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Craftism | Visual art review

Arnolfini, Bristol

This exhibition, knitting ­together craft and ­activism, could hardly be more timely. With its enthusiasm for making and ­doing, its commitment to local ­context, and its determination to get us all ­foraging (bring rose hips to the gallery in exchange for a free drink), Craftivism cheerfully exemplifies the zeitgeist.

It is also participatory, and the ­suggested interactions are hard to resist. In the main gallery, Christine and Irene Hohenbüchler's Bau-Stelle invites us to work on a giant wooden sculpture, attaching and removing sticks of wood. Both architectural and toy-like, it's the antithesis of grim hours spent battling flat-pack furniture. Playing on primary-coloured gym mats, a community of small-scale builders quietly forms.

Mandy McIntosh, working with local knitters, has created a social space with seats, hammock and craft-book library fashioned in rope, while recycled clothing is reworked into vivid, traditional Nigerian dresses that you can wear around the gallery. There's a knitting bench, a cluster of computers converting keystrokes to music, and a map of food to forage for around Bristol. Even local wrestlers join in, making masks from their clothes and personal effects, and displaying them in bill posters.

While the artworks are engaging, the themes feel familiar, ­overlapping with many other current invocations to grow our own, make do and mend. ­Ultimately, the most ­radical point is the act of ­bringing craft into a slick gallery ­setting. Too often modern art has sidelined craft, its homelier sibling, and it's good to see this challenged with such spirit.

Rating: 3/5 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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