Currently showing as part of the London Design Festival, Lab Craft is a new exhibition put on by the UK Crafts Council, presenting the work of 26 designers and crafts practitioners who use “cutting edge digital technologies.” As well as the obvious reasons for sparking my interest, this particularly caught my attention because of a paper I co-authored which was recently presented at the 2010 IDSA conference, entitled The Next Stages in Automated Craft. I will go into more detail about that paper in another post, but the Lab Craft exhibition illustrates some of the very same questions.
Babel Vessel #1 by Michael Eden
The fact that the Crafts Council have waited until 2010 before putting on a show which explores “digital adventures in contemporary craft” is itself revealing of a confusion towards technologies such as rapid manufacturing within the contemporary Crafts movement. Malcolm McCullough first raised the possibility 15 years ago when he asked in his book Abstracting Craft “What are the implications for art and craft as atoms become replaced by digital signals and the physicality of reproduction becomes a ‘virtual’ on screen experience?” Since then conferences such as Craft in the Digital Age and Challenging Craft (both held in 2004) have raised all the same questions which Lab Craft now aims to address. And for an indication that not everyone inside the Crafts Council approves of its acceptance of Lab Craft – only a few blocks away Origin, the UK Crafts Council’s “showcase of original contemporary craft”, was being marketed under the tagline “Made not Manufactured.”