The Handbook of Textile Culture 1350074896, 9781350074897

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The Handbook of Textile Culture
 1350074896, 9781350074897

Table of contents :
List of Plates
Notes on Contributors
Part One: Theoretical Concepts
Editorial Introduction • Janis Jefferies
1 New Approaches to Textile Design • Hazel Clark
2 Views from Australia and the Asia Pacific • Diana Wood Conroy
3 Curating Textiles: The Stuff That Matters • Sara Martinetti, Alice Motard and Alex Sainsbury: an interview with Seth Siegelaub
4 Textiles and Architecture • Bradley Quinn
5 Patchworking Ways of Knowing and Making • Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl
6 Making Known: The Textiles Toolbox—Psychoanalysis of Nine Types of Textile Thinking • Claire Pajaczkowska
Part Two: Textile, Narrative, Identity, Archives
Editorial Introduction • Janis Jefferies
7 Binding Autobiographies: A Jewishing Cloth • Katya Oicherman
8 Materials, Memories and Metaphors: The Textile Self Re/collected • Solveigh Goett
9 Archives of Cloth: Shadows of the Past in Re-visioning Textiles • Diana Wood Conroy
10 Lived Lives: Materializing Stories of Young Irish Suicide • Seamus McGuinness
Part Three: Textiles and Globalization
Editorial Introduction • Hazel Clark
11 Performing Globalization in the Textile Industry: Anne Wilson and Mandy Cano Villalobos • Lisa Vinebaum
12 Changing Perceptions of Curatorial Practice in South Asian and Commonwealth Textiles • Jasleen Dhamija
13 Quilts for the Twenty-first Century: Activism in the Expanded Field of Quilting • Kirsty Robertson
14 Transforming Malaysian Handwoven Songket in the Contemporary World • June Ngo Siok Kheng
15 Creative Resilience Thinking in Textiles and Fashion • Mathilda Tham
16 Use Your Illusion: Dazzle, Deceit and the ‘Vicious Problem’of Textiles and Fashion • Otto von Busch
Part Four: Textiles and the Curatorial Turn
Editorial Introduction • Janis Jefferies
17 Curating Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance • Matilda McQuaid
18 Social Fabric: Textiles, Art, Society and Politics • Christine Checinska and Grant Watson
19 Yuta Djama: Innovation in Australian Indigenous Fibre • Margie West
20 Kaunas Biennial: Spindling from Textile Culture to Public Culture • Ed Carroll
21 A View from Elsewhere: A Global Stage – Curating Textiles fromthe Asia Pacific • Ruth McDougall
22 Envisioning Fibre in the Cultural Heritage of Hangzhou, China • Shi Hui and Xu Jia
23 The Lausanne International Tapestry Biennials (1962–1995) • Giselle Eberhard Cotton
Part Five: Textile Technologies and the Sensorial Turn
Editorial Introduction • Diana Wood Conroy
24 The Fabric of Memory: Towards the Ontology of Contemporary Textiles • Sara Diamond
25 Indigo Dyeing in the Land of its Origin: History Unknown • Smritikumar Sarkar
26 Feeling: Sensing the Affectivity of Emotional Politics through Textiles • Agnieszka Golda
27 Reviving Kapiak : Exploring the Material Identity of Barkcloth ina Melanesian Society • Graeme Were
Part Six: Developments in the Field of Textiles, Cloth and Culture
28 Roundtable Discussions and Concluding Comments • Janis Jefferies and Diana Wood Conroy

Citation preview




THE HANDBOOK OF TEXTILE CULTURE Edited by Janis Jefferies , Diana Wood Conroy and Hazel Clark

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc



Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC 1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2016 © Janis Jefferies, Diana Wood Conroy and Hazel Clark, 2016 Janis Jefferies, Diana Wood Conroy and Hazel Clark have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editors of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN

HB :


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk


Dedicated to our mothers Megan Jefferies (1925–


Marion Carment Wood (1916–2014) Christina Clark (1923–2015)












PART ONE : THEORETICAL CONCEPTS Editorial Introduction Janis Jefferies



New Approaches to Textile Design Hazel Clark



Views from Australia and the Asia Pacific Diana Wood Conroy



Curating Textiles: The Stuff That Matters Sara Martinetti, Alice Motard and Alex Sainsbury: an interview with Seth Siegelaub



Textiles and Architecture Bradley Quinn



Patchworking Ways of Knowing and Making Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl



Making Known: The Textiles Toolbox—Psychoanalysis of Nine Types of Textile Thinking Claire Pajaczkowska


PART TWO : TEXTILE , NARRATIVE , IDENTITY, ARCHIVES Editorial Introduction Janis Jefferies



Binding Autobiographies: A Jewishing Cloth Katya Oicherman



Materials, Memories and Metaphors: The Textile Self Re/collected Solveigh Goett





9 Archives of Cloth: Shadows of the Past in Re-visioning Textiles Diana Wood Conroy 10 Lived Lives: Materializing Stories of Young Irish Suicide Seamus McGuinness

137 149

PART THREE : TEXTILES AND GLOBALIZATION Editorial Introduction Hazel Clark


11 Performing Globalization in the Textile Industry: Anne Wilson and Mandy Cano Villalobos Lisa Vinebaum


12 Changing Perceptions of Curatorial Practice in South Asian and Commonwealth Textiles Jasleen Dhamija


13 Quilts for the Twenty-first Century: Activism in the Expanded Field of Quilting Kirsty Robertson


14 Transforming Malaysian Handwoven Songket in the Contemporary World June Ngo Siok Kheng


15 Creative Resilience Thinking in Textiles and Fashion Mathilda Tham


16 Use Your Illusion: Dazzle, Deceit and the ‘Vicious Problem’ of Textiles and Fashion Otto von Busch


PART FOUR : TEXTILES AND THE CURATORIAL TURN Editorial Introduction Janis Jefferies


17 Curating Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance Matilda McQuaid


18 Social Fabric: Textiles, Art, Society and Politics Christine Checinska and Grant Watson


19 Yuta Djama: Innovation in Australian Indigenous Fibre Margie West


20 Kaunas Biennial: Spindling from Textile Culture to Public Culture Ed Carroll



21 A View from Elsewhere: A Global Stage – Curating Textiles from the Asia Pacific Ruth McDougall



22 Envisioning Fibre in the Cultural Heritage of Hangzhou, China Shi Hui and Xu Jia


23 The Lausanne International Tapestry Biennials (1962–1995) Giselle Eberhard Cotton




24 The Fabric of Memory: Towards the Ontology of Contemporary Textiles Sara Diamond


25 Indigo Dyeing in the Land of its Origin: History Unknown Smritikumar Sarkar


26 Feeling: Sensing the Affectivity of Emotional Politics through Textiles Agnieszka Golda


27 Reviving Kapiak: Exploring the Material Identity of Barkcloth in a Melanesian Society Graeme Were


PART SIX : DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FIELD OF TEXTILES , CLOTH AND CULTURE 28 Roundtable Discussions and Concluding Comments Janis Jefferies and Diana Wood Conroy






Seamus McGuinness: Lived Lives Family Engagement, Lost Portrait Gallery, Conversations and Journey through Loss, Galway, 2009.


Work in progress, 2008. The ‘E-Static Shadows’ project creatively explores the speculative arena of electrostatic and its possible readings in relation to physical space and the poetic potential of static electricity surrounding our everyday interactions. CHAPTER 1

1.1 Sabine Seymour, Orchestra Scarf collaborative project from MAK Fashion Lab #01 Sonic Fabric, 2014. 1.2 Kate Goldsworthy, ‘Mono Finished’ prototype textile, selective multi-layer lamination without stitch or adhesive, 100% polyester, ‘Laser Line 2D’ series. CHAPTER 2 2.1 Narelle Jubelin, Australia/Spain. 1992. (Top): Rendition of Paisley shawl, c.1870, petit point on linen with nineteenth-century Japanese metal frame, 32 × 26 cm. (Bottom): Rendition of hand-hemmed Tiwi cloth Irish linen, 1974. CHAPTER 3 3.1 Exhibition views, The Stuff That Matters. Textiles collected by Seth Siegelaub for the CSROT, Raven Row, 2012. CHAPTER 4 4.1 Sprachpavilion. 2001. CHAPTER 5 5.1 Threads from above in Vemhån, Northwest Sweden. Embroidering of text messages by hand and with a machine connected to a phone. 5.2 The off-the-shelf embroidery machine connected to a mobile phone with bespoke software. This assemblage embroiders SMS in Threads. 5.3 SMS embroidered on a linen apron.




CHAPTER 6 6.1 Kirsten Scott, women plaiting palm leaf strips whilst tending children in a Ugandan village. 6.2 Nick Clements, Fashion Thinking through the revival, re-enactment of, and homage to, postwar UK youth subculture. 6.3 Julie Behseta, cut threads in polymer tile: interior architecture by residents of a care home for people living with dementia. PART 2 INTRODUCTION 1

‘Face Maze Tera’, 2007. Lia Cook. Cotton woven, 46ʺ × 52ʺ. Collection Denver Art Museum. CHAPTER 7

7.1 Torah binder, 1836, Fürth, Bavaria, silk embroidery on linen, 320 cm × 18 cm, in the collection of The German Speaking Jewry Heritage Museum, Tefen, Israel. 7.2 Katya Oicherman, Stories of the Torn Swaddling Cloth, 2011, silk embroidery on found cotton cloth, 425 cm × 18 cm. CHAPTER 8 8.1 Solveigh Goett, Heart of the Matter. 8.2 Solveigh Goett, Methodology. CHAPTER 9 9.1 (Top): Drawing of a hemispherical soapstone whorl (No. 517) with God’s eye pattern and attached to a bone spindle 11.5 cm long (No. 279), from the Paphos Theatre, 1st century CE . Drawn by Diana Wood Conroy. (Bottom): Drawing of a clay loom weight (No. 98) showing grooves made by warp threads, 1st century CE , from the Paphos Theatre, 7.6 cm in diameter, 2.2 cm thick, 160 g in weight. 9.2 Paphos sarcophagus textile fragments. Stereo microscope image showing threads of gold and purple-reddish silk fibre. 9.3 (Top): Scanning Electron Microscope detail of thread showing negative mould of wool fibres with imprint of scales from Yeroskippou, Cyprus. (Bottom): SEM detail of thread and woven fabric from Yeroskippou, Cyprus. 9.4 Gouache study of fresco on ceiling stone (No. 3758) from the Paphos Theatre showing a red fillet. The curved red ribbon on the grey-cream background must have formed a central motif of the vaulted ceiling. Size of block: 26.5 cm × 81.5 cm.



CHAPTER 10 10.1 Seamus McGuinness, 21g. 10.2 Seamus McGuinness, ‘Neasa’s Archive Room’. 10.3 Seamus McGuinness, ‘Lost Portrait Gallery’. CHAPTER 11 11.1 Kathrin Weber weaving on the Local Industry loom, Knoxville Museum of Art, 2010. 11.2 Anne Wilson, Walking the Warp Manchester performed at the Whitworth Art Gallery, 2012. 11.3 (Top): Installation of Voces at the Center Art Gallery, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI , 2012. (Bottom): Detail of shirt for Luz Adriana Martínez Reyes (year of death: 1996, body found in Ciudad Juárez), 2009. CHAPTER 12 12.1 Installation photograph, Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, 1 March–30 April 2006. 12.2 Installation photograph, Powercloths of the Commonwealth, Crafts Museum, Delhi, 25 September–20 October 2010. 12.3 Phulkari Shawl. Embroidery from the Punjab, twentieth century. CHAPTER 13 13.1 Jarod Charzewski, Scarp, 2008. 13.2 Mishka Henner, ‘Staphorst Ammunition Depot’, Dutch Landscapes, 2011. CHAPTER 14 14.1 Menyongket process in progress (close-up) – inserting the fine bamboo sticks into the warp threads to form songket motifs. 14.2 Traditional songket loom. 14.3 Layout of a samping. 14.4 Examples of well-loved traditional songket motifs. These motifs are often chosen by songket weavers when producing samping, sarong or shawls. 14.5 General structure of the songket weaving cottage industry in Kuala Terengganu. 14.6 Three-dimensional songket artwork woven in silk and metallic threads produced by Tanoti, 2013. Dimensions of artwork are approximately 69 cm (height) × 56.5 cm (width). CHAPTER 15 15.1 ‘ReMade in Leeds’ workshop.



CHAPTER 16 16.1 ‘JammerCoat’ by Coop Himmelb(l)au (2014). 16.2 ‘Unisex Printed Organic Cotton Bomber Jacket’ (2014). 16.3 ‘Cargo Cults (Code Switcher)’ by Stephanie Syjuco (2014). PART 4 INTRODUCTION 1

‘We’re Fine’. Artist: Anneka Ekdahl. Interactive embroidery using a 10 metre table cloth.


Installation view: Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, In-flight (Project: Another Country) 2009, in ‘The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 5 December 2009–5 April 2010.


Seamus McGuinness, ‘Lived Lives Family Engagement, Lost Portrait Gallery, Conversations and Journey through Loss’. CHAPTER 17

17.1 Installation view of Stronger section in ‘Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance’, 8 April–23 October 2005 at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 17.2 Installation view of Faster section in ‘Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Perfomance’, 8 April–23 October 2005 at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 17.3 Installation view of Lighter section in ‘Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance’, 8 April–23 October 2005 at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 17.4 Installation view of Safer section in ‘Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance’, 8 April–23 October 2005 at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 17.5 Installation view of Smarter section in ‘Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance’, 8 April–23 October 2005 at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. CHAPTER 18 18.1 Alice Criesher. Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth During the Contemplation of Poverty. Mixed media installation. Dimensions variable. 2005–2007. 18.2 Celine Condorelli. Support Structure (Yellow) and Archive 2. 2012. CHAPTER 19 19.1 Lena Yarinkura. Rembarrnga language. Maningrida NT. Family of Yawkyawk Mermaids, 1987. Natural pigments on pandanus fibre, paperbark, feathers.



(a) 190 × 39 × 25 cm, (b) 162 × 36 × 19.5 cm, (c) 119 × 23 × 15 cm, (d) 115 × 31 × 14 cm. Purchased 1997. Winner Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three-Dimensional Award, 14th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. 19.2 The Blackstone Tjanpi Weavers. Grass Toyota, 2005. This work won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award First Prize in 2005. CHAPTER 20 20.1 Monika Žaltauskaite˙-Grašiene˙. Cellar, 2009. Computer jacquard weaving, woven by Audejas UAB , polyester, cotton, 71 × 55 × 57 cm. 20.2 Laima Oržekauskiene˙. Her Name Was Egl˙e , 2005. Double weaving, digital print. Synthetic and golden threads, 190 × 150 cm. 20.3 Rômulo Chaves. Rescuing Laima’s Gaze, 2007. Painting on canvas, 210 × 157 cm. 20.4 Kaunas Biennial Year Round Art and Publics Programme. Friendly Zone Projects Cycle, 2013. Initiators: Vita Geluniene and Ed Carroll. CHAPTER 21 21.1 Installation view, ‘Pacific Textiles Project’, in the 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2 December 2006–27 May 2007. 21.2 Installation view, ‘Paperskin: Barkcloth across the Pacific’, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 31 October 2009–14 February 2010. 21.3 Installation view: Kay Lawrence, No work for a white man, 2006–2008, purchased 2011. CHAPTER 22 22.1 Yin Xiuzhen, Bookshelf, 2010–2013. 22.2 Yin Xiuzhen, Duckling in a Lotus Pond, Shanghai Museum. 22.3 Yin Xiuzhen, Duckling in a Lotus Pond (detail). 22.4 Hangzhou Triennial of Fibre Art, 2013. 22.5 Shi Hui and Zhu Wei, Longevity, 1986. CHAPTER 23 23.1 Magdalena Abakanowicz, Abakan Red, 1969. Sisal, 400 × 400 × 350 cm. 23.2 Susan Watson, Cloudlight, 1979. Nylon, acrylic. 23.3 Japanese room, 10th Lausanne Tapestry Biennial, 1981.




Dr Javad Foroughi with simulated muscle, woven with artificial and natural fibres for repair of injuries. CHAPTER 24

24.1 Fabric of Memory. By Lee Mingwei, 2006. Mixed media interactive installation. Wooden platform, wooden boxes, fabric items. 24.2 Bodymaps. By Thecla Schiphorst, 1995–1997. 24.3 Skorpions, an XS Labs project, by Joanna Berzowska and Di Mainstone with Marguerite Bromley, Marcelo Coelho, David Gauthier, Francis Raymond, and Valerie Boxer, 2007. 24.4 Fabric of Memory Ontology Wordle. Sara Diamond, 2014. CHAPTER 26 26.1 A. Golda and M. Johnson, 2013. Swells of Enchantment. Installation detail, ink on cotton, cotton thread, bamboo skewers, wood, Northern Territory Centre for the Arts, Darwin, Australia. 26.2 A.Golda and M. Johnson, 2013. Swells of Enchantment. Installation detail, ink on cotton, Northern Territory Centre for the Arts, Darwin, Australia. 26.3 A. Golda and M. Johnson, 2013. Swells of Enchantment. Installation detail, crocheted cotton thread, Northern Territory Centre for the Arts, Darwin, Australia. CHAPTER 27 27.1 Map of Papua New Guinea showing the northeastern province of New Ireland. 27.2 Selian Kambau wearing her aruaai basket, 2009. 27.3 Malina Kambaxal stripping the kapiak of its outer bark, 2011. CHAPTER 28 28.1 SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Fiber and Materials Department Textile Resource Center. 28.2 Imaging the Archive. An installation shot of Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles, Goldsmiths, Archive exhibition. 28.3 The 2008 Christine Risley Award. Paul Dearman, graduate BA Textiles (2008). 28.4 ‘Forging folklore, disrupting archives’ curated by Magda Buchczyk, Alex Urdea, Gabriela Nicolescu, at Constance Howard Gallery based on the Centre’s Romanian folk Textiles archive, 15 May–15 July 2014. 28.5 Tactus. James Bulley.



28.6 (a) David Littler. ‘Sampler – Culture Clash’ at Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textile, ‘Textiles and Technology across Europe’ conference, 2008. (b) ‘Yan Tan Tethera’ curated by David Littler for The English Folk Dance and Song Society, 2014. Bobbins by Shane Waltener. (c) Prick Your Finger and Aimee Leonard present an Evening of Knitted Folk Songs. Museums at Night, May 2014. Part of ‘Yan Tan Tethera’ curated by David Littler for the English Folk Dance and Song Society. (d) Prick Your Finger and Aimee Leonard present an Evening of Knitted Folk Songs. Museums at Night, May 2014. Part of Yan Tan Tethera curated by David Littler for the English Folk Dance and Song Society.


EDITORS Janis Jefferies is an artist, writer and curator, Professor of Visual Arts and Research, Research Fellow at the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles, associate pro warden for culture and creative industries at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK . She trained as a painter (Sheffield School of Art, Maidstone College of Art and Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts) and in woven construction (Poznan Academy of Fine Arts, Poland) under Magdalena Abakanowicz. On her return to the UK in 1978 she pioneered the field of contemporary textiles within visual and material culture, and has exhibited and published widely. Her areas of expertise lie at the intersection of arts and technology (textiles, performance, sound, publishing). She was one of the founding editors for Berg Publishers (now Bloomsbury) when they launched Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture and most recently was co-curator of the first Hangzhou Triennial in China in 2013. She was a Creative Thinking Fellow, University of Auckland (which examined the role of creativity in the arts and humanities http://www.creativethinking See Diana Wood Conroy is Emeritus Professor, Visual Arts at the Faculty of Law Humanities and Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia, with a BA in classical archaeology (University of Sydney) and a Doctor of Creative Arts (University of Wollongong). Since the 1970s she has exhibited drawings and tapestries held in public and private collections in Australia and overseas. The supervision of doctorates that combine practice and theory has been the focus of her teaching. Her research includes Aboriginal studies and textile arts in Australia as well as archaeological textiles. Her publications on issues of contemporary textiles and visual arts, and their relationship to the past, have been extensive. She is on the Editorial Board of Textile: Journal of Cloth and Culture and a member of the council of the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens. Hazel Clark is Professor of Design Studies and Fashion Studies at Parsons School of Design, New York. She is a design historian and theorist specializing in fashion and textiles and design studies, including issues of design and cultural identity. She has taught these subjects internationally, including in the UK , Hong Kong, China, Australia, Europe, and currently in the USA , where she has just initiated a unique graduate program in Fashion Studies at Parsons. Her more recent publications include: The Cheongsam, Oxford University Press, 2000; Old Clothes New Looks: Second Hand Fashion (co-edited with Alexandra Palmer), Berg, 2005; The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity and Globalization (co-edited with Eugenia Paulicelli), Routledge, 2009; Design Studies: A Reader (co-edited with David Brody), Berg, 2009.




