CHRISTINE KELLER

Artist’s Statement 

With a background in Design and Craft I arrived at a North American conceptual Art school in 2001. I was encouraged to consider the materials beyond their functional properties. I think that this was a broadening of my horizon, which did my practice a great deal of good and helped me in formulating my intentions.

The main topics my work is informed by are: The Social – Politics – and Technology. Being in the textile research environment the latter is especially important to me. Today we are creating ‘intelligent’ textiles and ‘smart’ materials. This is a fascinating but also engaging field. In developing these new materials I see the tendency of new-media-artwork being led by the technically possible. But are we still in control or is technology controlling us? Is the technically possible also the thing we should aim for? Are we handing over our intelligence to the material? What is the benefit for society and the individual in pursuing these developments? As an Innovator the consideration and knowledge of tradition are essential to my work. I am watching our society changing from humanistic to the post-human.

In my work “light content” it is important to me that the illuminations, which are needed, are controlled by people rather than by sensors. I enjoy that while using digital weaving, I arrive at a tangible low tech object, and in giving the viewer control over their personal lighting of the show, I arrive at an interactive installation with no electronic sensors but human ones. I am at ease considering this work new media work.

In the piece “the unique art object club©” I did a “social scan”, asking 35 people from my social surrounding to give me one of their woollen sweaters, then tie dyeing it and giving it back to them after the show. Everybody got a Christine Keller Art Piece to take home with them. That project is an example for my interest in meeting and paying attention to the individual in our society.

now in 2010 I am inspired by the discussion with my students at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art. Every year I am curious for their new works to come to completion. I am glad to see how many different results come out of our department.

Teaching Philosophy

I believe in teaching my students to become independent thinkers beyond their subject area. They have to develop an acquired skill base and awareness beyond their individual project. I am fostering strong people who will learn content relevant to their own chosen area of expertise. The strength of these people is a confidence in themselves to resolve the task given to them. They do not primarily do their projects to fulfill a lecturer’s expectation but what they have done will be owned by them.
In the textiles department I create a community of learners who will support one another, as they are a team in learning across the year groups. I train practitioners who are aware of health and safety in their area and environment and sustainability issues. I encourage the students to look into the community of practitioners in our field and to build their own professional networks.
I have a strong skill based knowledge and international recognition in my field of expertise. I am sharing my experience in the field as well as in life, as my teachers have done before me. I found that sharing some personal experiences will lead the students on a path where they consider their own position in life. I have a holistic view of the discipline within life and with my personal success have been proven right in this. I foster curiosity and will try to get to the root of every learner’s motivation to challenge and support him or her in personal response. I will ask my students for high quality work and will provide them with a good example.

DESIGN/ART/CRAFT - “Cross disciplinary by default”

My practice is based on three different backgrounds.

1. Weaving apprenticeship CRAFT
2. Product Design degree in Textiles DESIGN
3. MFA in Fibres ART

Those feed now into my fourth experience

        4. Lecturer in Art and Design EDUCATION and RESEARCH

In my practice I have always been interested in technical and material innovations and their connections with traditions as well as their consequences for the future of our societies. I have been working as studio assistant, teaching assistant, designer of stage props, exhibition coordinator, artist, weaver, technician, student, managing designer and part and full time lecturer. This caused collaboration with professors, directors of theatre plays, artists, electrical engineers, computer engineers, researchers, technicians, students, scientists and architects and many others. Working in the field of textiles and art made me travel to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Finland, Mongolia, Italy, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

12 years after my graduation in Design I moved to New Zealand where I am the head of the Textile Department at the Dunedin School of Art. Before that I researched at XS Labs with Johanna Berzowska as the main investigator. Her work is positioned in the field of smart materials and intelligent textiles and during that time I was involved in computerized weaving and embroidery and researched the construction of textiles which have electronics embedded into them. Also I am interested in the cross-cultural approach of knowledge exchange as I experienced it in teaching a summer school in Mongolia in 2001. Recently I gave a workshop with Maori master weaver Rokahurihia Ngarimu Cameron at a conference for Innovation in Aboriginal Art in Canberra at the Australian National Museum.

It is often difficult to work between Craft, Art and Design since many practitioners in those fields seem to have the need to be strictly distinguished from each other. Practitioners in other fields I collaborated with have often a very poor knowledge of textiles. Once they understand that it is not just about their knitting grandmothers (even though I would regard them highly), there is a big curiosity for each other as well. My work is not purely Art OR Design OR Craft but is informed by all these fields. Neverthesless it has been regarded for its high quality by practitioners in either of those fields. I like to celebrate textiles for what it is – a field of immense innovation and potential for functionality, expression and creativity!