Editorial: The problem with Olek

Olek in Montreal, hosted by snobbish gallery on Sherbrooke West

  • Disclaimer: This probably is the opinion of many yarnbombers and street artists who, like me, have come across the NYT article on Olek’s work, but it is not in my intention to promote this as an opinion that is shared within everyone in the yarn bombing community.

Agatha Oleksiak has been working with crochet for a long while, and I do not intend to take down the quality of her art. She is a great artist and her technical level is inspiring. But I have a very big ethical disagreement. You can post your opinion in the comment section below after reading this:

“I don’t yarn bomb, I make art. If someone calls my [Wall Street] Bull a yarn bomb, I get really upset” said she, in the New York Times interview.
So yarnbombing is not Art avec un grand A? Olek very clearly says here that she believes there is a fundamental status difference between a knitting granny and a crocheting artist. She might not be wrong by noting the different levels of technical abilities between the different yarnbombers, but why would she need to put it forward like so, thus disminishing the work of everyone who did not go to art school? And we know that she is pleased to be compared to renowned street artists. So being compared to lower-level streetartists like regular knitters is unacceptable, but popular “Artists” is great? How ellitist, again!

I also personnaly thought yarnbombing was a great way to revalorise crafts (mostly done by women), often percieved as lower leveled compared to painting or sculpting (done by men), because of its paternity with street art (wich will be, I swear, considered a major art history chapter in the 21st century book), but then, Olek also says “knitting is for pussies”, because she crochets. I hope she is joking.

Olek should know that elitism is not welcomed in an artistic movement that came from the people not the institutions. Grassroot, yarnbombing was born from initiatives of regular people and artists who were not looking to make profit or social glory out of their pole cozies, unlike opportunistic Olek who covered the Astor place cube during the OWS movement with such a small word of support we wonder how political the piece really was.

Also, when interviewed recently during her stay in our very own Montreal, miss also said that the social climate was “bad” because she could not be free to install her artwork in the streets at night because of police presence. She also said she really did not want her installations to be associated with the demonstrations. Well, excuse us, Olek, for fighting for social change, and for occupying the streets you would like to see cleared. You should also know that a lot of street art in Montreal has recently been political. Pretty much all the yarnbombers are also involved. But yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to meet local rebels.

photo: Aline Mairet

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3 responses to “Editorial: The problem with Olek

  1. hey there-Pan, from Pan-oramic fibre arts, found there- http://artattackz.wordpress.com/.

    I went over to the gallery to meet Olek and work with her, cause what the hell, you rarely get to meet an INTERNATIONAL crochet artist and you are correct, she is an art snob. And if she doesn’t like the democratization of what the community is and embrace it, too bad for her, its her karma. I still applaud her for what she does.
    I take issue with the comment of her technical skill,
    -She is a great artist and her technical level is inspiring.
    ….maybe she cant get with the knit circle cause some one would look at her and ask her, “know any other colour schemes and motifs?”

    maybe she can be technical, but the yarnstorming is just very basic work, speedily done. Yes she crochets copious amounts. and yes in designing it to fit perfectly over a structure, she is quite the architect

    the difference between her and us, for real….

    i am starting a dialogue when i bomb, she is just pontificating

  2. I am an artist who does yarnbombing, and I don’t choose to expand my knitting or crochet beyond basic level technically. It is a conscious decision as an artist and has nothing to do with lack of ability but a desire to place the emphasis on recontextualizing the objects, place and medium and YES about starting a dialogue ( I so agree with you) and having fun. Yarnbombing as a movement has made people rethink a lot of things about knitting/crochet and street art, inspired and brought such joy, education and laughter into the lives of people, What a thing to be able to do with the simple act of covering something with a bit yarn ;)

    signing off from Yellow Springs Ohio
    jafabrit the artist, yarnbomber and general arty troublemaker ;)

  3. the problem with art or Art is that the semantics tend to become personal, even if the product is left in the public domain. call it what you will, both Yarnbombers and Textile Artists installing in public are doing exactly the same thing. the intention varies enormously, especially when it comes to Activism. either way you slice it, there’s still an Ego attached to the end of the string.

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