From October 25, 2015 through February 7, 2016, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) will present Many Hands: Artists and their Fabricators (tentative title), the first major Museum exhibition to focus on contemporary art fabrication and its significant impact on artistic practice and the process of art work creation. The exhibition will examine the work of artists and fabricators side-by-side, and thoroughly explore the nature, extent and practicalities of their collaboration. The show’s particular emphasis will be on artistic decision-making, and will examine the way that different artistic intents and propositions shape the process of making in distinctive ways and conversely, the way that the practical realities of fabrication inform the artist’s artistic practice.
More and more often, artists are turning to specialist fabricators as a way to escape the constraints in the possibilities of what they can create, and expand the physical possibilities for their work. This growing dependence on expanded networks of making is a fundamental fact within contemporary artistic practice, well understood by those immersed in this world, but this process is rarely accessed or understood by the public. In addition, the practical, financial and conversational details of commissioned production are rarely mentioned in scholarly books or Museum exhibitions. Even the identity of the people who physically make work is often undisclosed, and the nuanced relationship between artist and fabricator rarely receives sustained attention. Partly this is due to sensitivity around authorship—a lingering sense that artists ought to make their own work—while confidentiality about business arrangements is also an important factor. The result is that the practical underpinnings of contemporary art-making have been conducted more or less out of view, with little sustained research into the phenomenon of collaborative and outsourced fabrication.