Alice Springs Beanie Festival visits Bundoora Homestead
Pope Francis (and here I must stress that I don’t often quote Popes unless they make really terrific points) has recently been highly critical of consumerism, which he identifies as having brought us a good deal of anxiety. We, he says, need to buy less and stop spending our precious leisure time in shopping centres, buying or lusting after products as a form of entertainment fit for the whole family. Recreational shopping is for suckers. He tells people to turn off the TV and spend time and play with children. Maybe even teach them a new craft. Or visit an art gallery. I think he’s an anti-Capitalist, Environmentalist, Creationist Pope. Those of you who are Catholic should be very proud of him.
The Colours of the Country III project fits in remarkably well with what constitutes a good life. This collection of works has been lovingly produced by women from communities throughout Australia, but particularly (following a series of making workshops) the Central Desert region. The beanies that you’ll enjoy seeing upstairs haven’t been made to a pattern. The makers’ skills are such, that they can make up their own set of rules and what I see is a clear sharing of techniques involved in the making of these works. I see humour, wit and whimsy, and a fantastic observation of the local flora and fauna of the areas in which the artists live and work. I imagine the congregations of these artists coming together to knit, to sew, and to felt, talk, gossip and share stories and support each other. Building relationships through art.
Social isolation and loneliness are becoming common in our large cities. Knitting circles (like Men’s sheds) have been identified as being a really healthy group activity. People making something together has terrific emotional rewards, including increased happiness and sense of community. Hand making objects forces us to slow down, and enter a Zen like state of mind, where mindfulness (a 2014 buzz word) helps us to think through what is important and how to attain it.
I wouldn’t call the Beanies now on show at the Bundoora Homestead, so much beanies. I would call them hand crafted unique pieces of wearable art. Of Museum Quality. Made with love, with wit and with considerable understanding of the 3 dimensional form. And how it can be safely and comfortably affixed to ones head. Preferably without pins.
Another, more highbrow French term for handmade, finely crafted fashion made to fit a particular client is Haute Couture. Museums throughout the world are presently falling over themselves to fill their galleries with fashionable Haute Couture. Fashion, clothes, headgear, and the ones we choose to wear ourselves, has the daily ability to communicate something of ourselves and maybe even how we are feeling, to people we’re not talking too. Fashion sends messages and hints at who we might be.
A group show like Colours of the Country III, featuring individual works by a number of artists, always end the same way. With people picking favourites. Now art is not a competition and you could, in fact, think that any sense of competition would be a bad thing. But when an audience is faced with choices, they reveal much about themselves in what they choose as their particular favourite. When people are talking about art its always a good thing, because generally when people disagree with each other (even over which is their favourite beanie and why) they have to talk with each other about the choice they’ve made. And why. This is the art too. As you walk through this impressive exhibition, what you’ll hear is people talking and thinking about art together. About which beanie they would take home to keep their head and their heart warm next winter.