Byline Seminar One

Twenty-first century craft

Wednesday 25th February 5:30pm
Ngapartji Cooperative Multimedia Centre


Stephanie Britton, editor Artlink Magazine

Robyn Daw, artist & education officer, Queensland Art Gallery

As people spend more of their work and leisure with digital media, what might be the future for those who produce objects in the 'old-fashioned' way? Can digital media replace the craft object? Are there gaps in information technology that craft practice will inevitably fill, no matter how sophisticated the machinery becomes?

One such gap is a proposed need for physical contact with materials. But how important really is tactility? Craft can be enjoyed in exhibitions, where touching is forbidden. This experience might be easily extended to the small screen. The haptic sensation of walking around an object can be reproduced through virtual reality. In fact, digital media provides greater access to the object, providing an infinite number of views inside and outside, top and bottom. There is an ecological responsiblity to reduce our production of material items, particularly those without practical function. In order to continue production, craft requires a new defence.

The most important gap in information technology is perhaps the body. Food will remain a physical experience. Contact with food through vessels and implements may remain a venue for the crafted object. But, is this all that's left for craft? It leaves nothing for public display, such as gallery exhibitions.

And what about production? Bodies will still need fabrics to clothe them and jewels to adorn them. While such objects might still have a place, do they need to be handmade? In a distant future, when fabric printers become more sophisticated, anyone might go to a bureau and have their own designs realised with little need for weaving skills.

Does progress represent the decline of craft? Alternatively, how might craft grow with digital technology?