Crafted Selves: The Unfinished Conversation, curated by Cat Dunn, was born out of a deep frustration caused by the question ‘Where are you from?’. Such a jarring question, which is entrenched in racist hierarchies, can trigger a psychic split between heritage and home, particularly if the answer ‘Glasgow’ doesn’t satisfy the interrogator.
This futile exercise in categorising who belongs and who doesn’t that spurred the rationale for Crafted Selves. At St Andrews Museum, this two-room exhibition combines thirteen makers and artists in a strategy of self-examination through the political lenses of race, disability, sexuality, and gender.
At the point of entry, the confronting stare of Rae-Yen Song’s transfixing installation grips the viewer. Through non-human puppetry, the multidisciplinary artist delves into fantastical realms to ‘imagine futures’ for their family. Of dual heritage, Song’s installation stems from the experience of only ever speaking Chinese at home. The stern, papier-mâché mask seems to speak to the act of inhabiting different selves, depending on the situation.
Alongside sculpture, painting, and moving image, audiences encounter traditional craft practices such as ceramics and textiles. It is rare for an exhibition to foreground craft so vividly in both the installation and the accompanying text. In particular, Viv Lee’s group of four elemental pots were made using wild Scottish clay gathered at distinct locations. The colour and texture of each surface is beautifully unique; the impulse to reach out and feel their gentle contours only prohibited by the glass of the vitrine.
Crafted Selves raises more questions than answers, but in the best possible way. Dunn isn’t driven to neatly categorise the artists into boxes. Instead, the exhibition revels in the complexities which make up a person. The exhibition’s soundscape – joyful, unfiltered conversations between artists-turned- friends – offsets that dreaded question which seeks to undermine a sense of belonging
Crafted Selves: The Unfinished Conversation is exhibited at St Andrews Museum until 24th February 2024