AUTHORS Otto von Busch (PhD) is associate professor in integrated design at Parsons School of Design, New York. He has a background in arts, craft, design and theory, and aims to seamlessly combine all these fields into one critical fashion practice. His research explores the emergence of a new ‘hacktivist’ role in fashion design, in which the designer engages participants to reform fashion from an institution fraught with anxiety and fear into a collective experience of empowerment and liberation that helps people become more fashion-able. In recent years, Busch’s work has primarily engaged the politics of fashion, especially in his collaborations with the Parsons-based research group The Fashion Praxis Collective. More information can be found at Ed Carroll works with others in an imaginary space where culture, politics and community collide. He was part of the Civil Arts Inquiry team put together by Declan McGonagle and City Arts Centre, Dublin (2003–2007) and was Chair of Kaunas Biennial (2009). Since 2008, he has continued to collaborate with Vita Gelu¯niene˙ on a project cycle called Friendly Zone in Lithuania. In 2014 Carroll and Gelu¯niene˙ were artists in residence at Craft Alliance Center of Art and Design in St. Louis. Currently, he is Director of Blue Drum, an Irish community arts organization working in the field of cultural rights. He has completed both his MA and PhD at City University, London in 1994 and 2003 respectively. He lives and works between Kaunas and Dublin. Christine Checinska is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of East London and a Research Associate at VIAD , University of Johannesburg. She completed her PhD at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009. Her thesis Colonizin’ in Reverse! examined the relationship between fashion, culture and race from an African diaspora perspective. Her current research interests include material culture and its relationship to personal, social and cultural histories, dress in the migratory moment, and the subsequent exchanges that occur as cultures collide, co-exist and coalesce. She has been a member of the Black Body in Europe Research Group (Goldsmiths) and the Dress and the African Diaspora Network. She also originated and managed Iniva’s Second Skins: Cloth and Difference symposium (2009), and instigated Iniva’s Unstitched in response to the artist N.S. Harsha’s installation Nations (2009). Giselle Eberhard Cotton trained at the University of East Anglia (Great Britain) and at the École du Louvre (France) before going back to Switzerland, her country of birth. As an art historian, she has a 30-years-long career working as curator of both private and public collections in Swiss museums. She joined the Toms Pauli Foundation in Lausanne as its first director and curator in 2002. She was co-director of the ICOM Museum Studies program in Switzerland between 2000 and 2012. She edited the catalogue The Toms Collection: Tapestries of the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Lausanne, 2010. She is currently researching the history of the Lausanne Tapestry Biennials (1962–1995) and is the Director, Toms Pauli Foundation, Lausanne (Switzerland) Jasleen Dhamija has been closely involved with the development of textiles, folk arts and crafts in India. From 1954–1971 she worked with the Handicrafts Board and the revival of crafts, in community development and women’s employment. In Iran with the UN (1970–77) she began to study the universality of creative expression. After heading the Pan-African Centre for Development of Small Industries and Crafts (1978–1982), since



1994 she has worked to revive traditional crafts in Central Asia, lost during Soviet dominance. Besides her work with the ‘Artists in development’ sector of UNESCO, she has been the Hill Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota; Resident Fellow at Canberra School of Art; resident artist at the University of Wollongong and University of NSW in Australia. She has written many books on crafts, textiles and living cultural traditions. Sara Diamond is the President of OCAD University, Canada’s ‘university of the imagination’. She holds a PhD in Computer Science and degrees in new media theory and practice, social history and communications. She is an appointee of the Order of Ontario and the Royal Canadian Society of Artists. While retaining OCAD University’s traditional strengths in art and design, Diamond has guided the university in becoming a leader in digital media, design research and curriculum through the Digital Futures Initiative, new research in Inclusive Design, health and design, as well as in sustainable technologies and design. She also played a leading role in OCAD University’s establishment of the unique Aboriginal Visual Culture Program. Solveigh Goett obtained a degree in educational sciences in her native Germany, then moved to Spain and later to the UK where she completed a Master’s degree in Sequential Design and Illustration (University of Brighton), followed by a practice-based PhD (Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London). Moving between three cultures as a freelance artist, researcher and lecturer, she continues to explore the intricacies, complexities and entanglements in the material and metaphorical fabric of life in new contexts and collaborations with meandering methods of making things and sense. Agnieszka Golda is an installation artist and textiles lecturer at University of Wollongong, Australia. She has completed a PhD (Creative Practice), Masters of Visual Arts (Research) and Bachelor of Arts in Textile Design. Golda collaborates with artist Martin Johnson and her grandmother Maria Zawada (OAM ) to produce mixed media installations that explore the themes of affect, emotion and senses in socio-spatial contexts. Their recent collaborative projects, Sensing Things (2015), Setting Scenes (2014), Swells of Enchantment (2013), draw from their field studies in Poland and Japan, personal encounters with migratory experiences as well as contemporary studies of perception in anthropology and cultural studies. Kristina Lindström holds a PhD in interaction design and is an artist and postdoc at Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University. Lindström and Ståhl have collaborated since 2003 in their joint artistic as well as academic practice. In 2014 they defended their collaborative and practice-based thesis written across the disciplines of interaction design and media and communication studies at Malmö University, Sweden. As artists and researchers Ståhl and Lindström have explored how hands-on making can facilitate collaborative co-articulations of emergent issues of living with mundane technologies. They have exhibited and presented their work internationally in contexts spanning hacking, e-waste, cultural heritage, participatory design, feminist technoscience and media archaeology.; Sara Martinetti is a researcher and curator whose work crosses the anthropology of writing, art history and theory of craft. A PhD student at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS ) since 2012 and a Research Assistant Fellow at the Institut



national d’histoire de l’art (INHA ) in Paris from 2012 to 2016, her thesis considers all aspects of Seth Siegelaub’s career as a pioneering exhibition organizer, editor, bibliographer and collector of books and textiles. In the course of her research, she has initiated and co-curated several projects around different aspects of his work, among which the exhibition The Stuff That Matters: Textiles Collected by Seth Siegelaub for the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles at Raven Row in London (2012), ‘Better Read than Dead’: The Seth Siegelaub Source Book, 1964–2013 (Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2015), and the exhibition and catalogue Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2015/16). She regularly contributes to various academic journals and lectures on issues related to textiles. Ruth McDougall is Curator, Pacific Art at the Queensland Art Gallery. In this role she curated the exhibition ‘Threads: Contemporary Textiles and the Social Fabric’ (2011). She has also worked on the development of the exhibitions: ‘Unnerved: The New Zealand Project’ (2010), ‘Paperskin: Barkcloth from across the Pacific’ (2009) and the ‘Pacific Textiles Project’ for the ‘5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (2006). Prior to this she was curator of the exhibitions ‘Readymade’ (2003) and ‘Fresh Cut’ (2001) at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, as well as the University of Queensland Art Museum touring exhibition ‘Close Ties: Kay Lawrence and Marcel Marois’ (1999). McDougall has a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts from Goldsmiths College, University of London and was a recipient of the inaugural round of Samstag Visual Arts Scholarships in 1994. Seamus McGuinness is an Irish artist, researcher and educator. He lives and works in Co. Clare, on the west coast of Ireland and lectures in Contemporary Textiles at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. His practice is deeply rooted in life and cloth, encompassing research, durational social intervention, interactive installations, public conversations and collective democratic acts. In 2010 he was awarded a PhD for the ‘Lived Lives Project’, which was conducted within the School of Medicine, University College Dublin. Lived Lives continues to be a social probe which has appeared in many manifestations throughout Europe, Asia and America. Matilda McQuaid is Deputy Director of Curatorial and Head of the Textiles Department at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She organizes national and international exhibitions and publications and oversees one of the premier textile collections in the world – including more than 27,000 textiles produced over 2,000 years. Formerly Associate Curator at The Museum of Modern Art, she writes about art, architecture and design. Alice Motard is Curator at Spike Island in Bristol, UK . She holds MAs in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London, and in Art History from the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Freie Universität Berlin. From 2003 to 2006 she worked in the educational departments of Palais de Tokyo and Frac Île-de-France/Le Plateau in Paris. From 2008 to 2013 she was Deputy Director and Exhibitions Organizer at Raven Row in London, where she curated the group exhibition Unto This Last (2010) and co-curated The Stuff That Matters: Textiles Collected by Seth Siegelaub for the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (2012), the first exhibition of the collection of historic textiles assembled by Seth Siegelaub for the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (CSROT ), as well as the first posthumous retrospective of the work of the Czech artist Beˇla Koláˇrová (2013).



June Ngo Siok Kheng is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. Her 2007 PhD entitled ‘Transforming Traditional Malaysian Handwoven Songket into Contemporary Songket for Broader Apparel Usage’ from University of Science, Malaysia (USM ) examined the history, development and production of traditional woven songket. She is also working as a consultant and planner with various textile-related companies and foundations to sustain such traditional areas of knowledge through new approaches to design and innovation, including the investigation into indigenous dye plants, techniques and materials in Malaysia. Katya Oicherman is an artist, researcher and teacher in textile cultures. She studied textile design in Israel, worked in the textile industry and continued to postgraduate studies in the UK : Textiles in Goldsmiths College and Modern Jewish Studies in the University of Leeds. Her PhD thesis, dealing with textile practices addressing historical Jewish textiles, was completed in 2014 in Goldsmiths. Her research was presented in numerous international conferences. Currently she lives in Israel and works as the Head of the Textile Design Department in Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art. She teaches interdisciplinary approaches to textile practice and research. Her publications include distinctive contributions to exhibition catalogues in Hebrew on textile practices in Israel. Katya exhibits her practical work internationally. Claire Pajaczkowska is Senior Research Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. Investigating new materials, new and traditional processes of working with materials, the research team in the Fashion and Textiles programmes collaborate with industry, science and design to generate innovative and sustainable material culture. Recent publications include ‘Tension, Time and Tenderness: Indexical Traces of the Hand in Textiles’, in Antony Bryant and Griselda Pollock (eds), Digital and Other Virtualities (I.B. Tauris, 2010); The Sublime Now (editor, with Luke White; Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010); ‘Thread of Attachment’, in Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture, 5(2) (2014) and ‘The Thread and the Line’, in Journal of Visual Arts Practice, 13 (2014). Bradley Quinn is a British author and journalist who contributes to magazines and newspapers such as Wallpaper*, Elle Decoration and The Evening Standard. His books include Techno Fashion, The Fashion of Architecture, Chinese Style, Scandinavian Style, Mid-century Modern, UltraMaterials and Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge. His recent book, Textile Futures, is published by Berg Publishers and Design Futures was released by Merrell Publishers in Spring 2011. Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Museum Studies at Western University, Canada. Her research focuses on textiles, activism, visual culture, museums and changing economies. She has published widely on these topics and is currently finishing her book Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Museums and Culture. Her coedited volume, Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture, and Activism in Canada, was released in 2011, and her tri-authored volume Putting IP in its Place: Rights Discourse, Creativity and the Everyday was published in 2013. Alex Sainsbury joined the artist-run space Rear Window in 1993 and co-organized various off-site exhibitions culminating in Care and Control at Homerton Hospital in 1995. He then founded and chaired the London-based non-profit project space Peer, and



co-organized occasional off-site exhibitions, among which Mike Nelson at the Venice Biennial in 2001 and Anthony McCall in London in 2006. In 2001 he edited a monograph on Francesco Lo Savio, and established and directed the project space 38 Langham Street in London between 2002 and 2004. Since 2005 he has been developing Raven Row, a non-profit contemporary art centre in Central London, which opened in February 2009 with the exhibition Ray Johnson. Please Add to & Return, a show he conceived and curated. Alex Sainsbury is also a director of two charities related to social housing and an editorial board member of Afterall magazine. Smritikumar Sarkar has research interests and publications that span the social and economic history of modern India with a particular focus on Indian artisans, blacksmith tribes, traditional technology and rural economy and society. The changing position of crafts, such as indigo dyeing and ceramics, with the introduction of railways and industrialization under the British colonial government, ground his research. Decades of experience working on the non-organized sector of Indian economy formed his book Technology and Rural Change in Eastern India, published by OUP, India in 2014. With a PhD from Calcutta University (1992), he became Professor of History, Kalyani University and is currently Vice Chancellor, University of Burdwan, India. Shi Hui is currently Chair of the Fibre Art and Space Studio, as well as Director of the Varbanov Tapestry Research Center, and doctoral thesis advisor at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou. For more than 20 years, Shi Hui has been an important figure and active leader in Chinese contemporary fibre art, exhibiting, publishing, curating, and organizing in the art community. Her recent work includes Series on Contemporary Fiber Art: The Fifth Dimension – Art of Fiber and Space (Hangzhou: China Academy of Art Press, 2009), (co-edited with Gao Shiming) Catalogue of Maryn Varbanov and the Chinese Avant-Garde in the 1980s: an Archival and Educational Exhibition (Hangzhou: China Academy of Art Press, 2011), (co-edited with Ma Fenghui) Catalogue of first Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art: Fiber Visions (Hangzhou: China Academy of Art Press, 2013). Åsa Ståhl holds a PhD in media and communication studies and is an artist and postdoc at Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University. Ståhl and Lindström have collaborated since 2003 in their joint artistic as well as academic practice. In 2014 they defended their collaborative and practice-based thesis written across the disciplines of interaction design and media and communication studies at Malmö University, Sweden. As artists and researchers Ståhl and Lindström have explored how hands-on making can facilitate collaborative co-articulations of emergent issues of living with mundane technologies. They have exhibited and presented their work internationally in contexts spanning hacking, e-waste, cultural heritage, participatory design, feminist technoscience and media archaeology.; Mathilda Tham’s work sits in a creative and activist space at a convergence between fashion design, sustainability and futures studies. She is Professor of Design at Linnaeus University, Sweden, and metadesign researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London. Recent publications include The Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion coedited with Kate Fletcher (Routledge 2014). Her current research explores inclusive design interventions at paradigm level, drawing on the remits of peace building, gender and diversity, and play.



Lisa Vinebaum is a Chicago based scholar and interdisciplinary artist. Through critical writing, sited performance interventions and textiles, she explores the performance of identity, labour, and globalization, and investigates the social histories of textiles. Her scholarly and creative work have been published, presented, and performed internationally. She holds a PhD in Art, and an MA in Textiles both from Goldsmiths, University of London. Lisa Vinebaum is an Assistant Professor of Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Associate Editor of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture published by Bloomsbury. Grant Watson is a Tutor in Curatorial Theory at the Royal College of Art, London. Previously he worked as Senior Curator and Research Associate at the Institute of International Visual Arts in London (Iniva), where he has curated exhibitions including Social Fabric and Therein and Besides, a solo exhibition of Sheela Gowda, as well as programming talks and events. As curator at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (MuHKA ) 2006–2010 his projects included Santhal Family positions around an Indian sculpture, Cornelius Cardew, Search for the Spirit, Textiles Art and the Social Fabric and the Keywords lecture series. He was previously the Curator of Visual Arts at Project in Dublin between 2001 and 2006 where he focused on solo commissions from contemporary Irish and international artists as well as themed projects such as a series on communism that included an exhibition, book and radio programme. Watson has worked with modern and contemporary Indian art since 1999, researching this subject for Documenta 12, as well as co-curating Reflections on Indian Modernism, a series of exhibitions, talks and events at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA ). The touring exhibition ‘Nasreen Mohamedi: Notes’ is the first instalment of this programme. Watson studied Curating and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College London where he is currently a PhD candidate. He is also an associate professor at the Dutch Art Institute/ MFA ArtEZ in Arnhem. Graeme Were is senior lecturer and convenor of the Museum Studies postgraduate programme at the University of Queensland. His recent work includes Lines that Connect: Rethinking Pattern and Mind in the Pacific (University of Hawai’i Press, 2010) and (coedited with J.C.H. King) Extreme Collecting (Berghahn, 2012). His research interests are material culture and Pacific anthropology, ethnographic museums and collections, and materials and design in Melanesia. In 2012, he was awarded the University of Queensland Foundation Research Excellence Award for his research into digital heritage and cultural revitalization in Melanesia. Margie West AM has extensive curatorial and research experience in the field of Indigenous art. From 1978–2005 she was Curator of Aboriginal Art & Material Culture at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT ) in Darwin, Australia, where she currently holds the honorary position of Emeritus Curator. She has curated over forty semi-permanent and touring exhibitions as well as 17 years of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, which she founded and supervised until 2005. Her touring exhibition Recoil: Change & Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art, reflects her long-term interest in Indigenous fibre art. She has published extensively on Indigenous art, and contributed to and edited One Sun One Moon with Hetti Perkins, and Yalangbara, Art of the Djang’kawu, produced in partnership with MAGNT and the Marika family of north-east Arnhem land.



Xu Jia is a PhD student of Art History in China Academy of Art. Her recent work includes ‘Exhibition Review: Cotton: Global Threads & Kaunas Biennial Textile 2011’ in Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture (Vol. 11, Issue 3, Nov. 2013). Her research interests are material culture, art history and contemporary fibre art. CONTRIBUTORS TO THE CHICAGO AND AUSTRALIAN ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS Annet Couwenberg is an artist born in the Netherlands. She received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI and an MFA in Textile Arts from Syracuse University. Couwenberg served as chair of the Fiber department at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD from 1989 until 2008. She has received individual artist awards from the Maryland State and Ohio State Art Councils. Telos Art Publishing published a Monograph of her work in 2003. Her work is in numerous international collections. Diana Guerrero-Maciá is a multi-disciplinary artist who has been making and teaching art for the past twenty-one years. She works in the marginalized fields and ‘verbing’ of craft between textiles, design, sculpture, and painting. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, created several public art commissions, received multiple grants and residencies, and is currently an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son. Valerie Kirk studied art and design at Edinburgh College of Art and was captivated by the creative process/infinite possibilities of the tapestry medium. In 1979 she came to Australia to become a weaver at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, before moving to Canberra in 1991 to be the Head of Textiles at the Australian National University, School of Art. As an artist, writer, teacher and public figure she has made a significant contribution to textiles. While maintaining her practice as an artist, she has inspired and led community tapestry projects and presented her work in the USA , Europe, Australia, New Zealand and southeast Asia. Her art is documented in the Telos Portfolio Collection. Kay Lawrence AM is an artist and Adjunct Professor in the School of Art, Architecture and Design at the University of South Australia. Through her art and writing she critically engages with matters of personal and community identity, exploring ideas of loss and connection through a practice centred on hand-making and grounded in the materiality and meanings of textiles. Her practice ranges across works created using the highly skilled technique of woven tapestry, to installation and performance works using humble domestic materials like buttons and string that explore the material and immaterial resonances of our lives. Judith Leemann is an artist, writer, and educator. She serves as Assistant Professor in Fine Arts 3D/Fibers at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Current research interests include the role of critique in studio education and the translation of studio art pedagogy into activist contexts. Sara Lindsay is an artist, educator and curator. She was a foundation weaver at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (now the Australian Tapestry Workshop) in 1976 and since that time has continued to maintain a working relationship with the organization in a variety of roles, most recently as the Production Manager. For many years her exhibition



practice and research has focused on the migrant condition and her family’s connection with Sri Lanka. Joan Livingstone is Professor, Chair, Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1983). BA , 1972, Portland State University; MFA , 1974, Cranbrook Academy of Art. Publications: Co-editor, The Object of Labor. Collections: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Detroit Institute of Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Honolulu, HI . Awards: Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship; Virginia A. Groot Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship; NEA Grants; Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Artist Fellowship. Rowland Ricketts utilizes natural dyes and historical processes to create contemporary textiles that span art and design. Trained in indigo farming and dyeing in Japan, Rowland received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2005 and is currently an Associate Professor in Textiles at Indiana University. Patrick Segura is an artist and MFA graduate student in the Fiber and Material Studies department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received his BFA from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Patrick represented SAIC in EXPO Chicago and was also awarded the 2014 College Art Association Professional Development Fellowship. He lives and works in Chicago. Jenni Sorkin has a PhD, Yale University and an MA , The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College. She writes on the intersection between gender, material culture, and contemporary art. She has published widely as an art critic, and her writing has appeared in the New Art Examiner, Art Journal, Art Monthly, Frieze, The Journal of Modern Craft, Modern Painters, and Third Text. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design at the University of North Carolina, Asheville (2012), the Getty Research Institute (2010–11), and an ACLS /Luce Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in American Art (2007). Anne Wilson is an artist and Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her artwork has been exhibited at museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; the Museum of Arts & Design, NY; the Art Institute of Chicago; the MCA , Chicago; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; the V&A Museum, London; the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. Fo Wilson graduated with an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design’s Furniture Design program in 2005 with a concentration in Art History, Theory and Criticism. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Art in the Art + Design Department at Columbia College Chicago and is the 2013–14 inaugural Faculty Fellow for the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR ) at the college. Prior to her graduate studies, she founded Studio W, Inc., a design consultancy with offices in New York and the San Francisco Bay area. Her furniture-based work is exhibited nationally, and her design work is included in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.


Across diverse disciplines, there is a re-engagement with materiality. For many, weary of the demands of the computer screen and the relentless advertising of corporate brands, there is desire for tactility and sensorial experience, to touch and make material things. And for others, economic sustainability has always driven hand production. Certainly in our Department of Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the sea of older wooden handlooms are full up with students alongside the computerassisted jacquards. Traditional and new technologies exist side-by-side and our advocacy of artists thinking through making has never been stronger. As well, textiles as carriers of diverse cultural narratives inform meaning and content of student work. Not only in education, but in recent years there is a zeitgeist of international museum exhibitions in the United States, Britain, France, Poland and China of works in fiber media that span art, craft, and design, both past and present. In the 2014 year-end New York Times, art critic Holland Cotter says ‘Contemporary fiber art has a history of being set apart from – and by implication beneath – painting and sculpture. It’s been decades since the last major museum show devoted to it, but even a quick tour of Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, tells us what we’ve been missing. . . . The major art critics are acknowledging what artists have always known, that textile materiality with all its gravity, responsiveness and connections to life and loss holds tremendous capacity to speak to issues of our human condition’ (New York Times, Arts & Design, December 12, 2014). The Handbook of Textile Culture comes at a particularly pertinent time in terms of practice and interdisciplinary research. As we exist in a fluid, post-disciplinary environment of contemporary art production, how does one sort through the wealth of meaningful intersections between and across feminisms, queer and trans theories, post-colonial discourses, and a more globally inclusive world of art making and art reception? The Handbook looks at the field of textiles from multiple perspectives including art practice, design, visual culture, art history, anthropology, social history, and material culture studies. Significantly, all the essays here are newly commissioned and purposely selected for the Handbook by editors Jefferies, Wood Conroy and Clark. It is rare that an anthology provides such a rich diversity of critical thinking across disciplines, with contributions not only from Europe, Canada, and the United States but also from India, China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Its interdisciplinary focus has enormous pedagogic value for undergraduate and graduate communities engaging in textile culture as well as for others working in academia, museums, galleries, and art and design studios. The Handbook provides a distinctive contribution to opening doors of dialogue and exchange internationally. It is through the willingness of exchange, to discuss and debate ideas and practices, that understanding and deeper knowledge develops. The Handbook of Textile Culture has a global scope while providing insight into the intense life of things and people in localized communities of making. —Anne Wilson, Artist and Professor xxvi

Department of Fiber and Material Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago


The Handbook has been a rich and rewarding journey encompassing a number of years, regions and places in person and by email. We are extremely grateful to all those who shaped its concepts from the outset to its final conclusion. We thank all those who have been involved at Bloomsbury from the earliest conversations with Julienne Knox, Julia Hall and Geraldine Billingham. Geraldine has been enormously helpful during the latter stages of the project, as have Natalie Kulenicz, Ariadne Godwin and Molly Beck alongside Ken Bruce and the copy-editors. We are also grateful for all those who also engaged in the reviewing process, Juliet Steyn, Ally Raftery, Holly Tebbutt, Andy Gilroy, Valerie Kirk, Kay Lawrence, Sara Lindsay. We thank museums, institutions and individuals across the Asia-Pacific who have freely offered images to support this publication. We offer too all our thanks to all contributing authors, their translators and photographers who have made this anthology such a rich treasure trove of text and images for so many in so many fields to encounter, enjoy and be provoked by. —Janis Jefferies, Diana Wood Conroy and Hazel Clark London, Wollongong and New York




Theoretical Concepts



Editorial Introduction JANIS JEFFERIES

Immediately, they both set up their looms in different places and they stretch twin webs with slender warp: the web has been bound to the beam, a shed rod separates the warp, the weft is inserted in the middle with sharp shuttles, the weft which their fingers draw out, and which, led between the warp, the notched teeth strike as the comb is tapped. They both hurry and, with their clothes gathered at their chests, they move skilled arms, their eagerness belying the labor. —Ovid, Metamorphoses 6, 53–60

INTRODUCTION The first issue of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture was published in 2003.1 It was the only academic peer-reviewed journal to bring together research in textiles informed by: technology and visual media; history and cultural theory; anthropology; philosophy; political economy and psychoanalysis. In the name of textiles it drew on a range of artistic practices, studio and digital work, manufacture and object production. ‘Textiles’ in this context provides a site in which cultural, social, personal, historical and aesthetic concerns intersect. For many contemporary textile practitioners, the terms, hand-making, materials, processes, technologies, suggest forms of translation rather than the perfection of traditional skill or the ‘pure start’. Making implies unmaking, remaking, making connections whether through deliberate entanglement2 or drafting code. Through manipulation of textile signs – cloth, related materials, processes, histories, and technologies – people produce knowledge. However, from a narrower/stricter perspective, Mary Schoeser, discussing the historical study of textiles, turns inexorably to the relationship, direct or metaphoric, with text. She thereby confirms that language and textile production share something in common. With or without inscriptions, textiles convey all kinds of ‘texts’: allegiances are expressed, promises are made . . . memories are preserved, new ideas are proposed. . . . The ‘plot’ is provided by the socially meaningful elements; the ‘syntax’ is the construction. [. . .] Textiles can be prose or poetry, instructive or the most demanding of texts. —Schoeser 2003: 73 A number of themes may be identified in this Handbook, all of which situate the changing ideas about textiles – from the expanded field of the critique of modernism of Rosalind 3



Krauss through to current preoccupations with collective authorship, collective activity and the production of work that might be performative and ephemeral, multimedia and interdisciplinary. There is also a new era of mass innovation and creative collaboration that has been made possible by Web 2.0 and to a future in which the identities of the professional and consumer producer are becoming increasingly blurred.4 A potential effect of online distribution is the blurring of artistic boundaries, in some cases, between producer and consumer; in others, between amateur and professional. Moreover, the relative ease of digital creation and online distribution and feedback may lead to production by the masses that rivals production for the masses. The outcome of these developments may be that we are entering a new era for all the arts. For example, Roland Barthes suggested ‘the text is a tissue; a woven fabric’ (Barthes 1976)5 and a ‘tissue of quotations from the innumerable centres of culture’ (Barthes 1977),6 and thirty years later the text becomes an SMS message, embroidered by hand and machine as an updated form of communication.

