press release

Between Tradition, Discourse, and Technologies

October 2, 2020–January 10, 2021

Artist Talk with Johannes Schweiger : November 26, 6:30–8:30pm

Artists in the exhibition: Azra Akšamija, Olivier Guesselé-Garai, Plamen Dejanoff, Olaf Holzapfel, Antje Majewski, Jorge Pardo, Slavs and Tatars, Haegue Yang and Johannes Schweiger

In an increasingly confusing and globalized world, the need for categorizations and rigid concepts of identity seems to be constantly growing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for ambiguity and intermediate spaces to exist. This is where the artists in the exhibition come in: Based on their engagement with materials and craft techniques, they create works that build bridges—between traditional, local knowledge and other cultures and times, between crafts and contemporary art.

Local traditions and global contemporary art
In recent years, contemporary artists’ interest in materials, in artistic and artisanal processes, and in experimenting with materials and techniques has grown remarkably. The nine international art positions in the exhibition ARTS ⇆ CRAFTS: Between Tradition, Discourse, and Technologies work with materials such as wood, glass, textiles, and straw and use skills from knotting to carving. The works in the exhibition—including sculptures, textiles, and large-scale installations—relate to artisanal, folk, and artistic traditions as well as contemporary and technological discourses. They exist within the context of current issues in a globalized world: questions of belonging, migration, and technological developments play a role, as do the dissolution of attributions, hierarchies, and demarcations.

DIY or products of stable value
The exhibition also responds to the increased interest in crafts, which has developed in very different directions. On the one hand, there is a neo-conservative awareness of quality and the associated consumption of high-end artisanal goods, while on the other hand DIY movements have gained popularity. And, not least, political incorporations of crafts alongside concepts such as homeland, people, folk art, and tradition have become apparent. Based on their engagement with materials and artisanal techniques, the artists challenge these cultural attributions, concepts of identity, or categorizations and show in their works how local identifications and global developments have long been intertwined. Conceptions of coherent, self-contained cultures and identities are subverted in favor of ambiguity and hybridity.

Arts and crafts in the Kestner Gesellschaft
Since its founding in 1916, the Kestner Gesellschaft has dealt with many of the exhibition’s themes, in particular the hierarchization of art and crafts, European modernism and non-European cultures, as well as gender-specific attributions of techniques and materials and the role of design. For this reason, a glimpse of the archives of the Kestner Gesellschaft alongside these works of contemporary art in order will examine the historical development of these issues from an institutional perspective.

The exhibition is being realized in cooperation with the Kunsthaus Graz and the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (GfZK). An exhibition catalog has been published by Verlag für moderne Kunst and can be purchased for 20 euros.

Curators: Barbara Steiner and Lea Altner