The artisan stands at the outer threshold of early modernity, fashioning a new age, ushering in a new spirit with movable type, plumb line, chisel, paper, new inks, dyes and lenses, and a sensibility that has room for curiosity, exploration, co-operation, elegance, economy, utility and a respect for the labour of the hand, the eye and the mind…The artisan gestures towards a new age but is not quite sure of a place in it.
Yet, the artisan has neither the anonymity of the worker drone, not the hyper- individuated solipsism of the artist genius. The artisan is neither faceless, nor a celebrity; she belongs neither in the factory, nor in the salon, but functions best in the atelier, the workshop and the street, with apprentices and other artisans, making and trading things and knowledge. The artisan fashions neither the mass produced inventories of warehouses, nor the precious, unique objects that must only be seen in galleries, museums and auction houses. The objects and services that pass through her hands into the world are neither ubiquitous nor rare, nor do they seek value in ubiquity or rarity. They trade on the basis of their usage, within densely networked communities that the artisan is party to, not on the impetus of rival global speculations based on the volumes and volatility of stocks, or the price of a signature. As warehouses and auction houses proliferate, squeezing out the atelier and the workshop, the artisan loses her way. At the margins of an early industrial capitalism, the artisan seemingly transacts herself out of history, making way for the drone and the genius, for the polarities of drudgery and creativity, work and art.
-Raqs Media Collective
New Delhi, India, 2005