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From the hand to the mind

Dalla mano alla mente … (From the hand to the mind).

The trade-guild artists.

Manifesto …

Having come to the conclusion that middle-class politics cannot, through it’s servile impotency in honouring capital gain over social necessity, or will not, through its abandonment of the poor, the vulnerable and the under-educated in first preference for its own priorities, improve the ambitions of many people seeking a fairer and more equal distribution of social equality and comforts of mind in our nation … I have decided to try to use my interest in artistic expression to bring social change so desperately needed to the people and the streets of our nation … I am going to inaugurate a collective of retired tradespeople who have in their retirement applied themselves to interpret their physical working lives with their artistic endeavours … I call this collective: “The Trade-Guild Artists” … its motto (in Italian … [I am Italian]: “Dalla mano alla mente”.

Our direction is one from lived experience in working in our respective trade professions for a living and from such a background moving to interpret those lived moments when more than a simple shout or expletive could explain our frustrations or bewilderment of a given incident or drama … We, of the trades, have been on the “front-line” of construction, caring, delivery of services and needs for millennia. Time we take our rightful place to give better interpretation of those seen things that need a skilled hand to deliver to a keen mind the intricacies of movement and colour of life to a blank page or canvas.

Having myself been a long-time admirer of the “social realism” style of painted/sculptured/written art, in a Diego Rivera or Albert Camus style … and others, I envisage a movement intent on delivering strong, determined and resolute impressions and characters to the eyes, ears and minds of those absorbing our intentions … whether those characters be imperfect of body, impure of thought or unchaste of character, they will be honest of attitude and intention … there will be little mistake in that.

Dare one speak words of Anguish,
Under such a tempered sky,
Rather heed to those that break,
Tho’ speak not … but sigh.

A Work of Art … or … The Art of Work?

The motivation for this piece came from four flat-box displays of ladies embraided cotton/lace handkerchiefs. I had purchased them some years before at a garage sale for the pitiful sum of fifty cents each box … one from Nth. Ireland, two from Switzerland and the other from China. Looking at them in their tissued, flat boxes, with the delicate lace-edges folded into diamonds or squares, the brilliant white contrasted with the small embraided flowers and sundry delicate patterns, I thought them too, too beautiful to be used other than as a display … So I made four frames and placed those “works of art” behind glass to be admired rather than soiled. I could imagine the girls or women hard-at-work, worrying over those pieces of cloth … Pieces of work became pieces of art … hence the title of this article!

I am an artisan (carpenter) … my father was an artisan (stone-mason) … the people who made those hankies were artisans, a multitude of people producing, constructing, moulding, knitting and on and on are artisans … coming from the French; “without art”.
Getting back to my father; the stone-mason … in his employment around Adelaide he built many stone walls and such. He built that curving weather wall along the Glenelg foreshore … by the sideshows … (it is gone now ). He told me years later that if I was to go to one particular place along that wall, I could see, shaped within the stone work, a map of Italy, with all the provinces in varying shades of stone, built cunningly into the wall! … indeed; a cunning stunt! … Artisan becomes artist!

So perhaps it could be proposed: Who stationed “artists” and “artisans” in their prospective environs? What are the boundaries of these environs, i.e. when does artisan become artist and vice-versa? Can art be interpreted as the “one-off” piece of deliberate intent? If an artisan uses his craft skills to produce a “one-off” article for decoration or beauty, does that one piece become a work of art? Likewise, if the artist takes a “one-off” work and by reproductive prints, mass-produces many images, does that work then become craft?

Are there then any boundaries to “art”? … does art exist in itself? Or is it an adjunct to physical existence … and not a separate construction of the imagination? … And if it was, then surely every wicked creation, every insidious act could also be construed as a “work of art” alongside sublime desire! … for wasn’t it Alexander the Great who volunteered that “war, is the greatest art”?

Perhaps the boundary between art and the artisan can be judged as; artisan being a measure of one’s craft skills, whereas art ; the measured, skillfull baring of one’s soul! … while there is chance of ridicule in the former, there is every chance of absolute condemnation in the latter … How deeply we choose to express one or the other is perhaps a judgement on one’s personal strength of character.