THE EXPANDED FIELD Over thirty years ago, Rosalind Krauss wrote ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ (1979), one of the first essays to map from a Western perspective postmodernism in art and find a logic in that which had been regarded as eclectic.7 The concept of the expanded field, as Krauss developed it gives permission, or pressure, to think through complexities and provide a narrative continuum that stretches from the 1960s. In her essay, she outlines the discursive trajectories of ‘art about art’ that engaged institutional critique, challenged the limits of art, its functions and meanings as well as ideas that addressed the end of art. These routes crisscross many times what we think about textiles in an expanded field. Accordingly, to map this critical discourse is to trace textile histories (or ‘fiber’ histories as they are known in the USA ) that have been shaped in radically different ways from one generation of artists to the next.8 Textile or Fibre Art gained prominence in the period of the late 1960s due, in part, to critics identifying it with feminist, psychoanalytic and post-structural discourse current in the interdisciplinary practices of that moment. In the 1970s, feminist artists, critics and writers, in the USA and Europe, argued and struggled to redefine ‘art’ to encompass a whole range of practices repositioning women within the ideological opposition between high and low cultural forms. As Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock argued in 1981, ‘Any association with the traditions of needlework and domestic art can be dangerous for an artist, especially if that artist is a woman.’9, 10

WEAVING AS METHOD AND METAPHOR For Sandra Harding,11 feminist research and theory was based on a different ontology of methods. In citing Mary Daly’s concepts of ‘spooking, sparking and spinning’ (Daly 1978/1990), Harding was able to use the metaphor of spinning to elaborate new meanings, moving away from critique of patriarchal approaches to new insights. To spin is to also stretch, to co-develop our imaginations and thus weave new ways of knowing. This methodological approach also creates communities of practice both in practice and in theory. Feminist research meant the inclusion of political action, poetry, art, social science research and consciousness-raising feminist subjectivity. Contemporary Science Technology Studies (STS ), which includes other theorists and writers like Donna Haraway



and Katie King, re-thinks art, aesthetics and knowledge production through metaphors of cyborgs, weaving, cat’s cradles, bikes and bloomers. What is unique about feminist STS is the continual evolution of knowledge-weaving, as well as a critical involvement remaking its meanings.12 Weaving, Donna Haraway wrote, is for ‘oppositional cyborgs’, whether across the computer-generated screen of satellite images or through the electronics of the loom, mindful of the politics of location in its mix of metaphors as an ‘epic tapestry’ and a ‘bulletin board’.13 Others, like Charles Sherrington, Nobel-prize winning scientist researching the mind and nervous systems at the beginning of the twentieth century, called the mind ‘an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one’.14 We should also remember that for Arthur Danto (2006)15 weaving is a metaphor and model for political thought. Taking the metaphor further, Plato suggests that weaving is negatively associated with women. The psychoanalyst Freud thought that weaving was one technique that women may have invented and perhaps one of the few contributions to the discoveries and inventions of the history of civilization (Freud 1973: 166–167).16 Textiles have long provided metaphors for storytelling: a compelling novel ‘weaves a tapestry’. For example, Virginia Woolf ’s fiction can be analysed through various literary uses of textile and textile metaphor in her texts, particularly in The Voyage Out (1915), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando: A Biography (1928), and A Room of One’s Own (1929). Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse contend that representations of textiles, particularly metaphors of sewing and knitting, are central to readings of each of those works. Text and textile metaphors become explicit versions of each other in those works and are interwoven with questions of both genre and gender. The tangle of textile metaphor complicates any easy opposition between theoretical positions.17

MYTH A great deal of feminist writing about textiles and weaving embraces the ‘text’ hidden within ‘textile’ and ‘spin’ within ‘spinster’, eloquently weaving a patchwork of words in order to celebrate Arachne’s web, Ariadne’s threads and the tale of Penelope. Consequently, thread, fibre, cloth, fabric – at once commonplace and indispensable – attracts a wide array of myth and metaphor, such as Homer’s description of Penelope, weaving Laertes’ shroud by day and then unravelling the same fabric each night. Dorothy Jones (2003, 2004) has remarked that cloth can be cut and shaped in an architectural assemblage but the threads that make it up can be flimsy, thereby suggesting the precariousness of human existence.18 Life hangs not only by a thread but also makes connections through stitching disparate entities together, so in Hindu cosmology a sutra or thread links the material and spiritual realms.19 The ancient Greeks believed that life took the form of a mystic thread, and that the three Moirai, or Fates, spun, measured and cut it. A thread can trace complex structures both literally and metaphorically. One may thread one’s way through a maze as Theseus did in his journey to Crete, and where he enters the underground labyrinth with a ball of thread provided by Ariadne, to kill the bull/man Minotaur imprisoned there, or one may thread one’s way through a series of conflicting arguments as in Sarat Maharaj’s restaging of the mythical contest between Arachne and Athena, in order to play with traditional notions of gender. The goddess Athena is so incensed by Arachne’s exquisite tapestry that she turns her into a spider to ‘hang forever as a spider as a punishment for her insolence’.20



CRITICAL THEORY In the contemporary critical theory that dominated the 1980s and 1990s, the thread technologies of textile practice are frequently mobilized to cite established genres of thinking and culture only to throw out of joint any comfortable hand-me-down garment as an easy fit of self or society. Barthes perpetually weaves signs in the generative tissue of the text and frequently into utterances of his own autobiography as a fiction in Barthes on Barthes.21 Derrida (1980) keeps the stitch running in his ‘suture’ critiques of presence,22 and Maharaj asks the telling question, ‘Textile Art Who Are You?’, so there is a continuing issue as to where we might be located. Derrida’s notion of pointure as a critical modality (probing, piercing and configuring) can also be aptly re-purposed for ‘framing’ contemporary textile-related art practices outside of the reductive terms of art/craft binaries.23 Ideas of location are picked by Homi Bhabha in his Location of Culture (1994) through the writing of Doris Lessing as a (now) conventional sign of cloth and the feminine to evoke ideas of nation and nationhood in transition and translation. Michel Foucault in his Genealogy as Critique (1995) uses the metaphor of interweaving to describe the relationship between things and words. Deleuze and Guattari (1988) flirt with piecing and patching in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia exploring alongside their concepts of rhizomes and nomadology. For Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, the fraying of the edges of the language-textile-text can be seen as articulating the complexities of living between cultures and languages through the unstable process of translation.24 In postcolonial literature, one example amongst many can be found in Salman Rushdie’s writings: Shame (1986) can be read against a cloth, a ‘picture shawl’ from the court of Srinagar, which serves as an agent and allegory of national identity.25 Nina Sibal in Yatra (1987) grounds her epic fiction on weaving as a figure for the fragile fabric of the Indian nation, and Dorothy Jones (2003) considers how embroidery can indeed embroider a nation to generate competing discourses of land and landscape.26 Double talk, speech cancelling itself out, was the equivocating argot of patriarchy and empire. To weave a good story is always to be forked-tongued, and to spin a yarn is always to turn a story, a garment of grammar, inside out. A sumptuous tapestry laid over the lie of the land – to quote Paul Carter’s mesmerizing The Lie of the Land (1996) for a moment – does not disguise the arrangements of holes and slits that stretch the system of undulating intervals, the history of a movement that, not having slumped into representations suggests the provisionality of appearances, of words and things.

TEXT AND TEXTILES The Centre for Material Texts, University of Cambridge, UK is exploring how the fabrics of language intersect with the languages of fabric maintaining the text/textile preoccupation in literature.27 This has also been a concern of Victoria Mitchell, which she has explored in a number of essays for the journal Textile.28 Collen Kriger (2006) however sees the relationship differently. For her, what textiles and texts have in common is ‘orality and narrative’, rather than ‘writing or literacy’ but in yet other views, from anthropologist Barbara Tedlock (1985): Among the contemporary Quiche Maya of Guatemala, there are intertextualities within and among such arts as instrumental music, story telling, dream interpretations, weaving, house building and horticulture.29



Denise Y. Arnold (2014) advises that in place of writing, textiles in Andean civilizations bear messages that were developed over millennia by visually literate populations to document and display complex data.30 All biographies, like all autobiographies, like all narratives, tell one story in place of another story.31

NARRATIVE AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY Narrative is readily compared to a thread drawing viewers and readers into a text and holding them there, whether in autobiographical patterns or through running stitches.32 Between the idea of textiles as a flexible language, there is also its status as a specialist set of tools simultaneously positioned in its marginality and its authority, working both within dominant language rules of reason and as a disruptive text releasing other voices, styles or genres.33 The space of fiction has been radically occupied by the speaking artist and the experimental writer, breaking a linear narrative to formulate an interpersonal and provisional communication.34 For example, Siri Hustvedt in her 2006 novel A Plea from Eros (Sceptre Press) suggested that the acts of binding, knitting and tying are means to piece together what has been broken and cut, while for Anais Nin it is an evocation of love in her 1959 novel Ladders to Fire. W.G. Sebald’s penultimate work of prose fiction, The Rings of Saturn, has silk woven through its pages. Sebald even compares the occupations of writer and weaver, suggesting that both are prone to bouts of melancholy that result from ‘the feeling that they have got hold of the wrong thread’. For Solveigh Goett (Chapter 8) and Katya Oicherman (Chapter 7) the linking of metaphors of pen and needle operates as a loved tension between the ‘I’ and the other, the life of the text and textile and the terrain of the lived. The ‘who are you’ is always ‘who am I’.35

PSYCHOANALYSIS Claire Pajaczkowska (Chapter 6) has linked semiotics to the psychoanalysis of pre-Oedipal subjectivity in order to develop a new paradigm for thinking about the knowledge generated in artefacts and making, and to consider how divergent knowledges are produced by embodied experience, touch and tacit knowledge.36 Using techniques drawn from linguistics and psychoanalysis that Helene Cixous (1991) advocated37 in terms of the freeing of writing, and the freeing of the self through writing, Luce Irigaray (2011)38 proposes the ‘irrational feminine’ as an enabling force within the symbolic order of language, whilst Julia Kristeva celebrated the idea of active research carried out by women ‘to break the code, to shatter language, to find a specific discourse closer to the body and emotions, to the unnameable repressed by the social contract’.39 For weaving is the fabric of every story and of Freudian analysis itself. The dreamwork of condensation is the process of ‘interweaving’ and it is a sufficiently complex idea for Freud to remark that we find ourselves in a factory of thoughts. Goethe takes up the idea to propose that what is produced consciously is a ‘weaver’s masterpiece’ where one treadle stirs a thousand threads and ‘over and under shoots the shuttle’.40

CLOTH , ACTION AND COOPERATION Textiles, whether preserved as uncut lengths of cloth or fashioned into items of clothing, have the ability both to bind and to separate us. They denote differences in



culture, race, gender and political affiliation. In their seminal work, Cloth and Human Experience, Weiner and Schneider (1991) remark that ‘complex moral and ethical issues of dominance and autonomy, opulence and poverty, continence and sexuality, find ready expression through cloth.’ Indeed, they argue, ‘cloth has furthered organization of social and political life’, evoking ideas of tying or bringing together many different kinds of publics whether through the banners of the Suffragettes and Trade Unions or the wrapping of the fences at Greenham Common, or the laying down of the AIDS quilt or through addressing issues and relations that are not pre-given through kinship but are produced in gatherings and cooperations.41 They point to the gathering of the social as well as the gathering of material and people through collaboration. For Richard Sennett the idea of cooperation is allied with the redefinition of the public realm in Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation (Sennett 2012). He argues that cooperation needs more than good will: it is a craft that requires skill and practice. In modern society, traditional bonds are waning, and we must develop new forms of secular, civic ritual that make us more skilful in living with others. Sennett explores the nature of cooperation, why it has become weak and how it can be strengthened. It is a theme that runs throughout this handbook in the chapters of Lisa Vinebaum (Chapter 11), Kirsty Robertson (Chapter 13), and Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl (Chapter 5). Sarat Maharaj, following Derrida, once theorized the position of textiles as being ‘an undecidable it, something that seems to belong to one genre but overshoots its border and seems no less at home in another’ (Maharaj 2001: 7). Janis Jefferies (1995) explored the idea of textiles in the expanded field to argue that ‘“textile” . . . is always “not quite” there and also “not quite” which . . . never quite settles in the same space, can never be read in the same place, in the same way twice’, and Sadie Plant in Zeros + Ones: Digital Women + The New Technoculture, insisted that textiles are literally the software of all technology. Plant reformulated the idea of the text as a textile for the digital age: ‘The yarn is neither metaphorical nor literal, but quite simply a material, a gathering of threads which twist and turn through the history of computing, technology, sciences and the arts’ (Plant 1995: 12).

DIGITAL REVOLUTIONS As readers of this Handbook will be well aware, the digital revolution is unleashing an entirely new set of paradigms and perspectives for the future as well as the present – involving cybernetic, non-linear processes which cut across and interconnect all areas of material life. Textiles and technological invention have often gone hand in hand – the hand tool, mechanical devices, the computer and digital processes all affect the ways in which we perceive, process and respond to information. The processes of spinning, plaiting and weaving have been imperceptibly changing the world, finally emerging as the digitization of reality, and as new possibilities of matter to interconnect and engineer itself in unprecedented patterns and new designs. As male and female practitioners increasingly work with computerized looms, intelligent fabrics, pixeled screens, and the Internet, this connection between sexes, textiles, and technical processes is converging as never before (Plant 1995: 110). In addition, textiles are now seen as the material culture of the future, with the potential to transform society by changing the way people think, live and behave.42



TEXTILES AND INTERDISCIPLINARITY This introduction has positioned textiles through a number of interdisciplinary and theoretical concepts. Metaphors of, and analogies with travel often materialize in discussions of interdisciplinarity. Mieke Bal maintains disciplines ‘travel between disciplines, between individual scholars, between historical periods, and between geographically dispersed academic communities’ (Bal 2002: 24). However, interdisciplinarity is not a place, a position, like a geographical destination. Like thinking itself, it takes place in time and in different contexts. Accordingly, Dalke, Grobstein and McCormack argue: Interdisciplinarity is not a place to be reached but rather a commitment to a process of continually testing the value of parts, experimenting with different ways they might be combined to make wholes, and using the resulting wholes to refigure the parts. —Dalke et al. 2006: 743 Edward Said, perhaps the most famous ‘migrant’ intellectual, in The World, the Text and the Critic (1991) wrote, ‘Like people and schools of criticism, ideas and theories travel – from person to person, from situation to situation, from one period to another.’44 The purity or distinction of and between disciplines has also been eroded by the rise of new ‘interdisciplines’ as Griselda Pollock has called them. Hence academics and researchers from the outset work with diverse fields such as history,45 cultural studies, feminism, psychoanalysis, social sciences and computing. When Anni Albers (1957)46 wrote The Pliable Plane, she aspired to an integrated vision for textiles. Although the idea of the text has been influential in defining the function of cloth in relationship to architecture, musicians and programmers are now making connections to the relationship between draft and notation, punch card and graphic score. In On Weaving (1965) she described the notation system that she used as ‘drafts’. She experimented with an automated Jacquard loom and her design took the form of a chain of cards punched with rows of holes, with each card corresponding to one row of the design. Changing cards altered the pattern of the loom’s weave, prefiguring much later developments in computer programming. Albers’ punch-card designs for the Jacquard loom have prompted comparisons with software art and ASCII art, which constructs images using the 128 letters, numbers and punctuation symbols that make up the American Standard Code for Information Interchange.47

SUMMARY Over twenty-five years ago there was a paradigm shift in writing textiles from a gendered and primarily art-based perspective. Ten years ago there was another change in thinking textiles as both a material set of practices and part of a complex semiotic sign system within discourses of translation, and today the paradigm shift concerns the artist-asresearcher, the theorist as artist performing as curator, the community ethos of craft and textiles, performing in and engaging with new forms of public address and commitment and on line. Disciplines and professions are blurring, new strategies of collecting, documenting and showing work are pursued whilst at the same time there are Biennials, Triennials and a plethora of exhibitions that are exploring the roots and routes of textile display.48 Recently, diverse exhibitions – whether in Turin, Mönchengladbach, Vienna, Bielefeld, London or Wolfsburg – are reassessing the significance and recognition of the



use of textile, cloth and fabric. Taken together, these exhibitions show that textiles have moved to centre stage in re-thinking art history’s modernist canon.49 At the other end of the production scale, artisanal textile-based business, spearheaded by online marketplaces such as Etsy, show that there is value in handcrafted and small production runs of goods.50 A potential effect of online distribution is the blurring of artistic boundaries, in some cases, between producer and consumer; in others, between amateur and professional. Moreover, the relative ease of digital creation and online distribution and feedback may lead to production by the masses that rivals production for the masses. The outcome of these developments may be that we are entering a new era for all the arts.51 For example, will wearable technology fit into the business model of production? Could bespoke wearable technology and garments for sale be situated next to knitted scarves and 3D printed jewellery?52 Would this tactic serve to employ more women in the business of technology? Etsy released figures from a survey that the business paper The Economist quoted as showing: 5,500 of its American sellers, of whom 88% were women. Although 97% worked from home, 74% said they considered their Etsy shops to be businesses, not hobbies. Although most said they used Etsy to top up earnings from other work, 18% said that it was their full-time job.53 Others have turned to questions of attending to the relationship between technology and society. Technology is to be treated as a matter of concern as much as attending to the economic and political challenges that face textile workers around the world. It matters what stories are told and from where, as Seamus McGuinness recalls in Lived Lives (Chapter 10). Some writers are now taking on a material turn asking questions about how the nature of artistic practice and the notion of ‘truth to materials’ affect what we understand as the ‘new materialism’ (Barrett and Bolt 2013). Even as far back as Heidegger (1977) a material was thought to be matter, which was not mute or dumb but what artists worked with (and not on) in a collaborative relationship. In fact Heidegger suggested that there is a coresponsibility and indebtedness between the artist, tools of production and material as matter that can lead to a view of art as a co-collaboration of care and ethical conduct. In this discourse, material as matter has as much agency as the artist whose individual agency works with materials. When we think about the materials that make up the materiality of textiles we think about sisal, rope, burlap, handspun fleece, raw silk, thick cotton, strands of wool, pulp and paper as living, organic matter all of which have a powerful agency in themselves. Such materials play a co-evolutionary role in the production of artistic work and designerly processes as the material body of the maker that enables production work to come into being. It is a point that is referred to, though not explored, in some of the earliest anthologies and readers around textiles, not least as the new generation of practitioners, writers and theorists exploring the material turn did not start producing texts until the tweny-first century.54 However, none of us should lose sight or forget that theoretical concepts are but one aspect of living with textiles. In The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production (Livingston and Ploof 2007) artists’ projects and essays tangle with the ubiquity of cloth in everyday life and the effect of globalization on art and labour. The Handbook connects to some of the themes around the charged history of offshore garment workers; the



different systems of production and consumption in factories, studios, and on the streets; lost histories of garment production and embroidery. As this Handbook comes into being we expect a wide, discerning and diverse readership that will continue to enrich, and that the cultural, economic, political and scientific field of textiles is as rich, and as theoretically challenging as ever.


The Founding Editors of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture were Pennina Barnett, Janis Jefferies and Doran Ross. Originally published by Berg, Volume 1(1): 1–8, March 2003, contains a ‘letter from the editors’, which maps out some of the key conceptual ideas and issues that inform the personal, social and cultural meaning of textile.


