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FACTORY. Neil Brownsword

BROWNSWORD, Neil (2017) FACTORY. Neil Brownsword. Korea Ceramic Foundation, South Korea.

[img] Text (1. FACTORY publication, 2017)
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Abstract or description

This catalogue was published in conjunction with the Invitational Exhibition of Neil Brownsword's FACTORY held at the Icheon World Ceramic Center, which was presented as an incentive to the Grand Prize winner of the International Competition of GICB 2015. It brings together texts by Brownsword, Prof. Ezra Shales art historian at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, and Tim Strangleman is Professor in Sociology at the University of Kent. It explores the research and contexts underpinning the FACTORY project together with themes that include the sociology of nostalgia, deindustrialisation and the sociology of work.

Since the 1970s and 80s, progressive deindustrialisation in the United States and in Western Europe has resulted in many profound social, political and economic transformations across the globe. Displacement of productive industrial capacity has in many cases accelerated urban decline, outmigration and gentrification. High culture has tended to be the universal panacea where policies of regeneration assimilate former sites of production into art venues and cultural spaces, transforming industrial ruins into aestheticized backdrops for leisurely consumption.

Following decades of industrial transition, Stoke-on- Trent - the historic capital of British ceramic manufacture, is one such city that today remains at the early phase of its contemporary repurposing. Yet narratives that explore the recent collapse of industry or the communities still affected by the legacy of deindustrialisation remain inconvenient truths eschewed by many in local government and organisations profiting from culture led redevelopment. Finding value in the active memory and former practices of those affected by industrial change often provokes simple assumptions of nostalgia, or an unchecked idealisation of the past. Thus, the psychological and emotional dimensions of industrial history - the first-hand recollections surrounding the complex networks, social bonds and pride forged by collective skill, can be all too easily side-lined. Factory is a performative installation that reflects upon notions of place, skill, people and material objects left behind following the process of industrial change. In Stoke-on-Trent, global outsourcing together with high yield production technologies, have substituted many of the people-embodied skills that once sustained company leadership. Like many hand skills in the ceramic industry, dexterity is transmitted from generation to generation. As the tertiary or service sector has largely replaced traditional manufacturing there now exists a signifi- cant skills gap, and with few apprenticeships a danger of specialist knowledge disappearing. Following the legacy of William Morris and the Arts and Craft Movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, much attention has been dedicated to the preservation of vernacular crafts. Since these neo-traditionalists remained diametrically opposed to industrialisation, they also marginalised the know-how of those employed in factories, albeit sometimes unintentionally. In 2003 UNESCO implemented a convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. 171 countries have now endorsed this, effectively making Intangible Heritage part of their cultural policy, but this value system remains alien to the UK.

Any efforts to safeguard traditional craftsmanship must focus not on preserving craft objects - no matter how beautiful, precious, rare or important they might be - but on creating conditions that will encourage artisans to continue to produce crafts of all kinds, and to transmit their skills and knowledge to others.

Factory re-evaluates explicit systems of know-how, specific to North Staffordshire’s ceramic industry. Within this exhibition, china flower maker Rita Floyd and mould maker James Adams, two artisans with long careers working and residing in Stoke-on-Trent, restaged their former working practices. Yet the live transmission of these contrasting modes of ceramic manufacture in the gallery space were not intended as nostalgic demonstrations of pure skill constructed for heritage tourism. To accentuate these overlooked forms of intelligence, numerous strategies that disrupt and renavigate prescriptive skill are adopted to offer rare access into haptic and material knowledge from the routines of the production line. Staging Factory in South Korea, a country that gives status to individuals with exceptional cultural ability to preserve and cultivate living heritage, has provided a prestigious platform to question the value and relevance of embodied practices that continue to remain marginalised in the very nation where the industrial revolution began.

Item Type: Book / Proceeding
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 10:22
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:56

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