Can everybody be an artist … or is there art for everybody? I’m certain the answer is; yes, to both … although there may not be a market for everybody’s “art”! There is a risk of mockery in too much display and, I’m sure many of us are aware that the road between flattery and mockery is very short and very straight! But here again, the depth of soul-baring would, I’m sure, lift that sublime piece towering above the dross, such is the power of sincerity and in the end, there being so many avenues of material, visual or musical expression these days, the Andy Warhol claim of 15 minutes of fame may just be around the corner for all of us … The big question is: Would you want it?

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  1. Andreas Bimba

    Get stuffed Joseph Carli.

    As a middle class person I hate and work to defeat the hard right more than you ever will.

  2. Joseph Carli

    Kiss it, Andreas…Because if you have, you’ve failed…Your class and its days are done…history has already claimed your class failings for its trash-can….a new positiveness is rising……say goodnought ; Dick!

  3. Michael Taylor

    I prefer to argue that it is neo-liberalism that has failed us.

    Where is all that money that the government hands out to the upper-class? Wasn’t it meant to trickle down to the middle and lower classes?

  4. Joseph Carli

    Michael..we all know that Neo-Liberalism has failed, we all have talked this proposition over until it has been reworked more times than a hustler’s repertoire of sexual positions…talked, discussed and still here we are…time for a new discussion, a new foundation to be laid in fresh ground…time for the art and stories of working people to be written by, about and for working people so we can create our own heroes…like Ned Kelly…like Norm Gallagher, and yes ..perhaps like John Setka!…so we can build our own social structures on solid foundations of our own work…and no longer go cap-in-hand to that class of people who rejoice in their “generous charity” to the poor and vulnerable…they can keep it and they can stuff it!

    I am calling on all trades-people who like to work art into their lives…around their everyday I had to until I retired…I am calling on them to join this movement to re-write our living tales and take back our storyline…the indigenous peoples had to fight tooth and nail..AND THEN get conrtrol of their own story…and they have come so far..and now, so must the working people..and WITHOUT the middle-class advisory consultants…

  5. Phil

    It is a combination of Neo Liberalism and our own class that got us here. John Howard played a blinder. Give the hoi polloi a Ute a cement mixer and some shovels and voilà, an instant entrepreneur, a captain of industry no less. No more getting on the piss and ringing in sick for you mate. No more massages on a Bali beach and exotic tucker for you , it will be Bell’s beach in winter with a pie and sauce and a bit of self masturbation in the 16 ft caravan you just hired. But wait on I’ve got an NBN and a family trust with fifty bucks in it. You don’t say you gibbering idiot. Yes the working class can kids my arse I’m self employed at last. And the rest is history.

  6. Kaye Lee

    The article would have been better without the inevitable shot at the still undefined middle-class.

    And you could perhaps learn something from our Indigenous brothers and sisters who do not seek to attack or blame in order to tell their story. In fact, they invite us to join them on their trek.

    “We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”

    I agree that artisans are artists and I appreciate their work.

  7. Egalitarian

    I would be great to see a few different types of people go into politics. Engineers, Mechanics, Builders, Inventors, Labourers or even the arts. Because it definitely needs a shake up. Unfortunately the LNP fight like BLF these days. And Bill Shorten played a bad hand in the last election. And we learn something from the protest’s gong on in Hong Kong.

  8. Joseph Carli

    I’ll tell you the problem of having a middle-class in control of working-class politics…as we now see in Labor…they have skills in working a strategy, a “spread-sheet” selling social policy as if it was a marketable commodity…something you could “take to the bank” or trade on a metaphorical argy-bargy political stock market of deals and dollars…which inevitable leaves the poor becoming poorer.
    Well…social policy is not, cannot be “sold” to the electorate as this or that deal…social policy is humanist policy…if you want to have economic policies, you consult with economists and bankers, if you want to have idealist policies, you refer to a philosophy or meglomaniac that suits your poison…if you want to have social policies you have to have humanist input that includes unions good, bad and ugly…and humanism demands connection to one’s heritage, one’s genealogy…one’s own stories…and this is where the working-class has been in no man’s land for too long..we have deferred our “story” to be written by those neither qualified to know, nor sensitive to our conditions to understand…
    Regardless of the protests from those who claim insight into the working-class family home, they can only see a pastiche that they interpret…the same with our working lives and the conflicts we more than a patronising or false flattering condescension…regardless of their integrity, it is has to be ended..The time has come to re-write our story and re-claim our honour and dignity from the ground up…and if it has to be started with artistic endeavour, it will be done..if it has to be finished with force…it still will be it has been done time and again…but this time, we will do it without the imposition of then “owing a debt” to the middle-classes…we are on our own and they ; the middle-classes can go their own way…the divorce is final.

