UCI Art Professor Hosts International Symposium Focused on Industrial Crafts Research

The Industrial Crafts Research Network (ICRN), co-directed by Department of Art Professor Simon Penny and Professor Tom Fisher (Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom), will host the inaugural symposium, Exhibiting Skill: Understanding, Documenting, and Communicating Skilled Practices of Historical Industrial Environments Nov. 13-14, 2021.

ICRN is an international, interdisciplinary research network of academics, museum professionals, designers and practitioners dedicated to the study of and communication of skills and knowledge in industrial crafts. ICRN focuses on the human experience of industrial crafts, particularly their cognitive dimensions, to inform a range of novel theoretical, methodological and design questions.

“ICRN leverages the theoretical perspectives of embodied, enactive and distributed cognition to understand these practices in the context of tools, materials, procedures and working environments,” said Penny. “Documenting skilled practice is particularly urgent in the context of deindustrialization, as contemporary audiences are decreasingly familiar with skilled industrial labor and many industrial heritage sites experience difficulty preserving skill in their communities and communicating those skills to their public audiences.”

This broad category includes many skilled material practices that emerged alongside industrial technologies; they are distinct from both pre-industrial and studio crafts. Industrial craftwork arose in response to new materials, power sources and labor processes as part of new industries. They are evident in textile production, ceramics and engineering, from precision machining to foundry work, among many other settings. Industrial craft skills involve a greater degree of mechanical mediation between worker and material than in their artisanal predecessors, and in many cases, this mediation involves some of the cognitive work of production being embedded in the machinery.

The goal of the symposium is to build an interdisciplinary discursive environment and community to identify platforms for future work. It will bring together industrial craft practitioners, museum professionals, historians, designers, anthropologists, cognitive scientists and others.

The symposium is co-sponsored by the Public History Program in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University.

The events will be held virtually to accommodate the international community and caution for the health and safety of presenters and attendees. Sessions will take place each day be 7 a.m.-noon PST. All presentations will be captured on video and disseminated free online and archived on the ICRN website. To register, please visit the symposium website simonpenny.net/industrial-crafts.html.