The Anti-Knitting-Graffiti Manifesto
This one’s been percolating for a while. After all, I’ve been writing about my annoyance with this “movement” for three years now. Now the founder of “Knitta Please” is visiting Australia and the media are going crazy with kooky knitting headlines. Loads of non-knitters have again been asking whether I know about it or am involved. “Yes, I’m aware; no, I don’t participate; yes, I think it’s a massive waste of time and human energy…” Yesterday when I was running in the Domain I spotted some knitting stuck on a post at Mrs Macquarie’s Point, and it just crystallized my whole annoyance with the subject. The non-knitting public needs to know that we’re not all like this. We need an Anti-Knitting-Graffiti Manifesto.I wrote this over at Ravelry this morning:
I’ve been told by my connections at the City of Sydney Libraries that this year’s “Art and About” festival will feature an exhibit called “I Love Kings Cross.” This will involve all of us knitters making squares which will be wrapped around light poles and bollards and whatever in the Cross. Then, after a couple weeks, the knitting will be taken down, laundered, and made into blankets and such for the homeless. (Edit: I’ve since been told that this isn’t necessarily the case. Please see Alasdair’s excellent comment below.)
1) This shows exactly how “subversive” graffiti knitting is. The Council has GIVEN PERMISSION AND A GRANT for some “artist” to coordinate this. When your “underground art” becomes a government-sponsored civic project, you’re hardly stickin’ it to the man at that point.
2) It’s so painfully trendy. So trendy it makes my teeth hurt. It’s so very LOOK-AT-ME-I’M-HIP.
3) Non-knitters already think knitting is a waste of time. Spending hours making squares that get wrapped around trees and light poles will only reinforce this belief.
4) I don’t like most graffiti. I don’t like it when it’s paint or chalk or stickers or yarn. I don’t think we should aspire to be like “taggers” or glorify what they do. Some of it is art, but 99% is just vandalism for the sake of it.
5) This isn’t to say that I don’t think art can be transient or ephemeral or disposable. I’m in favour of all of that. I think the idea of juxtaposing knitting with big industrial junk is a good one. I think putting a knitted cozy on a tank actually SAID SOMETHING. I also think the 99% of the people involved with the graffiti knitting “movement” are just imitating something they saw on the Internet and performing their hipness for the Muggles.
6) I’ll also admit that I’m not a big fan of purely decorative knitting. The knitting that I like is practical. The thought of spending hours making a plain stocking stitch square just so it can rot on a light pole makes me shudder.
7) Also, I hate to think what the samples in the Art and About project are going to look and smell like after hanging in the Cross for a couple weeks. “Laundering” them and giving them to the homeless seems like a tacked-on way of justifying the project, and it strikes me as fairly insulting as well (both to the knitters and the recipients).
8) Lastly, I just really resent this idea that we’re meant to drop everything and contribute to these projects, simply out of some sort of obligation to feed the media’s desire for “kooky knitting” stories at the moment, just so some tired newscaster can say: “This isn’t your Grandma’s knitting!” It’s so patronizing. This is winter. I have limited knitting time. I’d prefer to spend it making beautiful, useful things that will keep people warm.
Hmm. This is coming off sounding really negative, and I don’t want to make anybody feel bad that actually contributed to one of the “graffiti” projects. Mostly I just wanted to spell out in my own mind exactly what I find so objectionable about it. It’s like one person comes up with an interesting idea, the media latch on to it, and suddenly we all feel compelled to buy into the story that they’re selling. If even 10% of the people involved spent that time coming up with new creative ideas, patterns, and techniques, the knitting community would be a lot better off.
Added a lot later: Ugh. I was really happy with how this conversation was going before, and I really want to thank Debbieann, Denise, Knit the City, and Alasdair for taking the post in the spirit in which it was intended. I appreciate you guys arguing with me and opening my eyes a little bit.
Unfortunately I’ve been taking a lot of personal hits (mostly on Twitter and Ravelry) from people who took this post a LOT more personally than you guys did. I don’t see any more productive headway happening, so I’m going to close it off. I’m looking forward to talking to you guys more about your projects in person.