Recent discourse tends to force print and craft works into not-so-recent, even outright conservative categories: as fine art, they must be autonomous, original, and auratic; as artisanship, they must rely on tactility, skill, and apprenticeship. In both instances, crafts and printmaking are defined in defensive opposition to the forces and effects of mass culture, reproducing an old-fashioned binary in which art and artisanship provide a substitute sphere of “authentic” creative experience rather than a critical engagement with cultural production at large.
The project Medium Resistance examines contemporary works of print and craft that resist such an either-or classification. Invoking historical avant-garde practices such as Dada, the Bauhaus and Productivism, and, more recently, Tactical Media and Interventionism, these works reassess the mediums’ expressive, communicative, and material possibilities to articulate experiences beyond conventional aesthetic, social, and political boundaries. Ceramic multiples and posters, cardboard projectors and books, to name just a few examples, straddle the lines between art, craft, and mass production, strategically exploring each format’s relative autonomy and usefulness, its potential for participation and collaboration, communication and dissemination, aesthetic, social, and technical labor.
Conceived and organized by Nicholas Kripal (Chair of the Craft Department, Tyler School of Art), Richard Hricko (Associate Professor of Printmaking, Tyler School of Art), and Philip Glahn (Assistant Professor of Critical Studies and Aesthetics, Tyler School of Art), Medium Resistance is a collaboration between artists, curators, and historians. The project includes rigorous, interdisciplinary research, a group exhibition at the Ice Box in Philadelphia, and a publication that further disseminates and communicates the matters of critical artistic practice articulated in the show. Medium Resistance is constantly evolving: all three elements of the project continue to develop in dialogue with the artists and works chosen, testing and pushing the limits of the project’s conceptual and methodological parameters.
We strive to reach a number of different audiences—professionals and laymen; makers and theorists; artists, artisans, and designers; locals and internationals—since we consider critical dialogue central to the content, format, and method of our endeavor. Medium Resistance is a case study of revolutionary tendencies in prints and craft: the works, concepts, and ideas assembled here critically examine traditional notions of engaged cultural production. We feel that this effort is crucial in determining a renewed, productive understanding of the crafts and printmaking in the 21st century.