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By Impractical Labor
New York: self-published 2012
Pages: 28
Dimensions: 4 1/4" X 11"
Cover: soft
Binding: sewn-bound
Process: digital and mixed
Color: black ink
Edition Size: unknown

Another beautifully crafted publication by our friends at ILSSA. The labor that went into this booklet may be impractical but it sure paid off in terms of aesthetics! Here's more about this group and the event that this publication was produced for, quoted from atlengthmag.com:

Once upon a time (in one version of an ancient Chinese myth) a cowherd spied a goddess bathing in a river and carried her off. The goddess fell for the cowherd and bore children, giving up her celestial duty of weaving all the colored clouds of heaven. When the goddess headed heavenward to visit her enraged father, he conjured the Milky Way, effectively separating his daughter from her husband forever. But once a year, the emperor in the sky permits his daughter and her husband to meet. The Milky Way seems to fade as the goddess and the cowherd (seen in the stars Vega and Altair) reunite.

Celebrated in China on July 7 or August 7, depending on the region, Qixi (“the Night of Sevens”) is known in Japan as Tanabata (or “Night of the Seventh,” first celebrated there, according to the writings of Lafacadio Hearn, in 755 AD). The festival gives an occasion for young women and men—à la the weaver-goddess of the clouds—to plead for skills in craftsmanship. It is known as the Festival to Plead for Skills.

Emily Larned first learned about Tanabata at an exhibition Japanese textiles at MoMA in New York City. Larned had been developing an idea with fellow artist Bridget Elmer to bring together experimental and conceptual artists through the internet, using the model of a union to create an online commons for those eager to ditch the values of the marketplace by exploring obsolete technology. In 2009, Larned and Elmer formed Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA). Larned describes it as a “member-organization-as-art-project.” At its heart ILSSA is an engagement with other makers restless for creative waters outside of our wired and wireless landscapes. Think of Robinson Crusoe in Elizabeth Bishop’s rendering, delighting in the memory of his home-made desert-island flute that had “the weirdest scale on earth.” Through ILSSA, Elmer and Larned seek out the weird scales of modern-day Crusoes and weaver-goddesses: those who have a serious and (to quote Bishop) “deep affection for/the smallest of [their] island industries.”

The Festival to Plead for Skills is ILSSA’s key event. Rather than pleading, ILSSA members spend July 7 in practice. A celebration of the generative and meditative experience of slow work (ILSSA’s coda is the enthusiastic cry: “As Many Hours As It Takes!!!”), some of the activities from ILSSA members on July 7, 2012, are documented here. These are windows into workshops identified by a local (area code) and shop name. These are views of “impractical” practice: the peculiar act of practicing under the midsummer sky.–Elaine Bleakney

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