Author:Jean-Yves Durand (CRIA-UMinho)
Paper short abstract:
The current esthetic evolution of a certain type of Portuguese handmade embroideries helps shed light on what can happen when a collective heritage is objectified and commodified, and that its ownership drifts to private forms.
Paper long abstract:
Participation in a research project about the "certification" of a specific type of handmade embroideries of rural northern Portugal has led to scrutinize the current dynamics of this craft production. Its traditional patterns are now appropriated, interpreted, and sometimes copyrighted by multinational companies and applied to various industrial products. Several Portuguese designers have also started using them in innovative ways. As for embroiderers (nowadays almost exclusively women), they start to look for ways to "protect" what they feel is "theirs". They publicize their work on the internet, in an attempt to strengthen their claims of authority about "genuine" features. But they are also dismayed by the fact that this global diffusion greatly increases the risk of plagiarism. A few of them now talk about copyrighting their patterns. And pieces which used to be anonymous are now signed while, paradoxically, the search for productivity which is inherent to a commercial activity leads to a sharp decrease in creativity and innovation. The question is therefore not only "Who owns native culture?" but also what can happen when a collective heritage is objectified and commodified, and that its ownership, or at least its control, drifts to private forms.
Performing copyright: the politics of creative practice and the poetics of technology