Art and Industry
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.
‘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)