  9. helvityni

    I was ‘weeding’ my bookcases the other day and came across a little old book by Cyril Pearl, very funny, and so are the drawings by Nino Culotta.

    Under a heading: A Stable Social Order, the writer lists of different occupations..

    No Class: musicians, teachers, writers, scientists, artists, poets…. I used to be a vaued teacher in Finland, but in Oz I became classless…

    But wait, all of a sudden I belonged to Cyril’s middle class, I had started my own business…There I was amongst classy folk like radio announcers, graziers, rodent controllers, garbage removalists, sanitary carters, business owners…

  10. Kaye Lee

    What a horrible world you seem to aspire to Joseph, where people are defined and confined by….still not sure on that….is it their wealth, their address, the school they went to, where they or their ancestors were born, their profession, their artistic skill or lack thereof?

    One doesn’t “reclaim honour and dignity” by force or denigration of others.

    The power of love rather than the love of power is what we need. We are all in this together.

  11. Joseph Carli

    I sympathise, Helvi…back some time ago when it became law that even a solo journeyman carpenter had to have a ABN and pay provisional tax, I had to register under a business name…I called myself..: “Gepetto’s Workshop”…and so, like your self, I became a “small business”…funny though, the physical work never got lighter, the dirt never got cleaner, the callouses more tender and the splinters more blunt!….because, in truth, regardless what those economist polliticians tried to make us look and believe…I was always one of the working-class..

  12. Matters Not

    Into what class does one put an ex-chippie – now a part pensioner receiving $16 000 in franking credits – while owning a multi-million dollar house? Working class or Middle class?

    Or doesn’t the class concept apply here? Because an implied definition of class is not useful here? If so, then when does it becomes useful – and under what circumstances etc?

  13. Kaye Lee

    What class is Dick Smith?

  14. Joseph Carli

    It is a waste of time and space to try to corner me or to have me justify those posits I put up in the post…the movements away from political control by the bourgeois is so much bigger than you or I and it has been coming on for a long time…you could see it in the last election, in Trump’s election, in Brexit…the lower classes will drop the whole building to it’s foundations if it gets to peeved off at the situation they are being dished out…they have done it time and again…they did it to Rome, they did it to France and to Russia and did it then to the Soviets and we will do it here, because it makes no difference to us..we built it, we will break it..and then rebuild it again…Mycenae was razed to the ground five or six times by their own citizens sick of the ruling class tyranny..and it could very easilly be done again…but this time I doubt it will be led by a middle-class personality…after all..a Julius Caesar doesn’t come along every epoch!

  15. Matters Not

    Phil re:

    Or if there is such a thing,

    Phil if you find the thing useful and others are in agreement, then (perhaps) you have created a new class category. For it to survive and prosper, all you have to do is to define it. So that people better understand what you are endeavouring to communicate.

  16. Kaye Lee

    No-one is trying to “corner” you and it is entirely reasonable to discuss the things you posit. You are under no obligation to justify what you say but surely the point of posting is to invite discussion?

    As for violent insurrection, why? Anyone can run for parliament and people are free to vote for whomever they please – if they cared enough. Sad part is most of them aren’t interested enough to pay attention and give any thought to their vote let alone take up arms (although some of Fraser Anning’s mob might be on board).

