Shift Craft is the Korean Design and Craft Foundation's traveling exhibition that shifts the boundaries of craftsmanship towards art and design

In Korea, objects and works of art are defined by their relationship with time and space rather than by form and function.

A change of perspective that summarizes the eleventh exhibition of Korean Design & Craft Foundation during the FuoriSalone 2023.

Shift Craft responds to an honest need to explore Korean craftsmanship in its contemporary expressions between tradition and modernity. The work of 20 artists/designers/craftsmen has arrived in Milan in a simple setting, which strips the objects of any scenographic outline to ensure that attention is focused on the evident and declared presence, a sometimes provocative, of the person behind the object.

Read also: Ten insights into Korean craftsmanship

A curatorial work to answer a question

After a few weeks, it is not difficult to say that Shift Craft was one of the most significant and interesting events of the FuoriSalone. Among the many exhibitions, it was one in which the curatorial intervention brought to light a precise thought, which concerns the permeability between research, art and design in the context handcrafted.

He did so by enunciating the themes of a different cultural system, without fear of simplifying complex concepts for greater readability.

Finally, it almost seems that the exhibition, in its frankly institutional nature, is above all a work done in favor of Korean culture in itself, without great promotional purposes.

Craftsmanship as a hybrid space between art and design

An indisputable fact has emerged that we also experience at these latitudes. The craftsmanship is changing, it is shifting to put it in pop terms.

Always poised between an everyday object and art, between collective culture and individual expression, today it becomes the manifestation of personal research without bothering to call itself a unique work.

An attitude also chosen by many young Western designers, who find in the collectible a hybrid place in which to do research, attempt analyzes on material culture and the meaning of objects in a world which, in fact, has always less need for products.

Relationships between human beings and objects

The research craftsmanship therefore becomes a large space in which to land to test a creativity that has no immediate industrial or commercial ends.

It responds precisely to human beings' need to forge deep relationships with things. And he enjoys great freedom of expression by working on the margins of serial production.

What comes out of it, especially as regards Shift Craft, is the search for a new beauty, a beauty that leaves you speechless because it is disruptive, capable of breaking boundaries of disciplines and cultures with open, elaborate and powerful responses.

The beauty of urgency

Journalist Heijeong Yoon in the introductory text of the Shift Kraft catalog says that: “Struggling to manifest their identities through their work, these artists question craftsmanship in general, each giving a different answer”.

Of course, the uniqueness of Korean culture brings with it uncommon practices, such as contemplation and the search for natural, spontaneous gestures. But this too is an attitude similar to that of asking questions without waiting for definitive or unilateral answers.

The beauty probably lies in the urgency and universality of the questions and in the will to transform art into craftsmanship and not aspire to the contrary.

Before seriality

The twenty artists/designers/craftsmen of Shift Craft use ancient and obsolete techniques, rediscover the unpredictability of manual work, materials, cooking and assembly processes with a mind scientific.

They experiment with workmanship, innovate it, desecrate it, without forgetting the cultural (and spiritual) roots of making crafts in an oriental country. Sometimes they are disarmingly simple objects, which however hide a technical expertise made up of trials and patience.

They demonstrate mastery, a knowledge rooted in years of learning and practicing an art. Many of the artifacts would be beautiful industrial design objects, with the risk of losing the human behind the object once again along the way.

But this is also good news for those who are intolerant of confusion of genres and definitions: manual work, at least in this case, precedes serialization and perhaps gives it a democratic and collective raison d'etre.