Art and Industry

Opening Speech (Wide 01) Shenyang (640)

On Being Industrious

CHINA: on 23 April 2016 Alasdair Foster delivered a short speech on behalf of the international delegates attending the grand opening of the Shenyang Festival of Industrial Photography. Below is an extract from that speech setting a wider philosophical frame for considering the many diverse works in the festival.

FOR MORE THAN TWO CENTURIES, industry has formed the basis of our economy and our way of life.

But, in English, the word industry describes not only a system of factories and manufacturing companies, but the very act of engaging in useful activity. In this sense, industry is as old as humanity itself.

It is a basic human urge to be industrious; to make things, and to build our society of the things we make and the relationships we form in so doing.

The celebrated curator and writer, Ananda Coomaraswamy, was a Ceylonese Tamil philosopher of the early 20th Century. He said this of the vocation which drives us to be industrious:

“The vocation, whether it be that of the farmer or the architect, is a function; the exercise of this function, as regards the man himself, is the most indispensable means of spiritual development and, as regards his relation to society, the measure of his worth.”

But Ananda Coomaraswamy was also a curator and historian of art, and he understood that the making and appreciation of art is deeply rooted in the human psyche. For millennia art and industry – the making of things and making them well – built human communities that were both sustainable and unified.

He wondered why, in the Modern Age,

“We have come to think of art and work as incompatible, or at least independent, categories and have for the first time in history created an industry without art.”

Here, in Shenyang, we celebrate the reuniting of art and industry though photography.

Photography is a democratic medium, open to all the people.

Being industrious and being creative are what make us human. In Shenyang we are able to recognise and celebrate the fact that our cultures are built through the union of industry and creativity.

It is when we imagine together that true innovation is possible. And it is when we work for the benefit of the whole community that our collective industry creates true value.

Shenyang Opening Event 01 (640)

‘Industry re.Imagined’ was presented in the Industrial Museum of China as part of the Shenyang Festival of Industrial Photography in April 2016. The exhibition, which featured the work of Alejandro Chaskielberg (Argentina), Marcus Lyon (UK) and Roger Hanley (Australia), was curated by Alasdair Foster.

Images (from the top):
Alasdair Foster speaking at the lauch of the festival (photo: Roger Hanley)
Photographers jostle to capture the opening of the festival (photo CDC)


2 Responses to “Art and Industry”
  1. Dudu says:

    Dear Alasdair.
    I have read your speech entitled ‘ Reimagining Industry’ with great enthusiasm. Your writing style is really amazing. It is easy, flowing but still very strong in terms of conveying the message. I am really impressed and learning everyday from you. I would like to learn more about Ananda Coomaraswamy as well.

    • CDC says:

      Ananda Coomaraswamy is a very interesting man. He was curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA, and did much to open up western eyes to Indian and Islamic art in the early part of the 20th century. I particular like him because he spoke about the creativity that is in all of us and the importance of recognising and valuing ordinary people when considering our culture.

      He wrote in his book “Transformation of Nature in Art” (published in 1934, as Europe was building to war): “The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.”

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • The majority of the texts on this site are by Alasdair Foster and represent his opinions. However, in order to facilitate a useful diversity of views, some texts have been invited from artists and colleagues around the world, while others appear as independent comments. These opinions and comments are not necessarily those of Alasdair Foster or Cultural Development Consulting (CDC). All data and information on this site is provided on an as-is basis. While every effort is made to be as thorough as possible, neither Alasdair Foster nor CDC make representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.
%d bloggers like this: