Thursday, 20 June 2013

Se Hang Kang: The value of 'handmade'

I went to the Fine Art Degree show at uni today, which is called £383,911.73. The show was pretty extensive, but there were only a few pieces that I liked.

One of these pieces was by Se Hang Kang, who created an interesting work called Singing Stones. The theoretical background for the piece developed from a consideration of the interconnections evident within Buddist philosophy, but more simply, Kang was mostly interested in creating art that could be given away. Lined along shelves covering one end of the exhibition wall, there were easily over one hundred individually made 'sculptures' which incorporated a variety of really tangible, colourful materials: beads, marbles, plastic foliage, and sequins had all been intricately pressed into twists of an organically-formed, foam material to create a large mass of beautiful objects. The viewer was asked to take one away with them, and I was really excited to choose which one I wanted to keep. By inviting the viewer to pick one, Kang set up a situation that encouraged a real study and appreciation of her created objects - I ended up walking up and down in front of her work for about twenty minutes trying to pick my own art.

Singing Stones is a generous piece in which a lot of time was clearly invested by Kang. However, my enjoyment of the work has certainly been heightened by considering her handmade work along side a new kind of art being created by a new kind of technology: yesterday, Makerbot was sold in a deal worth an estimated $403 million, which can only illustrate the importance of 3D printed production (throughout various industries) in the future. The application of this new kind of making within the arts has already posed some deeply important questions regarding the role of the artist in the creation of their art. With this in mind, Kang's work puts into perspective the value we still attribute to a handmade, perhaps even craft-based art that can be given away and owned - and it is the worry of many people within the creative industries that this crucial aspect of 'creating' may be lost through tech such as 3D printing.

Of course, there are some beautiful examples of 3D printed artworks. Arguably, the skill required to created a CAD designed sculpture is just as technical and potentially complex as the individual creation of 'sculptures' like Kang's, however, the real question here is where we hold the value. As previously mentioned, we still love and appreciate the material, handmade artifact. But I predict a development in this kind of appreciation - a change that will hopefully happen in sync with our ever-developing creative technologies.