The art historian Whitney Chadwick identifies a key moment in 1971 when an exhibition called ‘Deliberate Entanglement’ (curated by Bernard Kester) was held in Los Angeles. She suggests that the exhibition was the first to reject the art/craft dichotomy in the United States. For artists like Kay Sekimachi, the show and symposium were pivotal events in her career: ‘This brought the Europeans to California and they were doing enormous threedimensional pieces, some very heavy. It brought Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jagoda Buic to California, also Olga de Amaral and Sheila Hicks was on the program, and Claire Zeisler, too. I do believe that maybe that started the term “fiber art”.’ The University of Clifrona (Los Angeles) UCLA extension program then hired several of the artists to be short-term guest professors. See, Whitney Chadwick. 1990. Women, Art and Society. London: Thames and Hudson: 332.


Schoeser, Mary. 2003. World Textiles: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson.


The concept of the ‘prosumer’ was foreshadowed by Alvin Toffler (Toffler and Toffler 1970, 1980), who suggested that, as technology advances, the distinction between the producer of culture and the consumer of it would blur or merge. Rose (2011) discusses the way today’s consumers expect to see their favourite stories interlinked across ‘platforms’ (television, film, Internet). Jenkins (2007) goes further and argues that consumers are no longer consumers. They, or at least certain more advanced consumers, are ‘loyals’, ‘mediaactives’ or ‘prosumers’ or, in Jenkins’ favourite term, ‘fans’ (Jenkins 2007: 358). These active consumers play an important role, both culturally and economically.


Barthes, Roland. 1976. The Pleasure of the Text (trans. Richard Miller). London: Jonathan Cape.


Barthes, Roland. 1977. The Death of the Author in Image Music Text, London: Fontana Press.


Rosalind Krauss. 1985. ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ in The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press: 276–291. The essay was first published in October, Vol. 8, Spring 1979: 30–44.


See for example Sorkin, Jenni. 2003. ‘Way Beyond Craft: Thinking through the work of Mildred Constantine’, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Vol. 1(1), March.


Pollock, Griselda and Parker, Rozsika. 1981. Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology. London: Harper Collins. 70. Parker, Rozsika. 1984. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: The Women’s Press.

10. Griselda Pollock. 1987. ‘Feminism and Modernism’ in Rozika Parker and Griselda Pollock (eds), Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970–1985. London: Pandora Press: 81–96. 11. ‘Feminist science and technology studies: A patchwork of moving subjectivities’. An interview with Geoffrey Bowker, Sandra Harding, Anne Marie Mol, Susan Leigh Star and Banu Subramaniam. 2009. Feminist Science and Technology Studies, Subjectivity Issue 28: 334–344.



12. See Lindström and Ståhl (Chapter 5), on the relationship between feminist science studies, textiles and publics-in-the-making. They were also involved in ‘Transmissions: ‘Live Transmission: critical conversations about crafting, performing and making’, part of Kat Jungnickel’s ‘Freedom of Movement : The bike, the bloomer and female cyclist in 19th Century Britain’. 13. Jefferies, Janis. 1995. ‘Text and Textiles: Weaving Across the Borderlines’ in Deepwell, Katy (ed). 1995. Towards New Feminist Criticism: Critical Strategies. 164–175. 14. McCormack, John. 2001. ‘Unweaving Complexity ’, Craft, the Magazine of Craft Australia, Vol. 32(241): 19. 15. Danto, Arthur. 2006. ‘Weaving as Metaphor and Model for Political Thought’ 23–36, in Nina Stritzler-Levine (ed), Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, for The Bard Graduate Centre for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, New York. 16. Jefferies, Janis. 1997. ‘Text, Textile, Sex and Sexuality ’, Women’s Art Magazine, no 68. 5–10. 17. See for example, Kathryn Sullivan Kruger. 2001. Weaving the Word: The Metaphorics of Weaving and Female Textual Production, London: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corps. 18. Jones, Dorothy. 2004. ‘The Eloquent Sari’. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Vol. 2(1): 52–63 and ‘Assembling the Fragments’. 2002. Fabrics of Change: Trading Identities. 56–64. Wollongong: University of Wollongong. 19. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant. 1992. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (trans. John Buchanan-Brown). London: Penguin Books: 991. 20. Maharaj, Sarat. 1991. ‘Arachne’s Genre: Towards Inter-Cultural Studies in Textiles’. Journal of Design History, vol. 4(2): 75–96. 21. Barthes, Roland. 1977. Roland Barthes on Roland Barthes. New York: Hill and Wang. 22. Derrida, Jacques. 1979. ‘Living on the Borderlines’ in Deconstruction and Criticism, London: Routledge and Kegan-Paul: 75–176. 23. Derrida, Jacques. 2009. ‘Restitutions of the truth in pointing [‘Pointure’]’ in The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, Donald Preziosi (ed), New York: Oxford University Press: 301–315. 24. Spivak, C. Gayatri. 1999. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present, London: Harvard University Press: 337. 25. Sharrad, Paul. 2004. ‘Following the Map: A Postcolonial Unpacking of a Kashmir Shawl’ Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Vol. 2(1), March: 64–78. 26. Nina Sibal. 1987. Yatra: The Journey. London: The Women’s Press; Jones, Dorothy. 2003. Embroidering the Nation. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Vol. 1(2): 174–193. 27. (accessed 2 August 2014). 28. Mitchell, Victoria. 1997. ‘Text, Textile, techne’ for conference and publication. Tanya Harrod (ed): Obscure Objects of Desire Crafts Council Publications and ‘The only true book: patterns of exchange between text and textile in catalogues of samples from eighteenth-century Norwich’, conference paper, Texts and Textiles, Jesus College, University of Cambridge. Mitchell lifts the covers on eighteenth-century fabric patternbooks, which the travelogue writer, W.G. Sebald describes as ‘leaves from the only true book which none of our textual and pictorial works can even begin to rival’ (unpublished paper). See also Mitchell, Victoria. 2013: ‘Stitching with Metonymy ’ Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Vol. 11(3). 29. Tedlock, Barbara and Dennis. 1985. ‘Text and Textile: Language and Technology in the Arts of the Quiche Maya’, Journal of Anthropological Research. Vol. 41(2). University of New Mexico.



30. Arnold, Y. Denise. 2014. ‘Textiles, knotted khipu, and to semiosis in common: Towards a language woven of documentation in the Andes’ in Textiles, Technical Practice, and Power in the Andes, Arnold, Y. Denise, and Dransart, P. (eds) Archetype Publication. See also, Arnold, Y. Denise and Elvira Espejo Ayca. 2009. ‘A Comparison of War Iconography in the Archaeological Textiles of Paracas-Topará (in Southern Peru) and in the Weavings of Ayllu Qaqachaka (Bolivia) Today.’ In Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture, Vol. 7(3): 272–295. 31. Cixous, Helene. 1997. ‘Albums and Legends’ in Cixous, Helene, & Calle-Gruber, Mireille, (eds) Helene Cixous, Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing; London and New York: Routledge: 177. 32. Anne Brennan. 1997. ‘Running Stitch and Running Writing: Thinking About Process’, in Sue Rowley (ed), Craft and Contemporary Theory. Australia: Allen & Unwin: 85–98; Dorothy Jones. 1997. ‘The Floating Web’, in Sue Rowley (ed), Craft and Contemporary Theory. Australia: Allen & Unwin: 98–112. 33. Jefferies, Janis. 1998. Autobiographical patterns, in Bachmann, Ingrid and Scheuing, Ruth eds Material Matters: The Art and Culture of Contemporary Textiles. Canada: YYZ Books: 107–119. 34. Wallis, Brian. 1987. ‘Telling Stories: A Fictional Approach to Artists’ Writings’, in Brian Wallis (ed), Blasted Allegories. An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press; and Tring T Minh-ha. 1991. ‘When the Moon Waxes Red’ in Representation, Gender and Cultural Politics. London: Routledge. 35. Maharaj, Sarat. 2001. ‘Textile Art – Who Are You?’ in: Jefferies, Janis (ed). Reinventing Textiles: Gender and Identity, vol. 2; Winchester: Telos Art Publishing: 7–10. 36. Pajaczkowska, Claire. 2010. Book Section, Tension, Time and Tenderness: Indexical Traces of Touch in Textiles In: Digital and Other Virtualities. New Encounters: Arts, Cultures, Concepts. I.B. Tauris, London and New York: 134–148. 37. Cixous, Hélène. 1991. Coming to Writing and Other Essays, Cambridge, MA , London, England. 38. Irigaray, Luce. 2011. ‘Perhaps Cultivating Touch Can Still Save Us’ SubStance Vol. 40(3): 130–140. See also, Breathing with Luce Irigaray, Lenart Škof and Emily A. Holmes (eds). 2013. Bloomsbury Academic. 39. Kristeva, Julia. 1986. ‘Women’s Time’, The Kristeva Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. 40. Freud, Sigmund. 1985. The Interpretation of Dreams. London: The Pelican Freud Library: 4–388. 41. Jefferies, Janis. 2001. ‘Textiles: What can she Know?’ in Fiona Carson and Claire Pajaczkowska (eds), Feminist and Visual Culture, Edinburgh University Press: 189–207. 42. For a general discussion of textiles as culture in the anthropological and art contexts see: ‘Textile Culture and the Ethnographic Museum’ in Colchester, Chloe. 2009. Textiles Today: A Global Survey of Trends and Traditions. Thames & Hudson: 169–175. 43. Dalke, Anne, Grobstein, Paul and McCormack, Elizabeth (2006), ‘Exploring Interdisciplinarity: The Significance of Metaphoric and Metonymic Exchange’, Journal of Research Practice, Vol. 2(2), Article M3. 44. Said, Edward (1991) ‘Travelling Theory ’ in The World, the Text and the Critic, Vintage: 226. 45. Pollock, Griselda (2004), AHRB Research Strategy Seminar, Interdisciplinary/ Crossdisciplinary/Transdisciplinary. 46. Anni Albers explores the author’s thoughts on textiles as a medium of art and craftsmanship by comparing the task of textile production with the nature of architecture. It also explains the evolution of textile design and its relation to the history of structure



experimentation, thread construction, production techniques, and clothing. It also traces textile development in the context of society’s changing needs, habitation patterns and tastes. 47. Simon Yuill, ‘Anni Albers and Digital Art’, public lecture, Mead Art Gallery, Warwick University, May 2013. 48. Contemporary art biennials are booming; there are now over 100 of these mega-shows, stretching from Liverpool. England to Beijing China, Gwangju Biennale, Korea to Luanda Triennial in Angola, Berlin to Sao Paolo Biennial in Brazil. In 2013, the 11th edition of the Sharjah Biennial, the 55th Venice Biennale, the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the 12th Lyon Biennale, the 5th Moscow Biennale and the 1st Hangzhou Triennial, Fiber Visions was launched. The First International Tapestry Art Biennial in Lausanne, Switzerland took place in 1962, the International Triennale of Tapestry in Lódz was established in 1972, Kaunas Biennial is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015. See Chapters 22, 23 and 20 respectively in this anthology by Shu Hui and Xu Jia (China), Giselle Eberhard Cotton (Lausanne) and Ed Carroll (Kaunas). 49. For example, ‘Textiles: Open Letter’ (Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach); ‘To open Eyes – Kunst und Textil vom Bauhaus bis heute’ (Kunsthalle Bielefeld); ‘Art & Textiles’ (Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg); ‘Soft Pictures’ (Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin); ‘Decorum – Carpets and tapestries by artists’ (Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris); ‘Cloth-Weavers and String Beans’ – an exhibition in Bielefeld that examines the connection between art and textiles from the Bauhaus to today ( See also, ‘The Splendour of Polish Textiles’ (2013), Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; and in this Handbook, ‘Curating Textiles: Stuff that Matters’ (Chapter 3), textiles collected by Seth Siegelaub for the Centre for Social Research on Old Textiles, 2012, Raven Row; and Christine Checinska and Grant Watson’s discussion of Social Fabric (Chapter 18) (INIVA , 2012). 50. See, Greer, Betsy. 2008. Knitting for Good!, Boston, MA : Shambhala Publications. 51. Anderson, Chris. 2006. The Long Tail. London: Random House. Baeck, P., L. Collins and S. Westlake (2012). Crowding in: How the UK ’s Businesses, Charities, Government and Financial System Can Make the Most of Crowdfunding. London: NESTA . 52. Ashford, R., 2013b. EEG Data Visualising Pendant: Wearable technology for use in social situations. I love kittens . . . Available at: eeg-data-visualising-pendant-wearable-technology-for-use-in-social-situations/ (accessed 8 August 2014). 53. The Economist, 2014. ‘The art and craft of business’. Available at: /news/business/21592656-etsy-starting-show-how-maker-movement-can-make-money-artand-craft-business?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/the_art_and_craft_of_business (accessed 4 August 2014). 54. For example, see Aynsley, Jeremy; Breward, Christopher; and Kwint, Marius (eds), Material Memories: Design and Evocation. Oxford and New York: Berg, 1999. Chapters include: ‘Prologue: From the Museum of Touch’ by Susan Stewart and ‘Elizabeth Parker’s ‘Sampler’: Memory, Suicide and the Presence of the Artist’ by Nigel Llewellyn.

REFERENCES Bachmann, Ingrid and Sheuing, Ruth (eds). 1988. Material Matters: The Art and Culture of Contemporary Textiles. Toronto: YYZ Books. Bal, Mieke. 2002. Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Barrett, Estelle and Bolt, Barbara (eds). 2013. Carnal Knowledge: Towards a ‘New Materialism in the Arts’, London: I.B. Tauris.



Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of Culture, New York: Routledge. Carter, Paul. 1996. The Lie of the Land, London: Faber and Faber. Daly, Mary. 1978/1990. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, Boston, MA : Beacon. Deepwell, Katy (ed). 1995. New Feminist Art Criticism: Critical Strategies, Manchester, UK : Manchester University Press: 164–175. Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (trans. Brian Massumi), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Foucault, Michel. 1995. Genealogy as Critique, London: Verso. Heidegger, Martin. 1977. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (trans W. Lovitt), New York: Garland. Jenkins, Henry. 2007. The Future of Fandom [Afterword], in Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington (eds), Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, New York: New York University Press. Kriger, E. Collen. 2006. Cloth in West African History, Lanham, MD : Rowman & Littlefield. Kristeva, Julia. 1986. ‘Women’s Time’, The Kristeva Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. Livingstone, Joan and Ploof, John (eds). 2007. The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production. Chicago and Cambridge, MA : SAIC and MIT Press. Ovid. Metamorphoses 6. Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al., Provided by The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C. Stevenson. Available online at Ovid/metam.html (accessed 20 August 2014). Plant, Sadie. 1995. ‘Lady Ada, Queen of Engines’, Textile Sismographs, Symposium fibres et textiles – Texts from the Colloquium, Montreal: Counseil des arts textiles du Quebec. Rose, Frank. 2011. The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Sennett, Richard. 2012. Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Toffler, Alvin and Toffler, Heidi. 1970. Future Shock, New York: Random House. Toffler, Alvin and Toffler, Heidi. 1980. The Third Wave, New York: Bantam Books. Weiner, Annette B. and Schneider, Jane (eds). 1991. Cloth and Human Experience, Washington, DC : Smithsonian Scholarly Institution Press.



New Approaches to Textile Design HAZEL CLARK

INTRODUCTION Considering new approaches to textile design is not only a matter of seeking the novel and the latest. As the examples presented in this chapter demonstrate, the new and innovative sits within a continuum of practices and ideas. Through them it becomes evident how design relies not only on methods and techniques, but also on fundamental ways of conceptualizing and bringing about change and improvement in the world; this applies, or should apply, to textiles as it does to any other area of design. New approaches to textile design are predicated therefore not only on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of design, but also on the ‘why’. It can be argued that design in general is even more fundamental to human life in the twenty-first century than ever before, as issues of livelihood become more compound and insistent. That said, the old definitions of design through materialbased practices or ‘disciplines’ are fast disappearing, or are now too limited to address the challenges provided by the complexities of our lives. Today design must be transdisciplinary. It must acknowledge and integrate technology, while also attending to issues of excess and waste in the face of dwindling resources and growing populations, and of inequality and exploitation across the globe. For textiles, this is creating new possibilities and collaborations that are bringing together previously disparate practices and interests, such as science, technology, biology, health and well-being, as well as the social sciences, and a range of creative practices. It is also leading to the re-invigoration of textile crafts and traditions, not only to instil new design aesthetics, but also to add to the cultural value of cloth by expanding and enhancing its meanings and relationships with people’s lives on a variety of levels.

FROM DIVISIONS TO COLLABORATIONS Beyond the old classifications of ‘print, weave and knit’, research and education are aiding a new understanding of textile design as an outcome of more interdisciplinary and integrative ways of thinking and working. As shown in this chapter, the resulting collaborations are many and varied, involving not only professional designers, but also makers employing both craft and industrial techniques, as well as scientists, technologists, users, corporations and NGO s (Non-Governmental Organizations). The upshot is designs with a defined purpose or mission, not simply additions to a dominating industrial 17



production process. Such approaches acknowledge and respect the materiality of cloth; not only as decoration, but for the enormous role it plays in the daily lives of all of us. They address the ways we might live better, while recognizing the conditions of our current existence. In 1996 the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai added two more categories to Marx’s category of commodity fetishism: production fetishism and the fetishism of the consumer (Appadurai 1996: 41–42). By production fetishism Appadurai was drawing attention to the way that transnational mass production had become the ubiquitous means of manufacturing. (For many consumer goods, especially textiles and clothing, this has meant a relocation of factories to Eastern Europe, and to South and East Asia, including India and China). Yet the literal distancing of manufacturing from consumers has come to mask the reality of trans-local capital, management and workforces, the latter often involved in high-tech operations in what were once called ‘Third World’ countries. In the process, the consumer is metaphorically as well as literally distanced from the product, and from a relationship to and responsibility for whatever is produced. In fact the social and spatial alienation of much manufacturing and of product from user, comes to wider attention, if at all, only in the face of tragedies like the Rana Plaza clothing factory disaster in Bangladesh in April 2013. According to Appadurai’s second category, ‘consumer fetishism’, the end user has little opportunity for agency in this process. S/he has become the equivalent of Baudrillard’s simulacrum, increasingly powerless in a process where producers, of materials, goods, images and signs hold great sway, especially in the realm of advertising. Today, almost twenty years after Appadurai’s book was published, we might add to his a third category, that of design fetishism. For today the terms design and designer have also become increasingly empty signs, used as palliatives to make products appear more exclusive and appealing and to add to the price tag in the consumer market. Yet the designs themselves are so often the result of decision making that is isolated from human agency and from a sensibility towards consumers and end users. Despite the enormous significance of textiles to our comfort, protection and general well-being, their design is typically anonymous, and often appears ill conceived, especially in industrial production. As garments and in interiors, textiles have become like mere backdrops. Technology can be cited as a cause, facilitating the ‘just in time’ manufacturing that enables cheaper products, shorter life spans and faster retail turnover. Yet what we might call the ‘massification’ of production is part of a wider context for design, which also begs a question of the greater values being attached at many levels, by users, designers, producers, to the inexpensive, poor quality fabrics that surround us, which wear out quickly and feel unpleasant against the body. This chapter acknowledges approaches to textile design that honour and respect the material and the human values implicit to design. They are characterized less by an association with only one person, the stereotypical ‘designer’, but are rather the result of varied, and often highly innovative collaborations. Some are founded in trans-global connections, others highlight the impact of new technologies (if indeed any technologies can be considered ‘new’), while others still reference tradition, memory, gender, sustainability, and Do-It-Yourself (DIY ). Thus ‘new approaches’ to textile design might actually be ‘old’ in referencing practices and qualities embedded in human cultures. What distinguishes the design collaborations presented here is how they are integral to production and use, respect human values, and demonstrate strategic thinking for the future; as such they can serve as exemplars for design more broadly.



COLLABORATIONS 1: TRADITION AND TECHNOLOGY Familiar to many, the Japanese company Nuno (meaning ‘fabric’ in Japanese) has been an internationally respected design innovator for over three decades. Since 1987, its founder and chief designer Reiko Sudo has developed processes of design and making that draw upon the textile heritage of Japan. Utilizing unique combinations of technology and tradition, the Nuno collections have been described as reflecting ‘a desire to explore the very limits of structure, material and process in textile design’ (Hemmings 2006: 363). While Sudo looks to the textile history of her homeland, that does not make her work parochial. From the outset Nuno designs have benefitted from collaborations, initially with the textile artist Junichi Arai with whom Sudo founded the company in 1984. By acknowledging textile design and production as a collaborative process without strict rules, Sudo has achieved unique and unpredictable results. For example, she reinterpreted the traditional shibori technique by placing dye-coated paper containing holes on top of silk fabric, which was then pinched through the holes and flattened before the dye was heat transfer printed, to create new designs from an age-old method.1 For the ‘Stainless Steel’ series created in the early 1990s, she utilized automotive paint on textiles. Today she frequently includes post-consumer waste in her fabrics, which always appeal to the touch as much as to the eye. Nuno textiles have been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally as well as being sold as lengths, scarves and garments whose simple shapes do not compromise the material qualities of the fabric. Having been described as both ‘beautiful’ and ‘evocative’ (Harper 2012: 30), the designs are typically very subtle, featuring qualities of surface and texture, rather than complex or contrasting colours or tones. The resulting cloth gives sensual pleasure enabling the wearer and user to enjoy how it feels against the skin or in the interior, rather than just how it looks. Conceptually, this produces designs with the potential for much greater longevity than those subject to the vagaries of fashion. Sudo has commented on how her customers do not typically buy a lot from her shop at one time. ‘Sometimes they choose one or two items that they say they will cherish for a lifetime, or buy a single scarf and say it’s the only one they will buy this winter’ (Quinn 2012: 181). These textiles, kept because of the way their material qualities sustain and give tactile pleasure to human beings, serve as repositories for memory and evocation. They are the products of team effort, where every contribution is a valuable part of the whole, be it that of the user or the producer. For example, the creation of a new variety of silk from the outer casing of the silkworms’ cocoons that are usually discarded, provided new employment opportunities to women who had retired from working in silk mills, who became actively re-engaged in the production process (Quinn 2012: 182).

