Craft process & cultural response: making & thinking about making in Greco-Roman antiquity
Greek and Roman art and literature reveal a fascination with the processes of production. Literary texts and artefacts that depict and engage with such processes show that the transubstantiation of raw materials into usable, valuable and exchangeable objects was often invested with metaphysical, philosophical, social, and even political meanings which were central to how ancient societies thought about themselves and the world. Such cultural responses to making are often generated by a deep awareness of the value of human and natural labour, which in today’s industrialised societies (and hence in scholarship) often remains unnoticed.
Over the course of the day, debates are stimulated on the personal, hands-on nature of making and the way production has become an embedded part of the way that we think about ourselves and the world around us. The two case studies are chosen to illustrate how laborious processes of production impacted the ancients' thinking about core philosophical and socio-political issues. The talks explore how the artistic production was employed by poets and artists to reflect on ideas as fundamental to human existence as gender, procreation, and the humans’ balance with the cosmos. Together the events investigate these cultural responses to craft and the different impacts they had.
Dr Emmanuela Bakola is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Department of Classics. She is working on a project entitled Aeschylean tragedy and early environmental discourse, which looks at Greek theatre and ancient attitudes about the earth, the environment and the natural resources. Part of her project argues that textiles and the processes of their production (especially weaving and dyeing with murex purple) have a symbolism which makes them indispensable for our understanding of the theatre of Aeschylus: namely wealth, life, their creation, destruction and waste, and how these contribute to the balance of the cosmos.
Dr Will Wootton is the Lecturer in Roman Art in the Classics Department. His research is concerned with craft production in antiquity, focusing on the intersections between materials and techniques, craftsmen and clients. He is especially interested in mosaics and sculpture. He was the Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme-funded project, The Art of Making in Antiquity: Stoneworking in the Roman World (www.artofmaking.ac.uk), and also directed a heritage-related project, Conserving and Managing Mosaics in Libya, which was funded by the Getty Foundation.
Patricia Hopewell is a weaver/dyer researching weaving and woad dyeing techniques in prehistory, in particular European Iron Age textiles. As a contemporary practitioner her focus is the labour intensive nature of production, and what it can teach us for sustainability, with cloth being valued in contrast to today's mass consumerism.
Giulia Vogrig and Monica Piovesana are the co-founders of Fragmenta (www.fragmenta.co.uk), a mosaic workshop based in London. Formed at the Scuola Mosaicisti of Spilimbergo (Italy), they worked in Italy until 2009 and since then in the UK. They create handmade mosaics using traditional techniques and materials, and following both classical and contemporary styles.
Full day programme:
10.00 - Welcome & coffee
10.30 - 17.30 - Textiles workshop
10.30 - 17.30 - Mosaics workshop
18.30 - 20.00 - Talk
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