Craftsmanship was very prestigious and received great public attention with the Arts & Crafts movement, which was born in England and spread through Europe before Modernity. Our exhibition design wanted to honor a fundamental book of that time “The Seven Lamps of Architecture”, written in 1849 by John Ruskin because, although it is dedicated to architecture, the reflections on craftsmanship and its applications are abundant and structural.
In the exhibition area there are 7 large lamps. Each of them will offer an area of observation, dialogue or separate work that will encourage reflection and will be chaired by 2 words. On the one hand, we will find the original word that Ruskin used to name his lamps: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory and obedience. On the other hand, we will discover more contemporary values that have replaced or qualified Ruskin’s positions: sustainability, transparency, equity, culture, ecology, identity and innovation.
The comparison between both words exposes the curatorial hypothesis of the installation: craftsmanship has gone from being valued by individual dimensions, such as those that could be associated with a person, to be estimated by its collective values.
Lamp 1. From Sacrifice to Sustainability.
For Ruskin, the value of craftsmanship was “going beyond what was easy, probable or seemed possible at every moment” and doing it through the path of sacrifice and repeated practice. The beauty or merit of today’s crafts, according to UNESCO, is that it is produced using raw materials and techniques from sustainable resources.
Check it out: the boats that make up these lamps combine handmade patterns and those that would be made by the sea and the sun.
Lamp 2. From Truth to Transparency.
Ruskin condemns the constructive “deceptions” – the insinuation of a type of structure or support that is not the true one, painting surfaces to represent a material that is not the one that actually sustains an element – as unacceptable tricks. Today, there is an important movement among artisans and institutions to defend that the Denomination of Origin must reach non-agricultural products.
Check it out: our lamp plays with the concepts of transparency and truth, to invite reflection on how today, transparency, is the dominant political aspiration.
Lamp 3. From Power to Equity.
For Ruskin many of the works that have impressed us are characterized by being sublime,
“by a severe and, in many cases, mysterious majesty”.
For authors like Naomi Schor, the sublime is masculine. Thinking that art should be transcendent and belittling daily themes is for Schor one of the signs of cultural patriarchy.
Check it out: Our third lamp mixes precious prints, considered feminine, and austere or masculine as a sign of that struggle for equity.
Lamp 4. From Beauty to Culture.
“The maximum degree of beauty will have been reached when the orderings of lines are congruent with the most frequent natural groupings”.
The sources of beauty are now more plural because our culture is connected with others and, even, our nature, through culture, is connected with that of other places on Earth.
Check it out: navigating under our dome of mirrors you can play to find all the references and cultural inspirations that are behind the exposed works!
Lamp 5. From Life to Ecology.
For Ruskin, the memorable works have been conceived as a set where the details are subordinated to the general compositional criterion. In addition, living works were those that had been done with joyful work. Today, the beauty of the artisan product is not so much the result of good composition, as of being made with renewable materials, minimizing impact and integrating into natural and social contexts.
Check it out: in our lamp, configured as a large mobile mechanism, the product and raw material, aesthetic decision and ecological congruence are put in balance.
Lamp 6. From memory to identity.
Ruskin argued that the architecture that was contemporary to him should be aware of his historical role and fought tirelessly to preserve as the most precious of the legacies the architecture of past eras. Today we know that it is difficult to understand what local culture is and that craftsmanship is a magnificent step in that construction. In Galician crafts we learn about the Galician people and their habitat: climate, customs, geography and culture.
Check it out: our lamp composed of chestnut wood baskets talks of a culture in balance with its environment, austere and generous, hardworking and prudent.
Lamp 7. From Obedience to innovation.
“While it takes a certain measure of daring to patent the energy of things, the beauty, pleasure and perfection of all of them, lies in containment”.
With this phrase Ruskin encouraged the creators of his time to opt for known styles. Our contemporary culture has shown us that innovation is, nevertheless, a value linked to the prosperity of societies.
Check it out: in the creative process of contemporary crafts, learning from the past alternates with experiments and tests and the final product is full of roots, but also of surprises.
Work: Thinking with your hands. New seven lamps of artisan beauty
Architecture firm: Izaskun Chinchilla Architects
Collaborators: Alejandro Espallargas, Jesús Valer, Roberto de Vicente, Mercedes Zapico.
Room area: 546m2
Project location: The City of Culture, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Organizer: Fundación Cidade da Cultura de Galicia
Collaborator: Fundación Artesanía de Galicia; Secretaría Xeral de Igualdade
Museographer: Verónica Santos
Photographer: Héctor Santos-Díez | fotógrafo de arquitectura
Development of cardboard structural elements: Cartonlab
Assembly and attrezzo: Daexga
Materials: Structure: Timber and cardboard, Carpets: Painted natural fiber carpets Decoration: Craft baskets made by Enrique Táboas