Tag Archives: recycling

Hamer Hall – architecture & garden

The Melbourne firm of architects, Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM), designed the new Hamer Hall. ARM also designed RMIT’s Storey Hall, the Melbourne Recital Centre and other notable projects in Australia. ARM have the art of architectural redevelopment down with earlier project including redeveloping Melbourne Central Shopping Centre and adding a Visitor Centre to the Shrine of Remembrance where the character of original building is not lost but simply and subtly improved.

Hamer Hall

The new riverside front of Hamer Hall with its dynamic curves and cut away windows reminded me of Hive, graffiti architecture, only on a larger scale. (See my post: Graffiti & Architecture.) The contrast with the old, mossy stone of Princes Bridge designed by the architect John Grainger (1854-1917), the father of the composer, Percy Grainger.

Kaeru, a garden of recycled materials on the upper lawn terrace of the new Hamer Hall is a temporary, environmental art project. Created by Japanese installation artist, Hiroshi Fuji in collaboration with Melbourne’s Slow Art Collective and the people of Victoria. The Slow Art Collective is Tony Adams, Chaco Kato, and Dylan Martorell; they have impressed me in the past with their installations especially the audio aspect. I have seen works by their members before at Gertrude Contemporary, the Counihan and Lamington Drive (See my 2009 post: Dylan Martorell @ Lamington Drive.)

Kaeru Garden, Melbourne, 2012

Hiroshi Fuji has done a number of installations using found plastic. There is so much plastic in the world that it will pollute the world for a thousand years, so you might as well reuse and enjoy what is already around. Kaeru demonstrates that this is possible.

Kaeru all looks like a giant spider web made by a psychedelic spider. There were some great seats where I sat and watched the Yarra River run by in the early spring sunshine and enjoyed the audio elements of this garden. Gardens are not silent – only the dead are silent and even an unnatural garden like this needs sounds. There is the rattle of pinwheels, the occasional clang of metal from wind chimes and hanging speakers attached to glass balls emitting ambient sounds.

Seating in Kaeru


Contemporary Craft – politics & blogs

Contemporary craft in Melbourne is street wise, informed about art history, political and fun. It is not fluffy, twee granny craft, but radical, cool craft. To understand how radical contemporary craft can get see:  Radical Cross Stitch, “seriously seditious stitching”.

“A more interesting role for the word ‘craft’, perhaps, rather than leave it marooned as a pejorative cultural refugee, is to return to it updated to its function as a politicised response to modernization.” Paul Greenhalgh The Modern Ideal (V&A Publications, 2005) (p.93)

In this political response craft is: un-alienated labour; it is vernacular/ethnic rather than global; and eliminating perceived class hierarchies in the arts and society. Craft is still seen as a political resistance or a personal antidote to the worst effects of modernism. Contemporary craft is often marketed as an ecologically responsible form of production and a way of creative recycling. The variety of recycled materials used in contemporary jewellery is amazing. Contemporary craft is also marketed a way of showing support to an ethnic group or a local artist by purchasing their vernacular versions rather than a modern globally available Ikea version. (In an extreme version of this political vision, another hierarchy emerges where craft is ethical and the fine arts are, in contrast, amoral.)

To make a living from their craft hobby is the ambition of many workers. Some do ‘down-size’ their lifestyle to become full-time craft workers in preference over a larger salary. The more professional of these contemporary crafts are for sale in Melbourne’s alternative art boutiques (see my entry on Art Boutiques). There is a great variety of unique jewellery, accessories and other craft items of fashion in Melbourne. But it is not just the professionals who are doing crafts; many women are doing crafts as a hobby (and it is mostly women as most of the young men are doing street art see my entry on Gender & Street Art, not forgetting that street art emphasises many craft techniques from calligraphy to stencils).

How much of the idealistic politics of craft is a reality? Morris & Co. hand blocked printed wallpaper merely replaced one form of repetitive work with another. The industrial work places of the ancient and medieval world are not good models for a good life. The art/craft distinction is interpreted by socialists as a class hierarchy and by feminists as a gender hierarchy but the hierarchy of arts and crafts has largely disappeared in contemporary art galleries, they are often seen side by side in the same gallery. However there still are hierarchies within crafts (that are still being challenged by both contemporary art and craft): the hierarchies between respectable crafts and other crafts, for example, imagine the outcry if a high-school needlework class swapped sewing needles for tattoo needles. And although craft does promote the regional, the vernacular styles and technique there has also been international modern and contemporary craft styles, from the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau onwards, that replace the vernacular.

Political arguments, aside, due to the interest in contemporary craft there are a lot of really interesting craft blogs, The Melbourne Stiches and Craft Show 2009 had a craft bloggers corner, where people could talk to craft bloggers and look at the craft blogs online. Here are a few craft blogs that I’ve found interesting:

Melbourne Jeweller – information, reviews and thoughts about Melbourne’s jewellery scene.

Craft City Melbourne – a directory of local crafty favourites, written by a number of authors (they welcome contributors) and organized by suburb and pursuit.

Polka Dot Rabbit – another interesting craft blog from Melbourne.

Embroidery As Art – for the textile artist.

Glass Central Canberra – more than just glass art

Page 63 of your Manual – Sayraphim Lothian artist’s craft blog

Thanks to my wife Catherine, who enjoys cross-stitching and greeting card making, for the inspiration and additional research.


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