Otto von Busch gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Thursday, March 1, at 12:15 pm. His talk was entitled “Proximity to Power: Craft Capabilities and Material Empowerment in the Craftwork of William S. Coperthwaite.”

In this talk, von Busch will examine a series of craft objects from the perspective of craft as a form of material cunning and agency, that is, craft as a mode of material power. Craft is a political modus operandi which moves the hands of the maker closer to power, or to actually touch and manipulate power hands-on. The act of making thus bypasses petitions and discourse, which per definition position governance as “above and beyond” through political representation, to instead suggest the political mode of direct action. Distance is removed to instead manifest self-governance through the acts of making. This access to power is however controversial, and many types of craft challenge established boundaries, from alchemy, moonshining, lock-picking and hacking, to anarchists cookbooks and 3D-printed guns. But craft can also be used as a forceful tool for civic engagement and nonviolence, as in the work and legacy of educator and craftsman William Coperthwaite (1930–2013), whose thinking and making will be examined.

Otto von Busch is Associate Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons School of Design, holds a PhD in design from the School of Design and Craft at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and was previously Professor of Textiles at Konstfack, Stockholm. He has a background in arts, craft, design, and theory, and his research explores the emergence of a new “hacktivist” designer role in fashion, where the designer engages participants to reform fashion from a phenomenon of dictations and anxiety to a collective experience of empowerment. It is a role that experiments with how fashion can be reverse engineered, hacked, tuned, and shared among many participants as a form of social activism. This is an engaged and collective process of enablement, creative resistance, and DIY practice, where a community share methods and experiences on how to expand action spaces and develop new forms of craftsmanship. He is a 2017–18 Visiting Fellow at Bard Graduate Center.