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Accepted Paper:

Arts or Crafts. Aesthetic utopia, social planning and the uneasy relationship between artists, designers and artisans in post-war Sardinia  
Antonella Camarda (University of Sassari)

Paper short abstract:

In post-war Sardinia, a regional agency, the I.S.O.L.A., tried to re-invent crafts for the modern living and a developing tourist market. Modern artifacts were labeled and sold as "traditional", born out of a timeless culture, raising issues of status and authorship.

Paper long abstract:

In the aftermath of World War II, crafts seemed to represent a way to contribute to the European material and spiritual reconstruction process.

In post-war rural Sardinia, crafts also represented a way to a sustainable development and a tool to express and enhance identity values. A regional agency, the I.S.O.L.A. (Sardinian Institute for the Organisation of Artisanal Work) was founded in 1957 to bring together artists, designers and craftsmen to adapt, re-invent and re-functionalise crafts for both the modern living and a developing tourist market.

At the core of the project stood a deep-rooted contradiction: the artists and designers involved were representatives of the modern movement, while their products were seen and sold as anonymous artifacts, labelled as "traditional", born out of a timeless culture, their points of reference placed in a blurred, undefined ethnographic past.

Behind a modern facade, a XIX century romantic conception of a coral creation undermined the project feasibility, raising issues of status and authorship. Synthesis and collaboration were at odds with the autonomy of each medium involved and the affirmation of individual creativity. Eventually these conflictual dynamics, within the frame of the global marginalisation of crafts, led to the crisis of the institute and its progressive disposal.

Today, as the discourse on crafts has regained a centrality both in the artistic practice and in the cultural debate, raising issues on authenticity, activism and sustainability, rethinking the I.S.O.L.A. experience offers a good starting point to address present questions and needs.

Panel P131
Which craft? Politics and aesthetics of handicraft in post-industrial contexts
  Session 1