Knitting the Urban Space: Is Yarn Bombing in Israel a 'granny Craft' or a Subversive Urban Craftivism?

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Yael GUILAT, Oranim Academic College of Education, Israel
Shoshi WAKSMAN, independent researcher, Israel
Yarn bombing are practices of knitting/ crochet/ embroidering made or displayed in public spaces around the world. Those practices are known also as, ‘knit graffiti’ and ‘guerrilla knitting’ etc. It involves attaching handmade textile items to street fixtures or furniture. The pieces could be discreet installations on a bench, handle, railing or potholes, or large and audacious pieces such as a tree wrap, a cover for a bus or a huge commemorative quilt such as the Aids memorial. Yarn bombers operate under the umbrella of global justice activism through graffiti genres and or community participatory craftivism. Following blogs and social media the phenomena arrived to the Israeli public space through individual and collective practitioners, institutional urban festivals and or artivist & craftivist communal practices.

In our on-going research, we propose an in depth analysis, based on visual and ethnographic methodology, of those emerging practices in various cities in Israel. We will describe the characteristics of those urban craft (activist) pieces, the motivations of the artists and practitioners and the social network that enable those practices regarding to top-down/ bottom-up power relations. We will claim that within the complex context of the Israeli visual culture, the local yarn public practices gives material visualization to issues of gender, immigration and ethnic exclusion and inclusion. The preliminaries findings indicate that some of those practices allow interpersonal encounters between artists and non- artists in the public space promoting intergeneration solidarity. The ‘inoffensive’ nature of the so called 'Granny craft' enables to deal critically through visual arts with issues of social injustice and ethnicity, nationality, ageism and gender - based discrimination. Despite the subversive context of graffiti genre those urban knitting are perceived as "soft" expressions as Robertson writes: "....as a constructive approach to activism that encourages interpersonal interaction and everyday resistance"(2007, 210).