  17. Joseph Carli

    Wouldn’t it be good to once again feel proud of your country?…a sense of inner warmth in the feeling that you were a part of an honourable nation…one that you could willingly and happily contribute to so as to increase its dignty and decency…
    You have to feel a part of a movement toward such dignity to ever again reclaim that mood…that feeling..and there is no better way to get that feeling than to be able to hold your own head up as a producer of some deed, action or craft that gives more than it expects..I have lived that feeling in working in my trade as a carpenter..I love that trade and the fact that I was one of the best of examples (in my mind) in my trade…I never gained even a modicum of wealth…all that I gained in a material sense in my life I had to build myself..and while it almost at times nearly broke my heart, I persevered and though I have lost most of those possessions now, I still feel a pride in the fact that I gave my best and I finished the job…
    And ANY skilled worker will tell you that it is in their own confidence in their capability to do their “trade” that they can find pride and honour…and if it is in a craft skill, the finished product they make can be seen and touched as a tactile thing..perhaps a thing of beauty…or even of practicability…as the teacher can see in a particular student the mark of success of their hard work…They may not be able to hold them out as a boast, but the teacher knows..and knows in their heart and soul of a “good job well done!”….
    And that is why the reclaiming of our personal story is but the beginning of a longer journey… is started in this conversation.

  18. Phil

    Phil if you find the thing useful and others are in agreement, then (perhaps) you have created a new class category. For it to survive and prosper, all you have to do is to define it. So that people better understand what you are endeavouring to communicate.

    O/K I can dig that. Let me see. Dick Smith is more boring than a diamond tipped concrete drill. More boring than watching test cricket or watching paint dry. More boring than watching someone with leprosy rot. Nearly as boring as an after dinner speech by John Howard.

    I am confused which is nothing unusual I know plenty of people that share my thoughts on Dick. MY mate said he wastes perfectly good aviation fuel. Ummm.

  19. Rossleigh

    Writing is so bourgeoisie,so middle class!

  20. Egalitarian

    In the end we are talking about basic human rights for people at the lower end of society. Being able to afford a roof over your head and being able to afford all the basics to sustain life. We’ve allowed all our great conditions to be whittle away via privatization, deregulation, and globalism to the benefit of the wealthy.Greed and Ignorance seems to be winning.At least now have proof the rich don’t care about the poor and can’t be trusted.And Vomit of the week would be Credlin’s soft soap interview with the Adani Boss on Sky News.

  21. Kaye Lee

    Has anyone else noticed that that guy from Adani looks a lot like Steve Bannon?

    Phil. I think Dick’s a dill too. I am just trying to get a handle on this class thing.

  22. Matters Not


    Writing is so bourgeoisie, so middle class!

    Perhaps we might make an exception for Gramsci and his Prison Notebooks.? And there might be others.

    Adams is now on Radio National!

  23. Phil

    ‘ Phil. I think Dick’s a dill too. I am just trying to get a handle on this class thing.’

    Thank God. I thought I was the only one apart from my mate.

    After he started ingratiating himself with Hanson that was the end for me.

    There are only two classes those that care about their fellow man/women and those that don’t. How much loot they have or their station in life, matters not.

  24. Jack Russell

    The controllers of wealth versus their “beasts of burden” … in the whole of recorded human history has it ever been any different?

  25. Joseph Carli

    Last Sunday, we stoked up the old German wood-fired vault oven and my partner cooked a feast of different breads and char-grilled things in it…it is a wonderful feeling cooking with fire…I wrote of this cooking in a post here a while back…: …Cooking with flame is almost a pagan thing…My sister in Italy has a small fireplace in the corner of her do most other kitchens in that village..there to be used to slow-cook certain dishes as a cultural requirement…there is a certain dignity in the close attention to one’s work, be it trade or cooking…the attention of the doer of the task can make or break a finished product..and as everyone is aware, the taste buds on the palate are unmerciful when it comes to judgement of foods..
    Last Sunday we had a dinner cooked in that old German oven of a lamb-shank stew w/olives and I don’t think I need extrapolate on the taste and delight of that was a sigh at the eating and a regret at the finish..and I complimented Irene (the cook) on the meal…NOT that she needed the flattery, for she too had the same meal and any good cook, like any good seamstress knows when a thing is good or not….But you see…she DESERVED the compliment for the hard work and the attention she put into doing the job..the “tradespersons eye”..

    And this is where the middle-class control of our working lives has failed us…rather than being able to look upon our day’s labour with pride of workmanship, we have been reduced to only a piece of a product..a part of a whole..our labour is traded as a commodity, our work as a material thing our dignity in our capability as a temporary occupation to be wasted as our job becomes redundant..

    That is what I am saying when I say that we must reclaim our story from the ground up…we own our labour, and by consequence, we ought to have control of our wages and the fruits of our labour…our “story”..

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