COLLABORATIONS 2: WOMEN , WORK AND LIVES Around the globe over the last twenty plus years, collaborations between designers, entrepreneurs and makers have created new employment, typically for women, while simultaneously perpetuating textile designs and crafts that were in danger of disappearing. Fair Trade initiatives have had a positive impact on textiles in particular by promoting both living wages and sustainable products. The patronage of consumers in Europe and North America has reinvigorated design and production, especially in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The organization Threads of Life, for example, founded in



1998 in Ubud in central Bali, aims to preserve textile traditions and recover designs and techniques in danger of being lost. It employs over 1,000 women in 11 islands across Indonesia.2 With products, tours, workshops and classes, it has established itself as a part of Bali’s tourism industry, while honouring the textile traditions of Indonesia such as ikat and batik.3 It is one of many such examples of how the fair trade business model seeks to re-establish, rather than to exploit, design and craft traditions and skills and to save them from extinction, often providing employment for women and working within broadening global contexts such as tourism. Frequently such initiatives need the input of outsiders to add value and contacts for local producers. Such is the case of Coopa-Roca. Since 1981, the textile collective Coopa-Roca has enabled women living in Rochina, Rio de Janeiro, the largest favela or shantytown in the world, to learn and use sewing skills indigenous to different regions of Brazil, and to share ideas, materials, and even sewing machines. Originally, they made quilts, pillows, and other patchwork items from scrap fabric, which they transformed into useful objects, selling them through public art fairs, and kiosks in shopping malls. The initial products were unsophisticated in design, but this changed after 1994, when Maria Teresa Leal, a local middle-class woman with a background in art education and the social sciences, connected the cooperative with designers. Using traditional textile techniques and working with the likes of Brazilian fashion designer Carlos Miele or Dutch product designer Tord Boontje brought the collective to international attention. It has led to it being sponsored by the Kering Foundation, created in 2007 by the luxury fashion Kering Group to promote environmental and social sustainability and the prevention of violence against women. This collaboration demonstrates how corporate partnerships can bring livelihood to craftspeople if established on a non-exploitative basis, and provide much-needed support for textile traditions at their indigenous points of origin. The reclamation of craft methods and localized skills in the twenty-first century applies not only to less developed parts of the world. The decline of textile production as a source of labour and community is also an issue being addressed in former highly industrialized countries like the United States. In 2007, designer Natalie Chanin set up her company named Alabama Chanin in her hometown of Florence, Alabama a centre of textile and clothing manufacture since the early nineteenth century. Over the years the focus of production had changed to t-shirts and cotton products, to earn the town the appellation of the ‘T-Shirt Capital of the World’ in the 1970s.4 But the local industry suffered when the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA ) led to the relocation of domestic manufacture overseas. When Chanin started her business, the factories had closed. By designing and producing textiles, clothing and home furnishing using recycled materials, and also limited edition handmade jewellery, she brought employment to members of the largely female local workforce. These artisans, who represented a generational span of women in their early twenties to those in their late seventies, worked collectively in the spirit of the American quilting bee. The resulting garments emphasized quality of cut, detail, craftsmanship and style; they were expensive, but designed to last – well beyond a single fashion season. Now the company is aiming to extend its brief to encompass the intersections of design, manufacturing, craft and DIY, infused by MAKESHIFT. This initiative was started in 2011 and holds events each spring during New York Design Week. It addresses intersections between and across practices with the aim of developing and sustaining local design and manufacture, much of which include textiles and its artefacts. While the initiative privileges the low-tech, it has informed the larger Alabama Chanin company by adding machine production and aiming



at creating communities of workers with diverse skills. In the process the historical trajectory of textile production in Florence, Alabama is being honoured and re-evaluated.

COLLABORATIONS 3: DESIGNERS AND SCIENTISTS Although a number of the new approaches to textile design are being infused by history and memory, and by formal and informal local based economies, the ‘new’ also continues to acknowledge technology, as it must. As a consequence some innovative strategic and research-driven partnerships have been initiated as collaborations between designers and scientists. One of particular note was the Nobel Textiles Project, an alliance between the British Medical Research Centre (MRC ) Clinical Sciences Centre, and Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London. Started in 2008, and orchestrated and managed by Carole Collett, Director of MA Textile Futures at Central St Martins, Nobel Textiles paired five (male) prize-winning scientists each with a (female) designer. The outcome was a series of unique design proposals based on conceptual interpretations of scientific principles. Working with Sir Peter Mansfield, awarded the Nobel Prize in 2003 for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI ), fashion and textile designer Shelley Fox spoke of how her partnership, which resulted in ‘The Fat Map’ fashion collection, drew attention to design as a process of discovery, rather than as a search for an outcome. She commented on the innovative nature of this approach in the contemporary context: Contrasting the way we used to do things with today’s practice, I feel that the term designer is losing value. Design has been bastardized by cynical marketing techniques, brought down to the lowest common denominator. Everything is designer-this, designer-that. But rather than the end product, we need to refocus on the process, because that’s what leads to discovery. —McNittie 2008 Another participant Rachel Kelly, a designer of interactive wallpaper, paired with cell scientist Sir Tim Hunt, also highlighted the value of the collaborations. She found unexpected similarities between the working methods of designers and scientists, discovering how both needed to embrace mistakes, to experiment and to ‘make lots of mess’ (McNittie 2008). Project leader, Carole Collett chose to work with the human genome scientist Sir John Sulston, because of connections she saw with her own work on sustainability. Sulston’s research on the death and mutation of cells was translated by Collett using macramé into a ‘Suicide Pouf ’ made of abacca, jute, and sisal nylon ropes, intended for gardens where it would slowly biodegrade to take on a new form. Collett’s approach and the Nobel Textiles project as a whole demonstrate the enormous potential for new relationships between what might seem disparate areas of knowledge and expertise, both conceptually and practically. Collett sees biological processes in particular as offering potential models for design for sustainable fabric (Quinn 2012: 114). Her colleague Philippa Brock, who explores the boundaries of digital woven and Jacquard textiles, was the Nobel Textiles partner of Sir Aaron Klug, a pioneer in the field of molecular structure elucidation. Their collaboration caused Brock to question the accepted division of science and art that has been in place in the West since the Renaissance (McNittie 2008). One of the major outcomes of the Nobel Textiles project was not only to show the value and significance of the connections themselves, but also to reveal the potential of



working across disciplines in order to innovate. The desire to move beyond what already exists fuelled the work of the fifth designer involved in the project, Rachel Wingfield, who was paired with Sir John Walker, responsible for improving understanding of energy conversion in living cells. Wingfield explores emerging biological and technological futures through Loop.pH, which she founded with Mathias Gmachl in 2003. This organization is seeking to establish new roles ‘for designers to intervene at an urban scale and to develop collaborative tools for public engagement initiatives and multidisciplinary practices’.5 While their clients include large corporate concerns such as BMW and Bloomburg, Loop.pH also seeks to make their scientific approach accessible to the nonspecialist. Gmachl states that their method is ‘about opening up the process of discovery, sharing the field of science with the general public’ (McNittie 2008). This more democratic desire to share and to respect a diversity of contributions is characteristic of and essential to successful collaborations. Reflecting on the above, it is unsurprising that each of the Nobel Textiles designers is involved in education, as a teacher and/or a researcher, who is active in experimenting, finding out and then sharing. The collaborative process, often involving specialists from different fields, non-specialists, students and teachers, is opening up the potential for textile design and application on a global and domestic level, for clothing bodies and for use in environments. The fact that all of the designers in question are women (and the scientists in the project were all male) also comes as no surprise. But while the gendering of textile designers seems to remain predominantly female, in education for sure, it has arguably predicated this more communal way of working with textiles in particular, as a process of sharing. It has moved away from the old and limited classification of textile design into the industrial-based techniques of ‘print, weave, knit’ and reinforces associations with more domestic-based practices. It also brings textiles closer to the lives and needs of ordinary people, even where technology forms a part.

COLLABORATIONS 4: LOOKING AHEAD A leading figure internationally in the design and development of wearable technologies, Sabine Seymour also acknowledges and respects the contribution of users to design and production. She has previously envisaged a technically sophisticated version of selfassembling wearable garments and techno textiles. As the cost of customized 3D printing decreases and it becomes more widely available, it seems an increasing possibility that consumers will soon be able to design and produce personalized wearable technology as part of the retail experience (Quinn 2012: 83). At the consumer level, the diversity of her thinking includes t-shirts with designs that react to the sun, but her research work has also resulted in demo jackets that can be worn in the aftermath of large-scale disasters, as means of individual protection and communication. Most recently she has been working on the interface between textiles and sound (see Plate 1.1). Such attention to human relationships and senses is broadening the potentiality of the design of textiles, especially those involving very high-level technology. Another designer who unites the technological with the familiar and quotidian is Kate Goldsworthy, Senior Research Fellow at the Textile Environment Design (TED ) Centre at Chelsea College of Art, The University of the Arts London.6 She refers to the materials she uses in her work as ‘completely unremarkable’. It is the extreme ‘ordinariness’ of the fabrics: non-woven polymers, and the heavyweight felts used to make carpet underlay, insulation, household textiles, medical bandaging and geo-textiles that appeal to her



(Quinn 2009: 204). Goldsworthy and others are recognizing how textiles like these, so anonymous in everyday existence and yet so important to it, offer enormous possibilities for industrial recycling on a large scale. Her work incorporates craft and technology, utilizing the aesthetic of long-established techniques of lace making, appliqué and marquetry as part of high-tech polymer materials such as polyester (Plate 1.2). The outcome is hardy re-surfaced textiles, which, by echoing the delicacy of small, handmade domestic textiles, take on both a new aesthetic and purpose. In common with the designers already mentioned, Goldsworthy is committed to re-invigorating the material value of textiles in human life, not least the time and care that can be involved in their production both at the domestic and the industrial level. The very nature of Kate Goldsworthy’s work and personal mission is one of collaboration, with her fellow researchers, teachers and students as well as industry, engineers and material scientists, much of it conducted under the auspices of the TED Centre at Chelsea College of Art in London. Since its establishment in 1996, TED has promoted the ‘cradle to cradle’ approach developed by architect William McDonough and scientist Michael Braungart (McDonough and Braungart 2002). While valid beyond textiles, cradle to cradle provides a particularly workable conceptual and practical strategy for sustainability for textiles. TED has used this perspective not only as a strategy for teaching, but to underpin some substantial research partnerships and consultancies, involving in particular Kate Goldsworthy, Kay Politowicz (Professor of Textile Design), and Rebecca Earley (Professor of Sustainable Fashion and Textile Design, and Director of the Textile Futures Research Centre at Chelsea). Many of these projects are documented on the TED website (www.tedresearch. net). One initiative worth citing is the MISTRA Future Fashion programme, a collaboration with the Swedish fashion industry formed by research partners from professional institutes and universities ( An independent research foundation, active for twenty years, concerned with strategic environmental research, MISTRA provides an exemplar of a research collaboration that spans countries and cultures with the aim of future thinking and action. Part of their joint research outcome has been the Textile Toolbox concept, a component of TED ’s web platform with MISTRA , an open innovation site for new ideas aimed at creating systemic change within the fashion industry through ‘interconnected design thinking and processes for sustainable textiles and fashion’.7 The Textile Toolbox invites researchers, companies and designers to come up with innovative ideas about how the fashion industry can change and reduce its environmental impact. Another constituent of the web platform is THE TEN , which is a deceptively simple product of TED ’s complex and detailed research. A series of ten cards, available in English, Swedish, and Chinese, THE TEN provides practical direction for students and professional designers. Each card reveals a strategy, which includes Design to Minimize Waste (card 1), Design that Explores Cleaner/Better Technologies (card 5), Design to Reduce the Need to Consumer (card 8), and Design Activism (card 10). Together they form a directive towards creating new consumption patterns and business models, and provide those involved in design with practical directives for change.

CONCLUSION While the examples presented in this chapter are diverse in their points of origination, approach and output, they all focus our attention on the importance of collaboration in the design of textiles, as in so many other areas of design, today and going forward. As



life becomes more complex in the twenty-first century, all types of design practices must respond. Trans-disciplinary and collective approaches can lead to the re-evaluation of tradition, while acknowledging and integrating the use of technology. It has been made evident how, with these strategies, the design of textiles can make a more substantial contribution to human life and livelihood going forward. While contexts of dwindling resources and growing populations, of inequality of wealth and social justice at first seem far away from the creation and adornment of cloth, this chapter demonstrates the significant renewed attention being given to the design and role of textiles. The new possibilities created by collaborations across design, science, and technology that are invigorating craft skills are both exciting and culturally and socially enriching. They offer prospects not only for new design aesthetics, but also for the sustained role and meanings of textiles in the everyday lives of people across the globe.

NOTES 1. (accessed 5 August 2014). 2. (accessed 6 August 2014). 3. (accessed 6 August 2014). 4. (accessed 12 August 2014). 5. (accessed 12 August 2014). 6. TED forms part of the University of the Arts London (UAL ) Textiles Futures Research Centre, and includes also the MA Textile Futures at Central St Martins. 7. (accessed 7 August 2014).

REFERENCES Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Harper, Catherine. 2012. ‘Mediation on Translation and Seduction’, in Jessica Hemmings (ed) The Textile Reader, London: Berg: 27–32. Hemmings, Jessica. 2006. ‘2121: The Textile Vision of Reiko Sudo and NUNO ’, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 4(5), 363. McDonough, William and Braungart, Michael. 2002. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, New York: North Point Press. McNittie, Brona (ed). 2008. Nobel Textiles: Marrying Scientific Discovery to Design, London: Medical Research Council. Quinn, Bradley. 2009. Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge, London: Laurence King Publishing. Quinn, Bradley. 2012. Textile Visionaries: Innovation and Sustainability in Textile Design, London: Laurence King Publishing.


Views from Australia and the Asia Pacific DIANA WOOD CONROY

Standing on the shore of Melville Island at the top of Australia in July 2014, I looked out at the opaque turquoise waters of the Arafura Sea stretching towards Timor. I thought about how long trajectories of travel to Asia and beyond had become an unthinking assumption of the settler European Australian. A shelter roofed with palm nearby on the beach showed where Tiwi people regularly camped, signalling how bark, reeds and palm fibre formed the substrate of Indigenous culture rather than metals and minerals. Even though the Tiwi had had contact with Macassans from Indonesia, Dutch traders, Japanese pearl fishers and possibly even Chinese explorers they had no wish to leave their islands, inhabited for 8,000 years, and travel to unknown lands. The expanded field of contemporary textiles is grounded in diverse histories and geographies. My own forebears came from Britain to Australia and New Zealand in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, driven by overcrowding at home and a desire for new opportunities. Later, both my grandfathers, born in Australia and New Zealand respectively, travelled to London and Edinburgh to study. The shipbuilder brought back a Scottish bride and the salesman an English one. The Scottish bride brought an immense trunk of hand-worked textiles, and some of these, like an 1860 Paisley shawl, were devised from an Indian original. In the family stories are endless journeys on ships from Southampton to Sydney, through the Pacific or through the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal, sometimes around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, even once stopping at the Pitcairn Islands. The women settlers knitted and sewed in the long weeks aboard ship. My mother returned to Australia from a visit to Scotland in 1936, and on ship embroidered a fine petit point blue background for a nineteenth-century rendition of an angel (wings beaded in silvery glass) made by her Scottish grandmother more than forty years before. It became a fire screen, framed in cedar by the carpenters at the shipbuilding docks of Cockatoo Island in Sydney. Ships and textiles were indissolubly connected: as the cultural theorist Paul Carter pointed out, the early ship itself is a kind of support for the grand canvases sculpted by wind and held by a mast that has the same name in Greek as loom, histos (Carter 1998). Textiles travelled and intermingled many traditions, although their hybridity of origin, such as the Paisley shawl, was often hidden.




THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE HANDBOOK WRITERS The selection of writers comes from collaborative encounters set up through conferences and seminars in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and India, and through artist exchanges. For example the writer and researcher for UNESCO Professor Jasleen Dhamija visited the University of Wollongong to give galvanizing workshops and papers over many years, bringing an element of ritual and spirituality. Through association with the artists of Universiti Teknologi Mara in Selangor, Malaysia, I learnt of Dr June Ngo’s energetic work re-vitalizing traditional textiles. The indefatigable researcher Professor Smritikumar Sarkar, Vice Chancellor of Burdwan University, West Bengal, gave a seminar on his work with Indian artisans and British colonization in Wollongong in 2013. Margie West, Emeritus Curator from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory of Australia, was well known to me as an eminent curator of astonishing Indigenous art exhibitions of textiles in major state and national galleries. Dr Agnieszka Golda represents the vitality of an Australian textile practice that drives migrating Polish traditions into an immersive sensuality. Visiting the Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane since its inception in 1993 led to contact with the acute research of Dr Graeme Were of the University of Queensland. The artist Ruth McDougall, now innovative Curator at the Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane, has been associated with textile networks since artists’ gatherings at Lake Mungo in 1997. The Handbook is structured around themes, rather than national identities, so that reference to textile practitioners and writers from Australia may be scattered across various chapters.1 The anthropologist Nicholas Thomas observed that the Asia-Pacific incorporates a very ‘heterogeneous mix of urbanized utterly modern and cosmopolitan people with vast numbers of people who . . . are only superficially touched by globalizing cultures associated with the west.’ He pointed out that although there has been a mutual engagement with colonial European worlds there are many energetic global cultural circuits that have nothing to do with the West or America, such as Islamic cultures and South Asian popular culture (Thomas 2006: 24, 28). The small selection of writers from Australia and the Asia-Pacific for the Handbook can give only a glimpse of the tremendous vitality of the region that does not necessarily share common systems of meaning with the West. Sixty per cent of the world’s population is in Asia (Frick 2014:19). Thirty per cent of Australia’s current population was born overseas, and the language most spoken after English is Mandarin, as the Chinese have been a constant presence and China is now a vast force in the Australian economy. The great cities of Asia and their rural hinterlands – such as Kuala Lumpur, Beijing or Kolkata – have a teeming energy, a depth of culture and human capital that strikes a traveller used to European cities. As well, any teacher in an Australian university works with international students from Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and China: all major destinations now for Australian travellers and researchers. Through students researching craft and textile histories, I learnt about the complexities of Japanese colonization of Taipei and Korea, of the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, and of the British in Malaysia.2 As we enter the ‘Asian Century’ there is an expectation that the centres of trade and economic activity will rebound from the old industrial economies of the West to the expanding East.3 The primary European and American focus and reference point for arts



practice in Australia is gradually shifting, so that inclusion in the Shanghai Biennale or a Seoul contemporary space can take precedence over Paris, London or New York, even though the cultural ties of language and history remain indissoluble.4

MIGRATION , DIASPORA AND MODERNITY Understanding the vibrancy of Asia Pacific textiles in the twenty-first century is helped by a brief history. Since 1788, English-speaking Australia has been formed by British settlers hungry for trade and land, and has traditionally looked to Europe and more recently the US as role models of cultural and artistic life. Interest in hand-made textiles in Australia around the 1950s began a great revival of craft helped by the impetus of the post-Second World War diaspora artists from central Europe. The flow of migration to Australia after 1945, and again after the Vietnam War (post 1972) and turbulence in China (1989) brought a new range of expression to Australian arts and especially textiles. For people leaving post-war Europe, culture was no longer a source of certainty but the place where diaspora, displacement and hybridity had become key factors of contemporary everyday life. The skilled craftswomen emigrating from Germany, Poland and Scandinavia such as Erica Semler, Ann Berney and Marcella Hempel became the teachers of the crafts revival movement in Australia in the 1970s, laying the foundations of textile skills and Bauhaus sensibilities towards material and function. For example, Solvig Baas Becking came to live in Canberra in the early 1960s from the Netherlands with professional Bauhaus weaving skills. In Victoria the establishment of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (now the Australian Tapestry Workshop) in 1976 led to the training and employment of many notable weavers who not only interpreted the designs of other artists with panache but also designed and wove their own pieces5 (see Chapter 28). Like so many significant Australian weavers of European origin, tapestry itself is an immigrant, coming from elsewhere to find new life in Australia. The leading tapestry artists Sara Lindsay and Valerie Kirk who came from the United Kingdom also became notable educators, as textile departments were set up in Australian universities from 1985. To train craftspeople before this time, the Crafts Council of Australia (established 1972) brought out well-known weavers from Europe, America and Japan who gave influential workshops to cater to the growing interest in tapestry and sculptural weaving. A series of conferences developed wide-ranging debate after the Melbourne International Tapestry Symposium of 1988, such as the crucial networking that took place at the tapestry conference Distant Lives/Shared Voices in 1992 at Lodz, Poland.6 The Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial was initiated by a group of weavers in rural New South Wales in 1974 to provide a space and discussion for the growing fibre movement in Australia through themed exhibitions. After nearly forty years of touring exhibitions, in 2011 the curator Patrick Snelling initiated the first Tamworth Textile Triennial and raised new issues for debate, asking ‘where does the textile discipline fit within an agenda of collaboration, cross-disciplinary practice and research?’ He postulated that textiles would flourish within an older model of small workshops, ‘only, in this century they are wi-fi connected, city based’ (Snelling 2011: 7). Tools, new materials, digital strategies are given weight by the conceptual force of textile’s ability to meld ideas and histories with emotion. Emigrating in the 1980s, Agnieszka Golda’s exploration of her childhood Polish village in the very different context of Australia highlights the distinctive force of her multidisciplinary textile-based art as part of a ‘sensography’, a terrain that explores both art



practice and the emotional, affective resonances it engenders. She explores the turbulence of the Polish cultural landscape with centuries of repressed imagery, including shamanic folk entities. Referring to the powerful art of Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz, Golda’s installations erupt into the clear light of Australia, contributing another twisting strand to contemporary textile history.

