Baskets Blighted

February 5 - March 16 2021

A pop-up project by the plumb at The J Spot (240 Queen Street East, Toronto)

Kristi Chen

Organized by Laura Demers

Baskets Blighted is composed of three variations of hand-made baskets that convey the loss and destruction of intergenerational knowledge. Basketry is a technique that is slowly dwindling away, particularly in Chen’s father’s hometown of Shouning, Fujian province. As the deep impact of globalization and mass-production increases each year, there is a growing lack of effort—or perceived need—to recultivate this traditional skill. Such baskets are vessels that are only done by hand; no machine can replicate the woven structure and handwork involved in the process.

In Braiding Sweetgrass, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer explains how Birch bark baskets woven by members her community are priced to reflect the labour and craft inherent to their making: “People think it’s just basket weaving, but 80 percent of the work comes long before you weave. With finding the tree, pounding and pulling [at the birch bark] and all, you barely make minimum wage.”

This quote highlights the tedious and meticulous labour that is not factored into the capitalist mode of production. The steps between obtaining the raw material by peeling the outer layer of the tree and the final product are numerous.

The technique used to create these three particular baskets was gleaned from digital platforms; simultaneously creating and learning. The use of silicone and incense alludes to the depreciated value of basketry, and the resulting dissipation of intergenerational knowledge. The incense acts as a medium of decay, slowly eating away at the form. The silicone drives the basket to perform as a sieve, filtering what is left to learn.

Kristi Chen, Baskets Blighted, 2020, round and flat reed, tomato supporter, bamboo stool, silicone, incense Mix (coal powder, cinnamon, gum arabic, canola oil), metal rods

Kristi Chen is currently completing her undergraduate degree in Sculpture/Installation at OCAD University. Her practice consists of found objects and materials used in traditional practices to convey the complexity of identity politics in our post-colonial society. With a minor in Furniture Design, her work explores the three dimensional and interaction of space as an activation for installation.

The J Spot is a transitory window project founded by Jennifer Morton, located at 240 Queen Street East, Toronto. Art projects are hosted in the twin vitrines of the Angst salon, for a duration averaging 6 to 8 weeks.

email: info [at] theplumb [dot] ca
instagram: the_plumb

Reach out to us and let’s make something happen!