Making and Unmaking Brooklyn
The Maker Movement’s rise in the early aughts promoted egalitarian ideas about production in the internet age. Thanks to the proliferation of 3D printers and other such tools, “personalized, computer-aided do-it-yourself (DIY) projects” appeared to help shift manufacturing control back into the hands of consumers. It turned most everyone who wanted to design and produce objects into a maker.
Yet, as art history doctoral candidate Amanda Wasielewski explores in her new book Made in Brooklyn: Artists, Hipster, Makers, and Gentrifiers, the movement came with significant hidden labor costs. “The Maker Movement, underneath the gloss of happy, creative lives, advocates the colonization of everyday life by capitalism,” she writes, adding, “The desire to collect any spare time individuals may have and concert it into capital permeates the movement.”
Wasielewski splits her book into two parts. In the first, she traces the Maker Movement’s origins back to the mid-19th century’s Arts and Crafts movement, which arose at the time of the Industrial Revolution and bemoaned the “loss of handicraft in the decorative arts.”
In the second half of the book, Wasielewski focuses specifically on Morgantown in Brooklyn, New York. The artistic enclave in Bushwick became home to makers at the turn of the 21st century, but their presence was part of the area’s gentrification. “The popular press around the Maker Movement heralds the return of ‘industry’ to formerly industrial areas like this one but,” she writes, “the movement is not bringing industrial manufacturing back to these areas but rather transforming them into tech-industry enclaves.”
Blending together ethnography, art history, and a journalistic account that involves Wasielewski’s own relocation to Bushwick in 2012, Made in Brooklyn presents a critique of the Maker Movement that invites further consideration about the possibilities it purportedly promotes. As Wasielewski writes, “The Maker Movement is not just changing business, work, and leisure, but also urbanism and the nature of artistic practice.”