THEORETICAL VIEWING POSITIONS Since the mid-twentieth century Australian arts have shared the stirring ideas emerging from Europe and America that re-envisioned art histories through insights into language in semiotics, philosophy and anthropology. Previous certainties were shifted in the turbulence of postmodern debates, especially regarding the understanding of self and other. The struggle for women’s equity in education and the arts led to feminist interrogations of canonical histories and opened up different understandings of subjectivity. Textiles became a metaphor for intense personal lives, remembering that history is a web of subjectivities, or as Roland Barthes pointed out ‘historical’ in many cases can mean ‘hysterical’, related to the womb (Bronfen 1998: 148). Such a story as that told of my grandmother above became relevant in understanding the multiple strands of the postwar society. Re-cycling and re-presenting quilted and embroidered textiles through traditions of ‘making-do’ and as symbols of major transitions in family life allowed a rich development of textiles arts. A passionate engagement with local dyes and materials brought basket weaving and dyeing into prominence. The accessibility of textiles – a grassroots medium – became a field for exploring previously marginalized craft areas with sophistication and verve. Indigenous culture was slowly recognized as underpinning the fabric of Australian arts.7

TRADE AND LABOUR The strategic and highly conceptual work of Australian artist Narelle Jubelin (born 1960) opened up a postcolonial stance through the unlikely medium of petit point. It is important to mention Jubelin here because her radical use of textile received immediate recognition internationally. Living and working in Madrid in 2014, her consistent tactics are demonstrated in two 1992 pieces in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. A rendition of a detail of a Paisley shawl (that hybrid 1860 shawl from Scotland; see Plate 2.1), presented in an ornate Japanese frame, highlighted the reverberations that the long journeys of empire had on private lives and intimate objects (Sharrad 2004: 29). The representation of a hand-hemmed Tiwi linen cloth inversely reflected the effects of European sewing practices on Indigenous women. The focused intensity of the embroidery process mirrors her close scrutiny of the systems of trade and its hierarchies.8 The pain and loss in colonial histories of labour was the focus of Kay Lawrence’s embroidered and sewn installation No work for a white man (see McDougall, ‘A View from Elsewhere – A global stage: Curating textiles from the Asia Pacific’). Ruth McDougall described how this artist, who is emblematic of the development of textiles in Australia since 1970 has consistently worked to ‘expose western canonical views of history to enable other voices to be heard’ (McDougall 2012: 15). The shining trousers presented in this installation came from seeing the rough trousers made of blankets that Asian or Aboriginal divers wore for warmth beneath the diving suit. The pearl buttons sewn on to



them are heavy as water, inhibiting movement, forcing slowness and stillness on the wearer. By contrast, the white cotton suit hung nearby was worn by the white pearl traders and would have been light and airy to wear. John Puhiatau Pule, the remarkable artist and poet from the Pacific Island of Niue, described a black suit he was given on the occasion of confirmation by his father. ‘That day when I first tried the suit on I felt the early stages of infinite struggles . . . The suit. It had become an act of process to show that I had been successfully changed . . .’ (Pule 2007: 97–99).

POSTCOLONIALISM As demonstrated in the work of Jubelin and Lawrence, questioning the frequently violent histories of colonization of subject peoples of the former British Empire, and especially relationships to Indigenous Australians has become a core concern in Australian contemporary art since the 1980s. A postcolonial approach is associated with ideas of multiplicity and even incommensurable differences in human experience, rather than a universal idea of human nature. People dominated by colonial powers may use the language and techniques imposed on them but continue to change and adapt their own local and specific experience as is seen in contemporary textiles from many backgrounds within the vast region. The influence of Christianity in early and remote Australia and Oceania instigated the culture of sewing cotton cloth, introduced by the missionaries. Christianity and clothing were part of the ‘civilizing mission’ of Europe in ‘benighted’ parts of the globe, and they were implicated in the regional dynamic of trade and power negotiation. To dress in a suit, as John Pule puts it, was to change to the new order. Missionization, points out Graeme Were, had a significant impact on the material culture of Papua New Guinea and New Ireland. The establishment of Christian mission stations from 1875 onwards led to the widespread availability and adopting of trade cloth and second-hand clothing for utilitarian as well as ritual purposes (Were 2005). In the Cook Islands, and also in Tahiti and Hawai’i, mission sewing circles ‘translated’ old tapa (bark fibre) bed coverings into a particular Island style of quilting using leaf designs and Western patchwork models. These quilted tivaevae serve as personal ‘poems’, decorative wall hangings and items of ritual exchange, documenting group histories of migration. Their vivid colour and bold design are signs of continuing inventiveness linking the many Pacific communities in cities around the globe (Sharrad 2004: 15–18). The Pacific scholar Teresia Teaiwa sees textiles as precious because ‘they constitute imaginative moments of marking and honouring historical events’, and are ‘a powerful resistance to globalizing forces’ (Teaiwa 2006: 176). The anthropological perspective put forward in Graeme Were’s ‘Reviving Kapiak: Exploring the Material Identity of Barkcloth in a Melanesian Society’ (Chapter 27), demonstrates that the relationships between materials and objects can be comprehended as technologies for re-making the local in the changing world of Melanesia. Such reinventions allow persons to enact new forms of individualized agency in the world. His chapter shows how complex environments of cloth and textiles connect materials to objects, events and people through the new relations that emerge with modernity and the global flow of materials enabling and explaining innovation and change in a region. The search for new materials may involve the process of reimagining and reclaiming ‘old’ materials, parallel to the strategies of contemporary textile arts of Australia. Margie West, in ‘Yuta Djama: Innovation in Australian Indigenous Fibre’ (Chapter 19), unfolds dynamic new inventions in fibre within the changing contexts of Indigenous



communities, tracking the revival of fibre in small-scale Australian economies since 1990 and its close interaction with new viewers. She illuminates how almost defunct customary forms are not only reinterpreted, but also developed into completely new genres that have a strong performative and ritual presence. While a pervasive grounding of art as part of country still holds the force of tradition, artists invent freely with unexpected materials to explore new ways of being. From southern Australia Auntie Julie Freeman spoke at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2014 about the importance of objects such as hand axes and baskets giving evidence of ancestry and belonging to land: she indicated that baskets were made with a hole in the bottom formed from reeds around the finger, which held in its very DNA the memory of how the ancestors made them. Such objects have instrumentality and agency in shaping the present. Textiles were an essential factor in the great imperial flow of trade across and between the countries of South-east Asia – India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia to Australia. Dr June Ngo Siok Kheng (Universiti Sarawak, Malaysia) makes a detailed analysis of the trajectory of a prized cloth in ‘Transforming Malaysian Handwoven Songket in the Contemporary World’ (Chapter 14). Her discussion touches on those same issues that face not only small-scale communities in Papua New Guinea or Central Australia but also the complex ethnicities of Malaysian societies. How can longstanding textile traditions that are embedded in religious and social meaning survive and flourish? The Malaysian Peninsula (known as aurea chersonisus, or ‘golden leaf ’ by the cartographer Pliny in the first century CE ) has been a fulcrum for international trade and influences between India, China and Indonesia, adopting and changing an array of imported textiles and textile tools from as far away as Europe (Jamal 2007: 50). Ngo postulates that technical innovation in songket must also re-vitalize systems of meaning for precious woven cloth. Resolving issues of tradition and modernity is crucial too in present-day India. Professor Smritikumar Sarkar in ‘Indigo Dyeing in the Land of its Origin: History Unknown’ (Chapter 25) locates the primordial dyer and indigo dye in the land of their origin, India. He asks how were the indigo craft skills transmitted across continents and high seas? Why are they associated everywhere with magic and sorcery, notwithstanding the diversity of culture? Sarkar investigates these wide parameters through his unstinting persistence into the vast West Bengali archives of Kolkata (Calcutta) and fieldwork with indigo dyers and weavers who are reinventing themselves in contemporary Asia. His previous research into technology and rural change in India has uncovered the real folkloric impact of British imperial industrial technologies and railway transport on the Indian village, which often led to the disempowerment of the artisan (Sarkar 2013).

THE CURATORIAL TURN TO ASIA An illuminating force in bringing to light the cultural interweaving of the Asia-Pacific region was the initiative by director Doug Hall and the then premier of Queensland Wayne Goss to establish the Asia-Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery, with the first exhibition happening in 1993. ‘The Asia-Pacific Triennial’ wrote Suhanya Raffel in 2013 ‘is a recurrent exhibition of contemporary art that is defined by the geography of Asia and the Pacific, a sometimes nebulous geo-political construct with shifting borders and ethnicities’ (Raffel 2012: 29). The Triennial has become one of the most astonishing events in the Australian art calendar, uncovering with immense vitality the richness and sophistication of the region. One such reality in the Asia-Pacific is an emphasis on communal tradition. Vilsoni Hereniko, a Pacific arts writer for APT 2006, saw a new



Oceania emerging free of the shackles of colonialism, recognizing a common heritage across the artificial boundaries set up by Western scholars of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia (Hereniko 2006: 32). Ruth McDougall, curator, in ‘A View from Elsewhere: A Global Stage—Curating Textiles from the Asia Pacific’ (Chapter 21) explores how textiles have been included as vital contemporary artworks that underpin culture in the Asia-Pacific Triennial (APT ) as well as in survey exhibitions. Moving away from a European museum legacy to embrace a variety of curatorial strategies and engaging with collaborations with Asia has led to a rare permanent collection of contemporary Asia-Pacific art lodged in Brisbane. The cultural theorist Ross Gibson proposed a distinctive feature of Asia-Pacific arts as being relational as well as material, noting how ‘feelings and relationships were shared by those participating in the artwork’ with a collaborative ‘generosity and ingenuity’ (Gibson 2006: 19). In another curatorial turn, Professor Jasleen Dhamija from India in ‘Changing Perceptions of Curatorial Practice in South Asian and Commonwealth Textiles’ (Chapter 12) describes key exhibitions of South Asian textiles that emphasize not only the past richness of textile histories, but also the creation of a new thinking in fabrics in sometimes unexpected ways. The core concern of Australian curators Suzanne Davies and Robyn Maxwell was to work together with Jasleen Dhamija to highlight the intricate political, social and religious implications of textiles across the countries of the British Commonwealth. Their work deals largely in significant collections of historical (and anonymous) textiles, yet the ferment of contemporary making pivots on these histories. Like Smritikumar Sarkar, Jasleen Dhamija points out that the ‘progress’ of textiles from hand-made to machine-made can be reversed. In contrast to Western industrial societies, there may be a reversion of technology from mill-made to handspun. All the Asia-Pacific contributors to the Handbook understand that the past may be re-imagined and re-presented; that rather than a linear progression of technologies from simple to complex, there may be a circular movement. The curators Shi Hui and Xu Jia in the chapter ‘Envisioning Fibre in the Cultural Heritage of Hangzhou, China’ have described the fabric connections through Chinese silk and trade to Europe, and the ancient importance of textile techniques that underpinned the prosperity of former societies and are now resurging in contemporary China. Chinese silk reached as far as Cyprus along the Silk Route: hanks were unravelled and re-spun in Antioch to make elaborate funerary cloths in the Late Roman Empire, as I have touched on in the exploration of the archaeological textile archive (Wood Conroy, Chapter 9 in this Handbook). From my own perspective (imaginatively standing again on the shores of that northern Australian island) I realize that, instructed by Indigenous friends, the intricacies of the views from the Asia-Pacific have propelled me into time as well as space, back to search out ancestral roots of textile and text in Europe while simultaneously working with the interwoven realities of the present.


The textile artists of Australia are well documented in Matthew Koumis’s (2007) Art Textiles of the World series, which recognized the outstanding contributions of Beth Hatton, Greg Leong, Sara Lindsay, Rosemary O’Rourke, Jane Whiteley, Liz Williamson among many others. Kay Lawrence and Valerie Kirk each had a Telos Monograph. Textile Fibre Forum has documented the trajectory of all genres of Australian textiles since the



1980s. The dedicated ‘grass-roots’ practitioners of textile techniques and processes have their own guilds and journals, and make stands at agricultural shows and regional galleries throughout Australia, now including many immigrant traditions from Asia and the Middle East. 2.

Some of these remarkable graduates provided links to their countries: in 1993 the University of Wollongong curated the first major Australian exhibition to the Fine Art Museum of Taipei, Taiwan, with a return exhibition of Taiwanese art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Identities: Art from Australia curated by Deborah Hart. Marianne Hulsbosch, Pointy Shoes and Pith Helmets: Dress and Identity Construction in Ambon 1852–1952 (PhD manuscript). Marianne Hulsbosch (senior editor), Elizabeth Bedford and Martha Chaiklin (eds). 2009. Asian Material Culture, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.


The new emigrants to Australia in the twenty-first century come increasingly from war-torn countries in Asia, Africa: Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia; and the issue of asylum seekers and boat people struggling still to cross the seas in the traditional way to Australia remains fraught.


‘The 21st century will be the first in several hundred years where the importance of the trans-Atlantic will shift to the significance of the trans-Pacific, as the centre for geopolitics and geoeconomics moves from Europe to Asia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. . . . Asia is the engine room of global growth’, wrote Andrea Haefner and Professor Andrew O’Neill in ‘Understanding the Significance of the Asian Century’, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University. (accessed 6 August 2014).


See Walker (2000) and Wood Conroy (1994).


Each artist received $7,000 from the Australia Council for the Arts to travel in Europe and attend the conference. Reports by Diana Wood Conroy on Distant Lives/Shared Voices: ‘Distant Lives/Shared Voices: A Report’, International Tapestry Newsletter (published in the USA ) Fall Issue 1992, 3(3), pp. 3–10; ‘Tapestry: Signs and Histories’, Object, Spring, 1992, pp. 24–28; ‘Re: Distant Lives/Shared Voices, Lodz, Poland, June 21–28, 1992’, Textile Fibreforum, 11(35), 1992, pp. 20–21.


For the early history of textiles in Australia, see Cochrane (1992).


The two pieces were exhibited in the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow in an installation called Dead Slow, and in the Sydney Biennale of 1992/93. The title Dead Slow comes from traffic notices around ports and is the last category before ‘Stop’ on the steering wheels of P&O liners. For recent work, see Jubelin (2013).

REFERENCES Bronfen, Elizabeth. 1998. The Knotted Subject: Hysteria and its Discontents. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press. Carter, Paul. 1998. The Promise of Fruit [Catalogue essay]. South Australia: North Adelaide School of Art Gallery, 13 May–4 June. Cochrane, Grace. 1992. The Crafts Movement in Australia: A History. Kensington, Sydney: New South Wales University Press. Frick, Erin. 2014. ‘The planet of 100’. Australian Geographic, Vol. 121: July–August. Gibson, Ross. 2006. ‘Aesthetic Politics: How Political Art Works Best’. In Lynne Seear and Suhanya Raffel (eds), The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery Publishing: 16–23. Hereniko, Vilsoni. 2006. ‘Dancing Oceania’. In Lynne Seear and Suhanya Raffel (eds), The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery Publishing.



Jamal, Datuk Syed Ahmad. 2007. (Vol. ed.). Crafts and the Visual Arts: The Encyclopaedia of Malaysia Volume 14. Kuala Lumpur: Editions Didier Millet. Jubelin, Narelle. 2013. Plantas e Plantas: Plants and Plans. Portugal: Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian. Koumis, Matthew (ed). 2007. Art Textiles of the World: Australia (Vol. 2). Brighton: Telos Art Publishing. McDougall, Ruth. 2012. ‘Threads that Connect and Unravel’ in Threads: Contemporary Textiles and the Social Fabric. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art: 11–20. Raffel, S. (ed). 2012. APT7: The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art [exhibition catalogue], 8 December 2012–4 April 2013, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art. Pule, John Puhiatau. 2007. News from Islands [Catalogue of exhibition curated by Aaron Seeto]. Campbelltown, NSW: Campbelltown Regional Gallery: 97–99. Sarkar, Smritikumar. 2013. Technology and Rural Change in India: 1830–1980, Delhi, India: Oxford University Press. Sharrad, Paul. 2004. ‘Trade and Textiles in the Pacific and India’, in Fabrics of Change: Trading Identities [Exhibition catalogue]. Wollongong: Faculty of Creative Arts: 12–25. Snelling, Patrick. 2011. Sensorial Loop: 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial 2011. Tamworth: Tamworth Regional Gallery. Teaiwa, Teresia. 2006. ‘Keeping Faith and the Nation: Pacific Textiles’ in Lynne Seear and Suhanya Raffel (eds), The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery Publishing. Thomas, Nicholas. 2006. ‘Our History is Written in Our Mats’. In Lynne Seear and Suhanya Raffel (eds), 2006. The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery Publishing: 24–31. Walker, Sue (ed). 2000. Modern Australian Tapestries from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. Melbourne: Beagle Press for the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. Were, Graeme 2005. ‘Pattern, Efficacy and Enterprise: On Fabricating Connections in Melanesia’, in S. Kuechler and Daniel Miller (eds), Clothing as Material Culture. Oxford: Berg: 159–174. Wood Conroy, Diana. 1994. Texts from the Edge: Tapestry and Identity in Australia (Adelaide Jam Factory and three other venues in Australia), in Jessica Hemmings (ed), The Textile Reader. 2012. Oxford: Berg.




A public and critical success, the exhibition The Stuff That Matters: Textiles Collected by Seth Siegelaub for the Centre for Social Research on Old Textiles at the non-profit art centre Raven Row in London, presented the collection of historic textiles assembled by the American exhibition organizer, publisher and bibliographer Seth Siegelaub (1941–2013) over a period of thirty years.1 Curated by Raven Row’s Alice Motard and Alex Sainsbury together with the French scholar Sara Martinetti, it was the first exhibition to focus on a lesser-known activity of the man who is famous for his pivotal role in the emergence of Conceptual Art at the turn of the 1970s.2 Between 1968 and 1971, after running a short-lived gallery in New York in the mid1960s, Siegelaub organized a series of 21 art exhibitions in innovative formats, among which Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Lawrence Weiner (commonly called the Xerox Book), January 5–31, 1969, and July, August, September 1969. Juillet, Août, Septembre 1969. Juli, August, September 1969,3 in which the catalogue was the exhibition and no longer referred to anything else beyond itself. In 1972 Siegelaub left the art world and moved to the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet, where he collected, compiled and published leftist books on communication and culture, which formed the basis of his International Mass Media Research Center (IMMRC). In 1986 he founded the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (CSROT) to conduct research on the social history of hand-woven textiles and bring together his growing collection, a library and a bibliographic project on textiles. The latter, titled Bibliographica Textilia Historiæ and published as a book in 1997, has since grown as an online database to over 9,000 entries.4 § Exploring a widely overlooked aspect of Siegelaub’s career, The Stuff That Matters included more than 200 items from a collection of 650. Woven and printed textiles, embroideries and garments as well as barkcloth and headdresses were shown alongside excerpts from relevant texts and books from the CSROT Library explicating their technological, aesthetic, social and political context, while highlighting that the collection was part of a wider bibliographic project (see Plate 3.1). 35



The exhibition furthermore reflected on the historic and geographic context of Raven Row. In the mid-eighteenth century, the two adjacent buildings in which it is housed were converted by two Huguenot mercers, Francis Rybot and Nicholas Jourdain, into shops selling silk woven in the surrounding Spitalfields district. In 1766, an import ban on foreign woven silk spurred the development of a lucrative textile industry in this part of London’s East End. At the end of this embargo in 1824, this ban together with other factors led to the collapse of the trade, leaving the area to fall into poverty – until its proximity to the burgeoning financial services district allowed it to prosper again in recent times. It was this historic background, among others, that prompted Raven Row’s curators to approach Siegelaub with an invitation to present a selection from his textile collection when he and his long-time partner Marja Bloem first visited the venue in summer 2010. From their discussions, it appeared that he had never considered exhibiting the collection (nor, incidentally, had he ever been asked to do so), but rather saw this part of his work as a pleasurable and instructive extension of his overarching bibliographic endeavour. Curating an exhibition around a series of uncatalogued historic textiles called for a methodical approach: familiarizing with the objects in the collection with the help of photographs, arranging a series of meetings in Amsterdam, where Siegelaub had been living since 1989, and, last but not least, tackling the considerable task of making an inventory of the collection.5 This in turn involved finding a workshop to store the textiles and hiring the conservator and restorer Emmy de Groot. To ensure sufficient knowledge was applied at each stage, Raven Row asked Martinetti, an expert in textiles who was starting a PhD thesis that embraces all aspects of Siegelaub’s career, to join the curatorial team. Still, it was to be expected that Siegelaub – the man who had revolutionized exhibition-making and provided the blueprint for the figure of the contemporary curator – would want more than just a say in the project. But it soon became clear that he would take a back seat, perpetuating a deontological attitude that characterized his later conceptual projects such as the ‘catalogue-exhibition’ 18 Paris IV.70 and July/August Exhibition Book. Juillet/Août Exposition Livre. Juli/August Ausstellung Buch, an exhibition that took place in the pages of Studio International,6 in which he delegated responsibility and authority to others. § The challenge posed by the exhibition, properly speaking, was to find a way to present the textiles in an engaging way. It was clear to the curators that the demands of exhibiting fabrics differed sensibly from those they usually encountered in their dealings with contemporary artworks. With the history of textile displays and the methodologies of collecting in mind, they developed a series of exhibition scenarios that would bring to life these pieces of cloth – providing historical context, highlighting connections to the realms of commerce and politics, illuminating their domestic use, or simply calling attention to their owner’s humour. Most importantly, they sought to reiterate the main divisions as well as the conspicuous eclecticism of the collection by adopting varying approaches to display. The selection of exhibits and their distribution across the four floors at Raven Row therefore closely reflected the nature of the collection, as regards both the quantity and quality of objects it contains. The checklist was completed less than four months before the start of the exhibition, which left just about enough time for the firm of 6a architects to design and commission the production of display furniture according to a very specific curatorial brief.7



The main gallery space featured European (mostly Italian and French) velvets and damasks from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century, displayed horizontally on large tables that visitors approached from an elevated position and whose height had been designed to allow for a close-up inspection of the exhibits. These fragments, most of which were bought at flea markets and in auction houses in Paris during the 1980s, form the bulk of the collection. Their presentation in the exhibition emphasized the material refinement of woven silk, a fact also pointed out by the accompanying etymological and historic considerations on different types of luxury textiles and clothing quoted from Recherches sur le commerce, la fabrication et l’usage des étoffes de soie, d’or et d’argent et autres tissus précieux en Occident, principalement en France, pendant le Moyen Âge (1852/54) by the nineteenth-century scholar Xavier Francisque-Michel. The book was a crucial reference for Siegelaub in the literature on textiles and which he reprinted as a facsimile in 2001 through his publishing house International General.8 Like islands on a map, the items were arranged by shape and/or colour (from warm to cold colours over two tables), technique and texture (textiles with gold, silver or metallic threads on the third table) or pattern (fragments with pomegranate motifs in various styles on the fourth table). Facing each other, shown upside down or inside out, they were connected by a web of dynamic relations such as the continuation of patterns across different items or the changing reflections of light on the fabric (damask, specifically) as spectators moved around the tables. This horizontal display was echoed by a vertical presentation in the adjacent gallery of more recently acquired headdresses from Africa, Asia and Oceania ranging from simple hats for daily wear to elaborate designs for ceremonial purposes. This distinct part of the collection was assembled by Siegelaub and Bloem on their travels. Siegelaub considered them as textiles because of the materials and processes used to manufacture them, evidencing the boundless technical and aesthetic possibilities of textile fibres. The headdresses were displayed on slender, human-sized poles peaking at different heights to form a “forest” of hats that visitors discovered as they walked around it. The first-floor galleries provided a “museological” context for ancient and archaeological textiles, most notably fifth-century Coptic, late-medieval Asian and Islamic, and PreColumbian Peruvian textiles. The items in this section were shown alongside three editions of Polydore Vergil’s De Inventoribus Rerum (1503), described by Siegelaub as ‘a scholarly encyclopaedic compilation of texts’, which is not only ‘the first attempt to outline the history of the origin of textile fibers, weaving, dyeing & clothing etc’,9 but also the oldest book in the CSROT Library. This book, more than any other, bears testimony to Siegelaub’s bibliographic research and expertise on the history of books and their material conditions: seeking to acquire the first edition, but grappling with the complexities of literary production and distribution in the Renaissance, he eventually bought various editions.10 The section on the second floor disregarded chronology and categories to concentrate on creating ‘textile environments’. Rybot’s former bedroom accommodated objects that alluded to the different purposes of fabrics – domestic (upholstered chairs), decorative and representative (framed textile fragment above the fireplace, textile samples) and recreational (gambling purse, candy box) – and was followed by an immersive double room covered in African barkcloth panels – a set-up vaguely inspired by Giuseppe Penone’s Sculture di linfa (2007) – and featuring a large tapa from Papua New Guinea. The display incorporated various other tapa objects from Oceania, including a mask, sashes and hats, which illustrated the different shapes and uses of fibre fabrics for architecture, clothing, exchange and ceremonies.



