nick Cave, Virgil Marti, Kent Hendricksen, Allyson Mitchell and Doug Jones as well as artists addressing craftivism. Queer Craft both addresses identity and also deconstructs assumptions about craft technique,  explored both explicitly and obliquely in exhibitions including Boys Craft (Haifa Museum of Art) and A Labour of Love (The New Museum, New York) and Boys with Needles (Museum London, Ontario). This Salon aims to explore the debates and multiple meanings that exist in the work of artists using craft and addressing queerness by considering the following key questions: What might queer craft be and what does it look like? Are the labels of queer and craft of use or a hindrance? Can craft learn from identity politics?

Chair: Laura Carderera, Residency Coordinator, V&A


Dr Julia Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor, Modern and Contemporary Art, University of California, Berkeley
Catherine Flood, Curator of
Disboedient Objects and Curator, Prints, Victoria and Albert Museum
 Joseph McBrinn, Reader, Art and Design Institute, University of Ulster
Conor Wilson, Artist and Senior Lecturer at University of the West of England
Dr Matt Smith, Artist in Residence at Victoria and Albert
Museum and Lecturer at University of Brighton

Laura Carderera oversees the Victoria & Albert’s residency programme, supporting artists, designers and other creative practitioners who are invited to undertake research, develop public programmes and create work inspired by the museum’s collection.  Before joining the V&A, Laura worked as a Projects & Partnerships Manager at Delfina Foundation, where she developed thematic residencies for UK and international artists and curators. Prior to moving to London in 2012, Laura set up a contemporary art production company in Istanbul and also worked at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, where she oversaw their educational and public programmes for four years. Laura holds an MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University. She currently sits on the Board of the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo.

Julia Bryan-Wilson has been at the forefront of debates of queer craft since her article “Queerly Made” appeared in 2009 in The Journal of Modern Craft.  She is the author of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (U California), and co-author, with Glenn Adamson, of Art in the Making (Thames and Hudson, forthcoming). Her book on textiles since the 1970s is due out in 2017 from the University of Chicago Press. She is associate professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of California, Berkeley.

Catherine Flood is a collections curator at the V&A specialising in popular print culture and graphics. She co-curated ‘Disobedient Objects’, a ground breaking exhibition about the art and design of grassroots social movements, at the V&A in 2014. She is currently working on the theme of how design affects our relationship with food.

Joseph McBrinn is a historian, critic and curator currently based in Northern Ireland. Born in 1971 he was educated and has worked in the Ireland, Scotland and France.  He has held teaching positions at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, and, currently, at the Belfast School of Art, Ulster University, in Northern Ireland.  He has written articles and reviews for Embroidery, Selvedge, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Homes Cultures, Fashion Theory, Art History, The Journal of Modern Craft, Journal of Design History and Oxford Art Journal.  His current research is focused on masculinity and design.  His book, Queering the Subversive Stitch: Men and the Culture of Needlework, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury.

Matt Smith was the 2015/2016 V&A Artist in Residence in the Ceramics Galleries.  His practice often involves institutional critique and responding to cultural organisations. Solo exhibitions include Queering the Museum at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Other Stories at the University of Leeds.  He exhibits and also talks about his practice nationally and internationally (Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, KHIB Bergen, Konstfack Stockholm, Valand Academy Gothenburg).  He co-founded Unravelled Arts which commissioned contemporary art for National Trust houses in order to explore their marginalised histories. He is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies and has recently completed an AHRC-funded, practice-based PhD in Queer Craft at the University of Brighton. In 2014 he was awarded the inaugural Maylis Grand Young Masters Prize for Ceramics.

Conor Wilson. Having taught theory and practice across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in art and design, Conor Wilson is currently senior lecturer in Interior Design at the University of the West of England. Despite developing a specialist knowledge of ceramics over 25 years, he characterises his practice as a mix of craft and bricolage and veers between various processes and approaches that fall under the broad disciplinary umbrellas of art, craft and design. He was awarded a Jerwood Contemporary Makers prize in 2010 and work is held in many private and public collections around the world. Currently in the final stages of a practice-led doctoral project (Writing_Making: Object as body, language and material, Royal College of Art), Wilson has adopted Tim Morton’s conception of objects as ‘strange strangers’ (and rhetoric as a means of contacting them) and has been exploring craft making as an intimate engagement with, or a form of contact with, another object.

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