An exhibition in Paris at the Maison du Danemark elevates the anarchic mischief-making of yarn bombing to an evolved commentary on issues ranging from animal conservation and weaponry without losing the bite of it activist roots.
If yarnbombing grew out of the ironic revival of knitting and crochet clubs it found its voice in the graffiti movement. But whereas the latter is dominated by spray-can wielding types sporting XY chromosomes and low-hung jeans, yarnbombing is a decidedly more feminine movement. And if you will forgive us making a sweeping statement, it is smarter for it. Whereas some aspects of graffiti – such a tags and repetition of motifs – speak largely of territory marking – the urban interventions of yarnbombing seem more concerned with space reclamation, statement making or delight creating – in part perhaps because each object must be individually crafted.
The Maison du Danemark devotes a considerable portion of its presentational text to proving/defending the knitted objects as works of art. To be sure, knitting has usually been relegated, along with other ‘women’s work’, as craft rather than art. (The relationship of ‘craft’ to ‘Art’ being that of ‘cook’ to ‘Chef’ with the same gender implications.) For us it’s a moot point – whether art is made using wool and needles, steel and blowtorch or coloured pigments mixed with oils and dabbled about with a little hairy stick is irrelevant.
The show is dominated by Danish artist Isabel Berglund’s gorgeous tree. Rendering what is usually hard into something as soft and in need of support creates a Hans Christian Andersen -like fairy tale mood while engendering the desire to tree hug. Or should we say tree hygge? (Don’t worry, out supply of Danish themed puns is now officially exhausted.)
Also on show are French artists Art Oriente Objet’s lovely interpretations of endangered animals from their 1992 series, The Year My Voice Broke. Reflecting on issues of extinction and human’s approach to conservation whereby animals became subject to human laws (governing, we suppose, their movements, migration, procreation etc), the artists decreed it should be “The Year of Knitting for Animals” during which, according to their website, they “would knit as many animals skins as were asked of us”. The Panda and Stag on display are beautifully realised works reminiscent of the ongoing (and somewhat bemusing) craze for taxidermy.
Danish artist Hanne G has taken history’s most common and iconic guns and rendered these objects of – let’s face it – masculine power all floppy and harmless. The Crochet for Peace (2007) series inspires the following un-woolly idea: let’s spend our defence budgets on buying wool for knitted guns and live in peace. In contrast her Lady Weapons (2007) series features feminine and domestic paraphernalia with a potentially violent application such as rolling pins, irons, stilettos and lady razors.
Also on display are knitted and knobbly landscapes captured from Google Earth by the Collectif France Tricot.
The Mailles: Art en Laine show continues until 19 November, 2011. Visitors are welcome to contribute to a communal knitting project and help themselves to cups of tea, bringing a touch of homeliness and sociability to this otherwise crisp, if lovely, space on the Champs Elysee.
For details: see the Maison du Danemark website.