A further element, that was taken into account in the distribution of the exhibits, was the original use of some of the galleries. The bespoke display counters of Jourdain’s shop on the ground floor, for instance, housed a collection of eighteenth-century French and continental silks. More generally, this gallery addressed the industrial history of London’s Spitalfields district by means of a timeline of parliamentary acts regulating the production and consumption of silk throughout the eighteenth century, including the various Spitalfields Acts issued between 1773 and 1811 in an attempt to regulate the local silk weavers’ wages and protect their trade. The display also hinted at the main commissioners of silk vestments, most notably through a number of ecclesiastical garments from the collection. Historic chasubles were displayed on rails, as though on sale in a trendy church apparel shop, and complemented by offcuts on tables waiting to be sewn together by an imaginary tailor. This part of the exhibition illustrated Siegelaub’s idea of textiles as a means to weave together ‘the history of fibers and cloth, such as wool, cotton, linen, etc., as well as the history of fine, luxury, decorative textiles, such as silk; the fine art of weaving as well as weaving as an industry and object of trade; the technology of textiles as well as its aesthetic, “fine art” aspects; i.e. the social-economic-practical aspects along with the artistic, decorative and beautiful aspects’.11 Under the guise of an eighteenth-century shop advertising the latest exotic designs and techniques, such as the chiné à la branche,12 it examined the commerce of goods, the privileges and distinctions that dictate aesthetic choices, and the encyclopaedic compilation of technological knowledge and inventions; in other words, the political and financial interests governing the circulation of textiles, thereby mirroring Voltaire’s expression of ‘the commerce of thoughts’ in a letter from 1765: ‘I am currently looking for ways to get some rather curious books to you that were sent to me from Holland. The commerce of thoughts is somewhat interrupted in France. It is even said that it is forbidden to send ideas from Lyon to Paris. The manufactures of the human mind are seized like forbidden fabrics.’13 In an ironic twist of history, this gallery was now showcasing the very type of fabric – foreign silk – that was then banned from import, allowing the former shop to thrive. Similarly, the antechamber to the master bedroom on the second floor hosted a display referred to by the curators as La Lingère, after the eighteenth-century book L’art de la lingère by François-Alexandre-Pierre de Garsault (also shown), the French word denoting both a laundry maid and a linen cupboard.14 This space, which might have been a dressing room, contained what could be likened to the contents of a trousseau (the clothes, linen and such given to a bride as a wedding present) such as embroidered items for domestic use, displayed alongside rare sixteenth-, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century pattern books. It featured a mix of textiles from various geographical and historic provenances, but mostly white in colour and delicate, which provided an opportunity to combine different types of display, with items hanging from rails and stretched out or rolled up on shelves. Like most exhibits in the show, they were left uncovered (i.e. unprotected), emphasizing one of the most noticeable and often remarked-upon aspects of the exhibition alongside the physical closeness this arrangement permitted. § On a theoretical level, the exhibition was informed by a consideration of Siegelaub’s prolific and polymorphic career starting from his work as a promoter of Conceptual Art. Without presenting ‘conceptual’ evidence per se – a task left to the catalogue15 – the exhibition could be read in the wider context of a re-examination of the art of the 1960s



and 1970s, more specifically the supposed ‘dematerialization of art’ posited by Lucy Lippard and John Chandler in their eponymous essay in 1968.16 It did so by inviting visitors to consider not only the materiality but also the specific methodology of conceptual things. Seen under this angle, the three chairs in the master bedroom on the second floor, for instance, could be read as a nod to Joseph Kosuth’s iconic One and Three Chairs (1965), which reunited the object with its photographic representation and its lexical definition – a reference that underlined the historical and technical connections between text and textile. The chairs furthermore served as ‘display devices’ for three fragments of so-called Utrecht velvet, an industrial fabric produced in nineteenth-century France from cotton. Its pattern is embossed, as opposed to genuine velvet, where the motif is obtained through the weaving process itself. More generally, the similitude of weaving and printing techniques appears to have played a decisive role in the aesthetic and economic history of Europe. Indeed, printing techniques were seen as a cheap means to imitate expensive fabrics – when they did not start a fashion in their own right, such as floral indienne. The exhibition hinted at this ambiguity by putting the mock velvets in dialogue with another reference from the CSROT Library, a plate from Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie that illustrates and explains the embossing technique used in eighteenth-century textile production – a process that bears a striking resemblance to book printing.17 By doing so, it insinuated that these different yet related techniques – weaving, printing, embossing – are essentially methods to inscribe ideas into matter. This cross-disciplinary approach, which was directly inspired by Siegelaub’s working method, was instrumental in evidencing that technologies, inventions and manufactures are part of a shared material culture. As a matter of fact, Siegelaub’s continuous interest for ‘ideas’ throughout his careers as editor, documentalist, collector, bibliographer and archivist runs counter to purely conceptual or linguistic conceptions of art. Indeed, the textile collection, as an integral part of his intellectual work, encourages viewers to reflect on the materiality of concepts; conversely, the new forms of artistic dissemination and mediation he developed in collaboration with artists can shed new light on the status of textiles as objects of exchange that materialize and encompass ideas of networking, economy, politics and technology. The entrance space of the gallery accommodated an office desk, bookcases, a pile of catalogues, a table and chairs, handwritten inventory notes and a bibliographic database that could be consulted on a tablet – material traces of Seth’s working methods as CSROT’s director. In hindsight, one notices a remarkable similarity between the items in this room and Siegelaub’s arrangement for the exhibition January 5–31, 1969, organized in a rented office in the McLendon Building on 52nd Street in New York. Beyond the ‘aesthetic of administration’ noted by the art critic Benjamin Buchloh,18 Siegelaub’s career, its heterogeneity and continuity, can only be fully acknowledged in light of the history of intellectual technologies and writing methods. Not surprisingly, Robert Morris’s card files, Mel Bochner’s ring binders, Ed Ruscha’s photographic inventories, Robert Barry’s lists, On Kawara’s ‘countdowns’, or Art & Language’s indexes resonate with the bibliographic and research-based practice developed by Siegelaub in his early publications and culminating in his work in the realm of textiles. The key, therefore, to this reading of The Stuff That Matters was Siegelaub’s bibliographic magnum opus and reference book Bibliographica Textilia Historiæ. The textile fragment from the collection that illustrates its cover is a telling choice in more than one respect, as Siegelaub recognized in it the outline of a map of Europe from the UK to the Mediterranean. The display case in the entrance space brought together two



further maps: the planisphere on the previously mentioned catalogue of the Summer Show and the map of the Americas forming the face of Scrooge McDuck on the cover of Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart’s bestseller How to Read Donald Duck (Para leer al Pato Donald, 1971), which Siegelaub was the first to publish in English.19 The map thus appeared as a typical Siegelaubian feature, ‘the fragmentary representation of the contents emerging on the surface of oceans yet to be explored’.20 § Nothing Personal . . . An Interview with Seth Siegelaub The following conversation – here reprinted in an abridged version – took place at Raven Row on 28 November 2011, three months before The Stuff That Matters opened to the public. Siegelaub, who died unexpectedly in June 2013, situates his textile collection in a much wider framework, the extent of which is yet to be appraised. SETH SIEGELAUB: Off we go, home James, and don’t spare the horses. ALICE MOTARD: How did your interest in textiles come about? SETH SIEGELAUB: My interest in textiles? If you’re talking about a date, as opposed to some mystical inspiration . . . ALEX SAINSBURY: Possibly mystical inspiration as well . . . SS: I don’t recall anything dramatic in my life. I mean I didn’t rip my mother’s dress while breast-feeding or anything like that. Although I have a picture of me with a piece of lace when I was maybe two months old. AS: Well, was there a more practical starting point? SS: Yes, the practical starting point was probably in the early sixties in New York, when I started to look specifically at rugs, which was more or less coincident with my early experience in the art world. I wouldn’t call these complementary by any means, but I think chronologically, it was at the same time. AM: Did you own these rugs? SS: No. I did try to buy rugs, but due to lack of money and also experience, I didn’t make any serious effort. Much of that interest moved from actual rugs to books about rugs, which is what I really concentrated on and which at that time was more accessible, more practical, and probably more interesting – because you feel you are developing your expertise and your knowledge about certain things. In the case of rugs, it is to understand the history; how they looked or were used since antiquity. Methodologically that appealed to me more. Also there’s absolutely no pretence to have every possible kind of textile in the world, but with books you can still have the illusion of finding every possible book on Coptic, Iranian or Islamic textiles and so on. So this seemed like a much more rational thing to do. Books also required less care, and were quite beautiful in their own right.



AM: Is it through this channel that you got to meet your future business partner, Robert Gaile? SS: Yes, Bob Gaile worked for a small rug dealer in New York on Sixth Avenue, and we got on fairly well. He had experience in the carpet business, and was also a jazz pianist. As strange as it may seem, I was sort of the rich backer, in that I had the five hundred dollars or something that he didn’t have, and he had the experience in identifying rugs and knowing their value to collectors and buyers, and so we put it together. AM: So when you started your art gallery in 1964,21 was Robert Gaile part of it? SS: Not directly. He was only part of the rug-dealing attempt, a part of which was shown at the gallery. AM: In the first chapter of his book Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity Alexander Alberro describes how your gallery dealt not only in fine art but also in oriental rugs, which would have been through this partnership with Robert Gaile. He speaks about the rugs being sometimes incorporated into shows. He writes: ‘This coupling provided the dealer an appropriate setting to project the image of the art collector as a highly cultured individual surrounded by refined objects’. Was that what you had in mind? SS: Not exactly. He gives me too much credit for thinking ‘strategically’ about collecting, which was not the case; it was more like a possible combination. AM: So the rugs and the art were well exhibited together? SS: Yes, they were definitely shown at the same time. Probably because at the beginning I didn’t do any one-person shows, just group shows. So I was just looking at artists, consigning works, putting them on the walls, and trying to be an art dealer, whatever that meant to me when I was 23 years old. AS: But you’d regard that coupling as a coincidence? SS: Well, not a coincidence in the sense that we definitely showed oriental rugs at the same time as we were running an art gallery. If I recall, the rugs were put on moveable panels and there may have been three or four rugs up there at a time. Unfortunately I do not have any photographic record. There was even a sign on the door that said ‘Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art’ as well as ‘Oriental Rugs’, in a scroll-like hand. It is now in my archives, which I gave to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was our intention to do both at the same time, but after a few months, I stopped doing the Oriental rugs. It probably didn’t look right, and it was a focus that didn’t help. We also weren’t making any money either so it stopped. AS: In the following years, after you closed the gallery,22 you became a pioneer of an art that was of the least material kind. SS: Yes.



AS: And then you moved into the examination of textiles, which by their very nature are material. SS: When you say ‘moved into’, do you mean fifteen years later? There was a period in between, which I wouldn’t exactly call a ‘transitional period’ because it had a life and character of its own. It introduced me to the theory and practice of bibliographic work, and more generally to political culture. The art world is of course less directly affected by political or ideological struggles or questions. I think my interest in textile history coming out of this experience in political research seems perfectly logical. Yes, if I evolved directly from Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner or Carl Andre into textiles that would be a far-fetched and dramatic jump. Of course you can change girlfriends or boyfriends from one day to the next, so it’s not impossible, but it doesn’t have the same logic that it has, to my mind, coming out of political research. AM: Actually, that was exactly the question I was about to ask. Was it via politics that you got back into textiles? SS: Yes, it was definitely a factor. Although I’m constantly trying to figure out textile collecting, being about as bourgeois and ‘apolitical’ as you can imagine. I’ve always had a hard time understanding textile collecting. I can justify and understand doing bibliographic research on the history of textiles, which is a social and cultural and eventually political practice, but I’ve never been able to fit this logic into textile buying. Even today, when I continue to put so much more emphasis on book collecting than textile collecting I have a very clear intention to work and develop a library. It is not only just possessing books in a materialistic or selfish way but it’s also about making a bibliography, which is a social activity, providing access to this material via our internet database and presenting an understanding about textiles in economics or social life or amongst the different classes, and all sorts of other things. So I have a more or less clear political, social vision in collecting books and working with books on textiles. But on textiles themselves I have no such vision. Maybe one day I will understand this better. AM: But that’s all about disseminating knowledge in a way? SS: Yes, it is. But that could mean anything too. I’m sure the worst collector or art dealer thinks he or she is doing that. You’re talking about collecting? AM: I’m talking about this strategy that you have, the same that you have adopted for politics as well as for textiles, which consists of mapping a subject through its bibliography. SS: Yes, but it doesn’t relate to collecting textiles. I mean, I really don’t think I have the experience or the knowledge in that area to say that I’m doing any important, critical analytical research. I can’t see myself having that level of knowledge. Whereas for books, I know a lot about textile books, probably more than anybody. But I have no such pretension about my knowledge of textiles as physical objects. AM: In the eighties were you collecting books about textiles, and textiles, at the same time?



SS: In the early, mid-eighties when I re-started, I thought collecting textiles complemented the collecting of books about textiles. But I had no intention of collecting textiles comprehensively. The emphasis was on books, and I might say continues to be on books because I’m still fascinated by that history. I mean, I’m really into books; textiles were a subsidiary interest to the textile history. AS: Could this be somehow compared to your approach to book production when you were active in the art world, i.e. how you found a way to make the book (which is normally the secondary information about an artwork), the primary information, or even the artwork itself? I wonder in what way this strategy relates to your collecting books about textiles, which is also a larger project than your textile collecting? SS: In the art context at that time the emergence of a new type of art called for a new, different type of presentation, and in that sense we are speaking about the book as a primary work; as a primary vehicle for showing art or for communicating art. In the case of my textile research, the bibliography is basically about documenting the history of how the ‘West’ i.e. Europe or European language civilizations, thought about textiles, from whenever books first started to be produced, probably in the early sixteenth century. My job – my self-created job – is to find these books, describe them and to try and put them into relationship with one another. I wouldn’t even call it collecting. It’s a much different kind of research than just arbitrarily buying or not buying certain textiles. AS: Did factors such as the availability of particular kinds of textiles at a certain moment play a role in your approach to textile collecting? SS: Absolutely. I bought certain kinds of silk and velvet textiles, especially Italian, in France because that’s what I was seeing. However, there were also many others types of textiles, including Coptic, Islamic and African, etc. Then going to Belgium and looking there, I suddenly got struck by African textiles. Previously I hadn’t wanted to get too involved with African textiles, although I recognized their beauty. But then I began to see many of them and said, ‘these are great, why don’t I get involved with collecting them?’, which is what I did, but only on a small scale. Even now, out of 650 items – with the exception of the African barkcloths – I don’t think the CSROT owns twenty woven textiles from Africa. And later, after numerous visits to the Pacific region, I began to look at tapa from Oceania. The range of material has greatly opened up. Also my interests and knowledge are perhaps being pushed to other new areas. Frankly, I don’t see many sixteenth- or seventeenth-century velvets anymore. The CSROT has a very good collection, I must admit. It’s probably a good small museum collection. That’s what I liked at the time, and I really found them to be extraordinarily beautiful, which I still do. But that’s also what I was seeing around me which I could afford, so that’s what I bought. AS: What kind of pleasure do you take from collecting textiles? SS: Oh, I love it. AS: Is it a different kind of pleasure to that of creating a bibliography? SS: It’s really difficult to say. There’s always the egotistical pleasure of possession.



AS: A different kind of a possession to owning a book? SS: Yes. I don’t know if it’s that different really, but it is impressive to have 7,200 volumes on the history of textiles, that’s very impressive. But it’s also – as Alice pointed out – about sharing this material too. So in other words, these textiles are now coming out from under our beds, our basements and warehouse, and this exhibition provides a means to share them. I’m very happy to do that, but I can’t really say that’s the purpose of buying textiles; to share all this beauty with the world. It’s really a very personal thing. It’s different to book sharing, or book information sharing, because with the books I have the impression that I really made a difference to the world of textile literature and how textile history is perceived. With textiles, my intention is not to produce the most important collection in the world even if I had the means. AS: So you’d describe it as a private pleasure? SS: Yes, it’s just pleasure. I also love the hunt. AS: Did you ever collect art per se? Would you ever have called yourself an art collector? SS: No, I never called myself that. Of course I do have an art collection as you know, a third of which is now at the Museum of Modern Art.23 But I never went about collecting art. The art that I do have comes from people I worked with very closely for a number of years, much of it in lieu of commission because the artists were very free to go about doing their dealings with other dealers.24 I never thought to even ask for a commission. In that sense, I do have a collection of works but I never went about making ‘a collection’. I mean, there are lots of people whose work I thought highly of but I didn’t go and buy from them. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to go and buy work from even someone like Sol LeWitt, who I saw frequently. Although I did buy a painting from Ad Reinhardt, but that was my first ‘big’ deal (and my last one as well), and it was also a lot of money: 750 dollars. It was a pile of money for me and I think a little bit for Ad too. But if you look through the list of works the foundation owns they were from people I worked with, people I had regular contact with. There may have been one or two exceptions. I bought a small work by the painter Neil Williams from Dan Graham for 25 dollars or something, because Dan had even less money than I had at the time, if that was possible. But you couldn’t call that collecting really. The fact that this lack of art collecting many, many years later made the rest of my collecting possible, is a little twist of irony you might say . . . AS: Textiles are more affordable than art in that sense? SS: Yeah, absolutely. You get a better bang for your buck, so to speak; more value for money. But even then I’m not quite so sure if you’re buying or speculating on young artists. It’s probably just as affordable to buy contemporary art. It’s how you want to spend your money, if you have any surplus. Although textiles as a field of collecting has become more appreciated, not just economically, over the last 20 or 30 years, it still remains a very arcane and very specialized kind of interest. In the major museums, textile collections usually have the lowest budget of any department. It’s been the most minor of the so-called minor arts. When you look at books of general art and cultural surveys, textiles are always the last chapter, if there is any chapter at all.



AM: Is this because they have a use value in the first place? SS: We can speculate that they were so much thought of as practical things they weren’t taken particularly seriously as ‘art’, and even when they were taken seriously it was only because of aspects exterior to their nature. For example, tapestries have been taken seriously because they were attached to kings and queens and castles, and liturgical garments have been taken seriously because of the importance and riches of the church. This is also the case for the increased value of clothing and costume worn by well-known historical figures. I remember a few years ago, the V&A bought an embroidered wedding suit that belonged to James II, for a six-figure sum, and although it was beautiful, this was only because it was attributed to James’ wardrobe. AS: Can you name a favourite item or two in your collection? SS: Yes, I think so . . . AM: With their SST numbers,25 please! SS: Recently I bought a Fatimid textile,26 which is quite unusual, at least for me. It’s from a well-known family of textiles but one rarely sees them. I bought it over the web from a Japanese dealer who I’d never even heard of; I took a wild risk. Some of the velvets I also find extraordinarily beautiful. Because these things were bought 20 or 30 years ago, I barely remember them in detail, but if you show me a list, I would go ‘wow, that’s fantastic!’ Some of the Turkish towels or table covers are extraordinarily beautiful even though they are probably from the fifties or thereabouts. Several of those would be top of the pops. AM: Did you ever buy something you didn’t like but thought it would be important for your collection? SS: Good question. I can’t really say that I ever did. As the cat said: ‘I never met a mouse I didn’t like’, I don’t really think I ever bought a textile that I didn’t like but felt was valuable and should be acquired. Because building a collection of textiles is not – and I’ve said this on several occasions – like building a library of books or a bibliography of books, in the sense that you certainly don’t know all the history of textile books but you know something could fill a missing area, even if you’ve never seen the book, or it’s totally new to you. Whereas with textiles there’s an endless amount, so there’s no way you can have all the velvets, or all the brocades, or all the printed textiles from a particular period; it’s absolutely impossible to do that. So comprehensiveness is a futile thing. AM: That’s why your book collection and textile collection are complementary? SS: Yes, definitely. I can probably say that our book collection has most of the major literature in the history of textiles since 1800. There are probably a few I know, a few that come to mind, which I don’t have and I’ve never even seen for sale and probably if I did they would be outrageously priced. But it’s a finite number. Because literature has been picked over, looked at and has been referenced in exhibitions and other bibliographies. But with textiles there is no way you can say you can have every type or every colour of



velvet produced, say, in Florence in the sixteenth century. Every textile is unique, unlike most printed books. AM: We’d like to ask you some questions about the exhibition itself now. It seems to me that you are distancing yourself from curatorial decisions about it. SS: But that’s a position that I used in the art world too. Little by little, over my life in the art world, I gave up curating or making certain kinds of decisions, called ‘quality decisions’: Who’s better than this? Who’s more important than this? This was a conscious decision I made; to create a sort of framework and then have other people make decisions, or choosing critics to choose artists, etc. Little by little, I tried to remove myself from the ‘quality question’ in art. AS: There’s an interesting problem with the exhibition at Raven Row in relation to the comments you make in your introduction to the Bibliographica Textilia Historiæ. The exhibition orders your textile collection in a way that reflects the problems you describe with the literature of textiles. The exhibition will be divided into silks and textiles of the European rich and the church, archaeological textiles, and ethnographic textiles, these being something you are conscious of as a very biased categorization based just on what has been preserved. SS: Is there another way to do it? I don’t know. Perhaps by displaying an arbitrary mix of textiles by size or colour? In trying to build a textile collection I’ve never thought about how it could possibly be shown. It was and is a private pleasure. I’m not really focused so much on the presentation of textiles, although it is a very real practical problem. AM: So your ultimate goal in buying them was not necessarily to show them? SS: No, it wasn’t to show them. Marja and I had talked about the fantasy of, at some point, opening a small private museum. Yes, we kind of had the means to do it but it would be like a rock tied around our legs; we’d never be able to go anywhere. After my initial experience in the art world I was really not ready to be a shopkeeper, whether you call it a museum or an art gallery. So it never occurred to me that one day I would show these things, or that if I did maybe my kids would have to worry about it if they wanted. Maybe an institution would take it and run with it. But the fun is definitely the hunt and the learning experience too, I must say. AM: But still, you are provisional caretaker of these textiles? You have to take care of them whether you like it or not. SS: But I try to do that within my means and within my knowledge. In practical terms we’ve lost remarkably few textiles; in fact mostly feather hats to moths; there’s been at least two eaten. Moths really love feathers. And you know, I was really mad because one of them was a real favourite. Of course they became even more of a favourite once they were ruined. AM: But would you like to donate them to a museum? SS: Yes. This is definitely my intention, as it is with our other collections.



