The Art of Not Making – The new artist/artisan relationship

A book for Thames & Hudson by Michael Petry

This new book by Michael Petry titled; “The Art of Not Making” explores the work of men and women whose production is seen within a fine art context, yet features crafted objects fabricated by others.  It examines the relationship between fine artists who use crafted objects in their practice, and the craft persons who manufacture those objects, including: how the objects collaboratively produced differ from the artworks they may comprise (which are usually seen solely as the work of the artist); how the objects are seen within an art world context; and how intellectual ownership, authorship, and talent are located.
Each individual takes his or her own position on the question of where the line falls between artist and craftsperson. The Art of Not Making looks at how artworks/objects function in each of those worlds.
Artists working with certain media (glass, bronze) are often described in the formal discourse of the art world as dealing with decadence, beauty or fetish, whereas the crafts persons manufacturing those objects are seen as honest makers.  By contrast, in Eastern cultures there is no substantial distinction between craft and fine art practise. The Western dichotomy may stem from an historical patriarchal view, which regards work traditionally made by women (craft) as secondary to that made by men (art).  The datedness of these artificial distinctions can be seen within the work of the artists included. 
As Installations flood the global market, artists are increasingly seen as those who manage production (similarly to movie directors), as much as those who physically make artefacts.  The collaborative method of film production is a useful metaphor for the relationship of those engaged in making the work featured, as artists and craft makers influence one another. Artists ask craft makers to push the technical boundaries of their work, producing artefacts that the makers would not otherwise have produced. Craftsmen in return influence artists through their superior knowledge of how the medium functions. 
For some artists the collaboration is vital to the production of the work, whereas for others, mass produced glass objects by anonymous makers is tantamount, while some artists work with crafts persons only to realise a vision. The Art of Not Making examines all these positions, and where possible, garners the responses of artists and makers, via interviews with artists and makers.

The book looks at several strategies for making work (in whatever medium) from those whose practise is based in conceptualism, to those who have work made for them out of practicality. The Art of Not Making examines how strategies affect production, and looks at the objects presented as ‘artworks’. The book asks what are the resultant artefacts, who is their author, is authorship important, and how is authorship bound up in conception and production?

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