Make + Risk = Craftivism: A Roundtable and Yarnbomb Project
A dominant symbol of the January 2017 Women’s March on Washington was the pink pussyhat: a knit or crochet hat constructed in such a way that cat ears appear on the wearer’s head. Large numbers of women participated in making pussyhats and wore them at marches in Washington and other cities. Yet the hats were also a focus for critique, as the product of a white middle-class feminism that often fails to take into account the experiences of other women, and as excluding transwomen in particular through their reference to biological sex. In many ways, this combination of responses to the pussyhats mirrors the responses to the March itself. It also demonstrates both the productive potential and the potential pitfalls of “craftivism:” that is, of activism pursued through forms of craft production that have traditionally been done by women.
Through this proposed roundtable session and hands-on project for Babel 2017, The Material Collective seeks to engage with the issues raised by the pussyhats in two ways. First, through a roundtable session featuring multiple short presentations and time for discussion, we aim to set the hats within a larger historical context of craftivism, to further explore the potential of this form of activist production, and simultaneously to further its critique. Secondly, we aim to explore these issues through practice in a “yarmbomb” project: yarnbombing refers to knit and/or crochet projects that are installed in public space on the model of street art or graffiti. While not all yarnbomb projects are also craftivist projects, some are, and yarnbombing itself is open to critique on a number of levels. We envision a yarnbomb project conceived with the themes of the Babel 2017 conference in mind, produced largely at the conference itself, facilitated through a knit and/or crochet workshop or workshops as part of the conference, and installed throughout the conference space. We invite participants to present in the roundtable, to collaborate with us in conceptualizing the yarnbomb project, to make work for that project in advance of the conference, to lead a workshop or workshops in knit/crochet techniques at the conference, and to contribute materials (yarn from stashes, hooks and/or needles) for the project. Participants may chose to be involved in one or more or all of the above.