DAN FANI Exhibition, New York 2007

37960010

SOS – SAVE OUR SKILLS

AIMS TO ENSURE

  • THE SURVIVAL OF MANKIND'S TRADITIONAL CRAFT SKILLS
  • THE SAFEGUARDING OF THE FUNCTIONAL OBJECTS MADE BY THEM
  • THE SAFEGUARDING OF THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT THAT SUSTAINED THESE OBJECTS
  • THE SAFEGUARDING OF THE NON-RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES OF THIS WORLD
  • THE SAFEGUARDING OF THE CULTURAL IDENTITIES THAT CREATED THESE OBJECTS
"NOT PRODUCT BUT MAN IS THE OBJECT IN VIEW."
László Moholy-Nagy
identity
Man has taken millennia to develop his manual skills. Skills which allowed him to survive, evolve and progress even under adverse conditions, and which - in due course - also brought culture and civilization into his existence.

From the very beginning these skills depended first and foremost on manís ability to identify - within the limitations of his physical environment - all sources of local materials which he could use for his various needs such as food, shelter, clothing, transport and defence. Once identified, the second stage was to develop the most economic and lasting way to use each material to the best of its potential.

At no stage in early history, however, is there an indication that selection was made by gender, age or social status of the makers, choosing instead the most able, who could best execute of the task at hand.

But even in those early days criteria such as availability of manpower and materials were vital issues in addition to the individualís skill. As a result, specialisation must have evolved naturally in most societies. Frequent use brought the need for more sophisticated tools, rationalised use of materials and simplification of work processes to cope with demands from the community as a whole. It will have prompted creativity and innovation ñ by the makers and the users.

Still, skills were not yet taught officially. For their continuation, makers and communities depended on the possibility that any skill could be passed on to the next generation, frequently as an automatic process within the makersí families.
"IN THE END ALL EDUCATION IS SELF EDUCATION."
Josef Albers
pride
From their early infancy, children watched individual family members undertake tasks relating to their various skills. Learning to help formed an integral part of their growing up.

Life was the school, and the ultimate certificate of this learning process was the ability to use the acquired skills to ensure better survival, improved incomes and ultimately also social status - first within the community but spreading geographically as skills of individual people, families, communities and regions matured to recognisable individual signatures.

This was and still is in many isolated societies the core 'school' and the core 'enterprise' of human civilisation, which has ensured survival of the species since its beginning.

Within his own environment, this has also allowed man to be independent ñ as much as possible - of ëimportedí supplies and the cash finance required to afford them.

It is this survival and independence that has been endangered and almost rendered extinct by the advent of localized machined mass production and the resulting economic risks which force the producing nations to sell their goods on global markets. If even in the poorest countries of the world, a T-shirt made in Asia costs a fraction of a shirt made locally by hand, it is neither logical nor economically viable for a local weaver to continue his craft and trade or for his children to learn them.

But it is not only his skill and craft that will die. The entire biological and environmental infrastructure will perish at the same time.

The makers of the tools will find themselves without work. The women and children involved in any of the making processes will have no additional training, occupation and income. In poor societies it will be hard if not impossible to find suitable alternatives. Ultimately the survival of the entire community will be put at risk, as it becomes more and more dependent on finding work outside its own geographical environment.
"HOW MUCH BEAUTY AND HAPPINESS IN THIS WORLD WOULD NOT EXIST, IF IT WERE NOT FOR THE DILIGENCE AND AGILITY OF OUR HANDS, SMALL AND FRAGILE AS THEY ARE, BUT CAPABLE OF PERFORMING MIRACLES, IF GUIDED BY MINDS, WHO ARE WORTH THESE PRICELESS TOOLS OF LOVE AND LABOUR."
Karin-Beate Phillips
beauty
This development has also resulted in a change of perceptions which has since lead to a inverse valuation of manual work. Whereas in the industrialised world, a surplus of mass produced goods is now resulting in premium prices for everything ëMade by Handí, people in non-industrialised societies, who at best can only afford inexpensive mass production, have devalued manual skills to such a degree that no one can afford to work in these ancient crafts anymore.

And whereas in the industrialised world an cost-incurring design or brand label has to be added to the machine made product to increase its perceived value, the rural craftsmen and -women in non-industrialised societies are not even aware of the value of their manual skills or their own design input and would never consider increasing a price because theirs is a 'family design' or their own ëmakersí brand'.

If we lose our last indigenous machine-independent skills, which alone can ensure continued supply of life's most basic and necessary objects of daily use, the implications, will not only be disastrous for our own species but also for the survival of our natural habitats.

It is also imperative that we reverse the continuing degradation of the manual skills employed to make cheap 'tourist' souvenirs.

They are purchased from the makers at prices far below the actual value of the skill, material and time required for their production. And - in the worst case scenario - the products are even taken away from the local craftsman to Asia for mass production.

This at last is the death warrant for the survival of the local makers and their skills, art, pride and cultural identity as well as their and their communities' independence.

This process has made and continues to make vast numbers of highly skilled people totally reliant on low-income work outside their own skills.
"EVERYONE IS TALENTED, EVERY HEALTHY MAN HAS A DEEP CAPACITY FOR BRINGING TO DEVELOPMENT THE CREATIVE ENERGY FOUND IN NATURE."
László Moholy-Nagy