Craft as A Cultural Value

Speech for the Association of Craftsmen in Copenhagen 175th anniversary, Copenhagen City Hall, 18 Nov 2015

"The Master said: By nature near together; by practice far apart." CONFUCIUS 551- 479 BC

The society that meets the new global world most forcefully, is the society that sets free the creative potential of the individual citizen the most.

In order for the individual citizen to know his or her creative potential, it is necessary to know oneself as a whole human being in flesh and blood with head, arms and legs.

In the digital world that has become an integrated part of our reality, it is crucial that we and the future generations exercise our own »computers«, which is to say: ourselves. This is done by understanding that we are whole human beings. And this is what the physical disciplines make possible, particularly craft in touch with tools and materials. Craft exercises our own perception so we can form an independent image of the world.

Craft is one of humanity’s oldest methods of experiencing and actively shaping our world. Because of the development of tools and the way they al- low us to use and explore material qualities, a knowledge and a language has been created, making it possible to describe and develop new ways of seeing and understanding the world.

“A proposition is a picture of reality. A proposition is a model of reality as we imagine it.” WITTGENSTEIN, TRACTATUS 4.01

The meaning of this is that language is not reality, nor are the models of the ministry of finance.

The development of ideas and visions in direct encounters with the world and its materials are fundamentally different from principles based exclusively on statistics and the abstractions of language. In this world of symbols and signs and today particularly in the digital technologies it is not the realities of the world that define our limits. They are defined by the spreadsheet format, the syntax of language, the computer program.

We live in a world where decision-makers under private and especially public management - from day nursery to primary school, high school, university, parliament - in decades have been isolated in an institutional vacuum. Here reality is seen through a filter in a digital, statistic, structural management system getting still more impenetrable.

Since the ’00s in particular this management system established to streamline and maximize whatever it wants to manage and have built up defense mechanisms against the actual circumstances in the iron industry.

In this system world of administration based on digital algorithms specialists, researchers, artists, craftsmen as well as everyone working in the iron industry are perceived as irrelevant and disturbing elements. And during the last 10 years this political management segment has become directly aggressive against any professionally substantiated critique or proposals.

In this world craft is an unmanageable phenomenon because fundamentally it builds on values and standards that are foreign to the management world. In craft it is knowledge through experience, it is intuition, it is the individual’s talent and know-how that is decisive. Here all the algorithms have to

give up, all diagrams and tests and measurements of value vs. effectiveness must be scrapped.

As long as this abstract system world is politically absolute any illusory plans to reinstall craft side by side with the other academic disciplines have to be ruled out. For this to happen it would require that the craftsman, the artist, the researcher would get the same wages and status as people in the financial and management world, people that today have the power to give themselves outrageous amounts of money while the actual creation of value in our culture is being closed down.

We live today in a capitalist period where the financial world has completely taken over the power with millions of investments per minute, carried out by machines which without any actual creation of value accumulate outrageous amounts of money for a still smaller number of people, evading any fair distribution of these values. For unknown reasons democratically elected politicians support this undermining insanity.

Not until the day the democracies come to their senses and reinstate the individual citizen as the real capital of society, not until it begins to reward enterprises that create real sustainable production and jobs - will the great qualities of craft have a chance to prove its worth.

Yet contrary to the delusion of politicians the reality is that the present dominating generalists of our Taliban economy belong to the past. Not to the past of industrial society or the past of service society, or they might belong to the latter, but worse yet, they belong to the past of information society, or maybe rather disinformation society, which was under the delusion the information on its own can generate value. When information is communicated from human being to human being it might well be a useful tool to optimize processes and ideas. But the fundamental is still the individual person’s know-how and insight. The future belongs to those that reinstate the human being as the real capital of society, and reinstate the respect for our shared world as a fundamental value. Here craft is not the past but a part of the future and its solutions of responsibility.

In the beginning of the ’00s when I lived in Willumsen’s studio at Strandagervej, I tried to found the institute AACT: art, architecture, craft and technology, as a global further development of Bauhaus. The idea was to develop practical examples where these four disciplines together could form a synthesis as an answer to the challenges of the world in front of us. No foundation was willing to support this idea. Maybe a similar project could today be reconsidered to raise our respect in the consciousness of politicians.

Hand and spirit presuppose each other.