AM: So, ideally, which institution? SS: I have no idea. AM: Where? A big museum, or a new museum? SS: Where? Maybe in the Far East: Japan or China. What about that? I have no idea; we’ll just have to wait until someone walks in the door. But I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about this. The CSROT does have the means to be able to conserve and keep them and to continue to catalogue them, so it’s not like there is a situation where the foundation has to get rid of the collection. This is true of all the collections. The foundation will just keep going on until I’m dead, or until I lose interest, which is highly unlikely. We’ll just see what happens. But you’re doing the exhibition and that will bring some attention to it; people will think about it. AM: Given the fact that people don’t know so much about this activity of yours, although this is what you are devoting so much time to, are you excited that people will get to know this part of your activities, which has so far remained remote and quiet? SS: Yes, absolutely, you wouldn’t go to all this trouble. I wouldn’t and you certainly wouldn’t. We wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for the excitement of being able to show them and to share them. But it’s not my intention to say ‘anybody want a textile collection for free?’ There are also certain conditions if the foundation were to give it away: developing it, cataloguing it extensively, making acquisitions, keeping it open for the public where there’s a study collection. So there are five or six criteria all of which can be discussed. Many years ago the Bibliothèque nationale de France wanted the political media library, but all they were going to do was put it in the basement and wait until some day, when someone would catalogue it and make it available. So I kept it and later gave it instead to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, because they agreed to catalogue it, and to provide access to it, and that’s OK with me. I’d be a little more demanding about a textile collection or a library of our books on textiles. AM: I have a final question. Just out of curiosity, if you give your collection of textiles to a museum, would you like the books to be kept at the same place? SS: Although they are interconnected, they are two independent things. The problem with the books is that there would be many duplicates for any existing major library. There might be a 40 percent overlap, so if they are gifted 7,000 books, and they have 3,000 of them already, then what’s the point? They would just take what they want and give the rest away. The other alternative is to find an institution that is just starting up, has a small decorative arts library, and wants to have the major textile library as a part of it. So far I have not made any effort to offload it, but I say very clearly on the website of the Stichting Egress Foundation that I would be very happy to do that. But like the textile collection, there would have to be some serious commitment to keep it going, to catalogue it and to keep it online, etc. It would have to involve a continuation of the project.



AM: Great, thank you so much. AS: Shall we say now that we stop? Thank you so much. SS: That’s it? I was just getting warmed up . . .


The Stuff That Matters: Textiles Collected by Seth Siegelaub for the Centre for Social Research on Old Textiles, Raven Row, London (1 March to 6 May 2012).


The exhibition at Raven Row was followed by Tradition, an exhibition curated by Krist Gruitjhuijsen and Maxine Kopsa that combined a selection of textiles from Siegelaub’s collection with works by contemporary artists at Marres, House for Contemporary Culture in Maastricht (16 March–19 May 2013) and at Grazer Kunstverein (8 June–11 August 2013).


Published together with Jack Wendler in 1968, Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Lawrence Weiner is a ‘catalogue-exhibition’ with a 25-page work on standard paper by each artist, photocopied and then offset-printed. January 5–31, 1969 is an exhibition and a catalogue with work by Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner. The exhibition is the guide to the catalogue: each artist presented two works in the exhibition and designed four pages in the publication. July, August, September 1969. Juillet, Août, Septembre 1969. Juli, August, September 1969, commonly referred to as the Summer Show, consisted of projects by different artists in different parts of the world – Carl Andre in The Hague, Robert Barry in Baltimore, Daniel Buren in Paris, Jan Dibbets in Amsterdam, Douglas Huebler in Los Angeles, Joseph Kosuth in New Mexico, Sol LeWitt in Düsseldorf, Richard Long in Bristol, N.E. Things Co. Ltd. in Vancouver, Robert Smithson in Yucatan, and Lawrence Weiner in Niagara Falls – brought together in a trilingual catalogue-exhibition describing each work and its location.


Seth Siegelaub and Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (eds), Bibliographica Textilia Historiæ: Towards a General Bibliography on the History of Textiles Based on the Library and Archives of the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (New York: International General, 1997). The Textile History Database is hosted on the site of the Stichting Egress Foundation.


In other words, the exhibition was what prompted the inventory.


See Michel Claura (ed), 18 Paris IV.70 (New York: Seth Siegelaub, 1970), and Seth Siegelaub (ed), Untitled [July/August Exhibition], Studio International 180, no. 924 (July–August 1970): 1–48. Published shortly afterwards in a hardcover edition as July/August Exhibition Book. Juillet/Août Exposition Livre. Juli/August Ausstellung Buch (London and New York: Studio International and Seth Siegelaub, 1970).


6a architects was founded by Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald in 2001. The practice was in charge of restoring the building that houses Raven Row, which took four years to complete and won the architects a RIBA Award in 2011. The project provided new contemporary art galleries in a semi-basement at the rear and a series of eighteenth-century Rococo rooms over three floors at the front. Well experienced in considering the decorative forms of the past in light of the present, 6a architects designed furniture for The Stuff That Matters, which, like the regular furniture they designed for Raven Row, carried the same sense of lightness and provisional occupation as furniture in the eighteenth century.




Francisque-Michel, Recherches sur le commerce, la fabrication et l’usage des étoffes de soie, d’or et d’argent et autres tissus précieux en Occident, principalement en France, pendant le Moyen Âge (New York, Amsterdam: International General, 2001).


Siegelaub and Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (eds), op. cit., p. 338.

10. The copies from Siegelaub’s collection shown at Raven Row were Polydori Vergilii Urbinatis de inuentoribus rerum libri tres (Venice: Giovanni da Tridino, 1503), Polidori Vergilii Urbinatis de Inventoribus Rerum Libri Tres operosissima nuper cura emedati & severiore Lima q accuratissime expoliti (Paris: Olivier Senant, c.1506?), and Polydori Vergilii Urbinatis de inventoribus rerum Libri VIII. Et de prodigiis Libri III (Amsterdam: Daniel Elzevir, 1671). 11. Seth Siegelaub, ‘Notes Towards a Critical History of the Literature of Textiles’, Siegelaub and Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (eds), op. cit., p. 16. 12. Eighteenth-century silk textile with polychrome patterns on the warp produced by the ikat dyeing process. 13. Voltaire, ‘Lettre 8660. À Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Élie de Beaumont’ [1765], in Theodore Besterman (ed.), Voltaire. Correspondance VII. Janvier 1973–mars 1976 (Paris: Gallimard, 1982), p. 1001. 14. François-Alexandre-Pierre de Garsault, L’art de la lingère (Paris: Imprimerie de L.F. Delatour, 1771). 15. The exhibition catalogue was free of charge and comprised detailed illustrations of textiles from the collection, a speculative note by Siegelaub, an interview with Siegelaub by Alice Motard and Alex Sainsbury, a note on the history of textile production in Spitalfields by Clare Browne, Curator of European Textiles 1500–1800 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, an essay on Siegelaub’s bibliographic endeavours and the first attempt at a comprehensive chronology of his life and work by Sara Martinetti. It also contained an insert with a floor plan and a glossary of technical terms. See Sara Martinetti, Alice Motard and Alex Sainsbury (eds), The Stuff That Matters: Textiles Collected by Seth Siegelaub for the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (CSROT) [exhibition catalogue] (London: Raven Row, 2012). 16. Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler, ‘The Dematerialization of Art’ [1967], Art International, vol. 12, no. 2 (February 1968), pp. 31–36. 17. ‘XVII. Découpeur et gaufreur d’étoffes’, an unbound extract from Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert (eds), Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres (Neufchâtel: Société Typographique?, 1779?). 18. Benjamin Buchloh, ‘Conceptual Art 1962–1969. From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions’, October, no. 55 (Winter 1990), pp. 105–153. 19. Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (New York: International General, 1975). 20. Sara Martinetti, ‘Seth Siegelaub and the Commerce of Thoughts’, in Martinetti, Motard and Sainsbury (eds), op. cit., p. 33. 21. Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art was located at 56th Street, New York. 22. Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art closed in 1966. 23. In 2011 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired a major group of works from the collection of Seth Siegelaub. In addition, Siegelaub and the Stichting Egress Foundation donated his own extensive archives, containing correspondence, photographs, notes, exhibition proposals, and many other significant documents. 24. Including the gallerists Leo Castelli, Konrad Fischer, Yvon Lambert, Paul Maenz, Gian Enzo Sperone and Hans Strelow.



25. The textiles assembled by Seth Siegelaub for the CRSOT all have an SST (Seth Siegelaub Textile) number. The collection starts with the item SST 001 and, as of January 2012, contains 654 items (SST 654 being the most recently acquired textile). 26. This is also known as a ‘tiraz’, which is a form of luxurious decorated linen with a line of inscription – usually a blessing – located on the upper sleeves of a robe or on a turban sash. They were given as a mark of honour in official ceremonies to a deserving subject by the caliph. It dates from the Fatimid Period (909–1171) in Egypt.


Textiles and Architecture BRADLEY QUINN

INTRODUCTION At first, building with textiles seems riddled with problems – fabrics are usually perceived as flammable, vulnerable to water, impermanent and weak. Architecture is equated with density and mass, while textiles have often been limited to lightweight decorative expressions. Few practitioners would guess that textiles have a long history as an architectural material, sparking a tradition of portable habitations and porous buildings several thousand years ago. Fabrics disappeared as wood, stone, metal and glass became the materials of choice, but recent developments in textile technology have revealed their relevance to architecture today. Even though robust architecture and tactile fabrics may seem irreconcilably diverse, there are threads that bind. Visionaries know that the cutting edge in architecture is not sharp, but sensuous and soft. At a time when architects are pioneering new structural networks, immersive webs, mobile buildings and fluid exchanges, textiles have revealed a surprising history of modularity and multi-functionality, and an essential narrative function. While early textile structures afforded protection from the elements, they also featured symbols and inscriptions that represented a mode of belonging. The ciphers woven into dwellings were also stitched into clothing, identifying whole groups and forging indissoluble links between architecture, individuals and communities. Textiles continue to be loaded with signifiers today, and their role in apparel makes fabric a familiar second skin. Textiles are more tactile than conventional construction materials, and their colours, textures and finishes imbue them with stylistic references uncharacteristic of traditional building supplies. Transposed into architecture, textiles endow built structures with attachments and meanings that extend far beyond the occupation of territory. Now, for the first time in many years, the significance of the textile in architecture is being rediscovered. Many of the visual and intellectual principles underpinning fashion are gaining currency among architects. As tailoring techniques find expression in architecture, the resulting focus on fashion tends to eclipse the vital role that textiles play in contemporary architecture. Apparel and architecture rarely come together in structures built for permanent habitation, but converge where they share mutual skills, practices and ideas. Fabric, in the hands of fashion designers, can craft wearable shelters, while the agency of architecture enables textiles to become built structures. Textiles and architecture can truly become one in the built environment, while fashion is inextricably limited by the body’s need for egress. Textiles have emerged as a material that can interface with built structures on many different levels, resulting in a whole new paradigm of lightweight, interwoven architecture. 51



Textile structures weave in and out of public space, popping up in sports arenas, airports, trade shows, urban parks, shopping centres and residential projects. Felted fabrics provide efficient sources of insulation, which architects piece together like the patchwork of a quilt. Some exterior textiles have a capacity for channelling and reflecting natural light that creates new possibilities for harnessing solar energy. Metallic fabrics, coated textiles and non-woven fabrics make it possible to fold and pleat whole facades, while carbonfibre matrices and tri-axial meshes can spiral external structures and make elasticity a central component of building design.

WEAVING WALLS AND BRAIDING BUILDINGS Just as architects are drawn to the tailoring techniques of folding and pleating, their experiments with weaving and braiding resulted in flexible structures that outperform steel and concrete. Weaving, a global practice that spans eras, cultures and landscapes, was reclaimed by Buckminster Fuller as a modern means of creating self-supporting, lightweight lattices. Part surface, part join, weaving is essentially a system of continuous links, and a technique that can integrate a number of operating systems into a single structure. Just as a broken thread can be pulled out of a textile and replaced, so too can a cable. Whole components can be removed and exchanged, and the whole system seamlessly expanded. Woven stainless steel, in the form of ready-made exterior mesh, is an aesthetically and structurally compelling textile that can be purchased by the metre in weaves that mimic herringbone, jacquard and tweed. Woven materials encapsulate several industrial processes, but also require the intervention of skilled weavers. Even techniques such as knitting and crochet can contribute to the process. As architecture embraces fashion techniques, a new model of creative activity emerges. Folding, pleating, weaving and braiding exemplify Lévi-Strauss’s theory of ‘bricolage’, a form of production-oriented activity that does not rely upon traditional materials or methods to produce form.1 Bricolage recalls the activities typical of children as they ‘build’ houses out of sand or mud bricks, fashion doll dresses from scraps of fabric, or fold paper into structures that mimic buildings. Extended beyond these analogies, bricolage can apply to practitioners who consciously revert to a basic form of creativity. This low-tech departure from pre-established methodology reveals new parallels between architecture and textile production, imbuing architecture with a craft dimension. Historically, architecture was based on craft practices such as carpentry and metalworking, but today, craftwork features more prominently in interior styling than it does in structural design. The textile walls of Shigeru Ban’s Curtain Wall House illustrate how folded and pleated fabric can be used in architecture. The exterior walls of Curtain Wall house open to the outdoors, revealing wide deck spaces on the first and second floors of the building. The pliable fabric used in the walls’ construction makes it possible for them to fully retract, channelling more light and air into the core of the house. In winter, they close to retain heat. The supple surfaces and pleated folds of the textile walls evoke the fluid construction of a garment more than they do architectural structures. Just as some garments are worn open or closed to reveal or conceal parts of the body, the retractable walls open to expose the structure or close to hide them from public view. As wind and weather conditions also cause the textiles to move, the notion that a house is or should be a fixed entity is challenged altogether. Kinetic structures such as the Curtain Wall House create a novel dynamic in architecture.



When flexible fibres and supple polymer strands are twisted or bundled into cables and braided, the structures that result can create tension and compression more efficiently than masonry. Braiding is a system in which all fibres are continuously mechanically interlocked at regular intervals, creating a mechanism that evenly distributes the load throughout the structure. This makes the building highly resistant to impact, introducing an unprecedented degree of elasticity that can act as a shock absorber. Carbon, fibreglass, Aramids and a range of natural fibres and sustainable materials can be braided into pliable structures, subsequently revolutionizing earthquake-proof construction. As a surface technique, braiding and weaving invert the concept of masking, promoting greater transparency in architecture as they expose all parts of the structure. Whereas traditional construction designates one surface as interior and the other as exterior, braiding and weaving simultaneously link inner and outer spaces. As they metamorphose the internal and external into a homogeneous whole, inside/outside divisions disappear altogether. As a single technique, braiding connects with Derridean deconstruction and takes it one step further. By dislocating the structure’s core and inverting its contents, braiding eliminates the void by making all spaces visible in a single view. In this respect, braiding also furthers the Modernist ambition of purging extraneous features to convey a sense of the essentials. Exposing the structure’s framework imbues the building with a new sense of integrity based on the transparency it projects. Carbon fibres underpin many aspects of architecture and design, often in surprising guises. We drive vehicles constructed from carbon-fibre parts, travel in aeroplanes made with carbon-fibre composites and sailboats propelled by carbon-fibre sailcloth. Could it be feasible, therefore, to assume that we may someday dwell in architecture built by carbon fibres? If you ask Peter Testa and Devyn Weiser, principals of the Los Angelesbased architectural practice Testa + Weiser, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes’.2 They are proponents of fibre architecture, a system of constructing tall buildings through weaving and braiding techniques. The system they developed is based on building with carbon-fibre filaments, chosen because their high strength, flexibility and resilience give them advantages over metal fibres of a similar weight and length. Under tension, carbon fibres perform five times stronger than steel, yet engineers are reluctant to use them in architectural applications. They are more expensive than metal cables, are not as fire-resistant and have yet to have their performance satisfactorily quantified. Testa + Weiser are convinced that the potential to build with carbon fibres is strong, and are pioneering methods of weaving them structurally to create skyscrapers. They maintain that carbon fibres provide a more streamlined method of constructing tall buildings, ultimately making the construction process quicker, more cost effective, less wasteful and more sustainable.3 Using computer-modelling tools, Testa + Weiser have designed and built an architectural prototype of a carbon-fibre high-rise, a lightweight, streamlined structure crafted from carbon fibres, carbon-fibre composites and shatterproof glass. The prototype is the culmination of ongoing research in several other disciplines, such as material science and computer-aided engineering. The prototype illustrates how a forty-storey skyscraper can be woven from bundles of carbon fibres rather than assembled from conventional construction materials. When built to scale, each carbon-fibre strand would be approximately 4 centimetres in diameter and nearly 200 metres long. The structure is comprised of forty helical bands that coil in two directions to create a cylindrical shape. These are situated around the building’s perimeter, simultaneously forming the façade as they weave the structure. The building does not rely on a network



of columns or an internal framework for support; the carbon fibres drawn from the base of the structure to the top carry the entire vertical compressive load and distribute it throughout the entire structure. Floor plates made from composite materials are anchored to the perimeter walls on each storey. Just as the floor plates are supported by the helix, the tension they create around the perimeter wall prevent the helix from collapsing. Apart from the foundations, no concrete is used in the building. No steel is used either. This is unusual in skyscraper construction, which relies on the use of steel or concrete in compression to make the structure stable. Every major element in the building, including the walls and floors, is made of some kind of composite material. Rather than use conventional glass, Testa + Weiser chose ETFE , a kind of transparent, blast-resistant plastic regarded to be an advanced glass substitute.4 The synergy between the skyscraper’s materials and techniques gives the building the advantage of being earthquake-proof. In the event of an earthquake, the fibres would absorb the seismic energy and disperse it throughout the entire structure, meaning that the building is more likely to flex and sway than crack and crumble.

INFLATABLE MEMBRANES Perhaps the most elastic of all, pneumatic structures are one of the most tactile expressions of architecture today. Practices such as, Inflate and Architects of Air are able to create outdoor pavilions, tensile buildings and membrane exteriors by using a variety of woven and non-woven fabrics. The structures quickly gain mass as the air-filled membranes stitched into the fabric inflate and expand. Because they are sustained by pressure, the fabrication of pneumatic structures requires construction skills that surpass conventional sewing. If the seams are not sewn with sufficient tension or along the right curve, they pull apart and cause the structure to deflate. Because they are translucent, lightweight and transient, inflatable structures transcend the builtness of buildings. The inflatables can be recreated in different locations instantly; they take minutes to erect and later shrink to one-tenth of their expanded size when deflated. Supported by steel lintels, they hold their ground as portable outdoor architecture, or as indoor pavilions that provide a uniform backdrop for exhibitions or events. Architects borrow from tailoring techniques to make it possible for them to line the inside of a building. An inflatable interior is required to flex and adhere to the existing architecture much like a garment’s inner lining moves in response to the movements of the wearer, requiring it to be pattern-cut, sized and fitted with Savile Row-like scrutiny. Inflatable buildings are popping up practically everywhere, creating a uniquely lightweight system of pneumatic architecture that is simple to construct and virtually effortless to erect. Pneumatic structures are created from air-filled fabric membranes constructed from airtight textile substrates. Recent advances in material technology have made it possible to create air-filled voids from an ever-widening variety of woven and non-woven fabrics. Inflatable architectural fabrics are made from hi-performance, reinforced fibres capable of withstanding extreme pressure and heavy-duty bonding techniques. Laminate films and PTFE coatings prevent air from leaking through the fabric wall, and advanced-strength adhesives and heat-seal coatings fuse their seams together.5 Archigram were one of the first to design portable pneumatic buildings. Constructed like clothing, they were crafted from textile substrates and fused together by stitched seams and adhesives. As structures, they had more in common with fashion than



architecture: they were portable, constructed from soft membranes, and designed and assembled in accordance with tailoring techniques. Created as individual pods rather than whole structures, their modularity related more to the system of separates worn in fashion than to the architecture of the day. Architects designing radomes, prefabricated buildings and portable architecture revived interest in pneumatic structures.6 Because mobility is a key feature of temporary structures such as exhibition pavilions, circus tents, trade show displays and military campaigns, weight and transport are important considerations. Inflatable fabrics weigh considerably less then conventional building materials, and can be packed into a container only a fraction of their inflated size. Like prefabs, they have the advantage of being constructed off-site, reducing the environmental impact that building sites create. Manufacturers of inflatable structures, such as Inflate and Architects of Air, are developing methods to make pneumatic buildings a carbon neutral area of architecture.7,8 Designers and architects looked at the inflatable structures made for marine and aerospace applications to find strong, lightweight materials robust enough to be used in architecture.9 PVC -coated synthetic mesh fabrics have good tensile strength and tear resistance, and many also offer flame-retardant properties, UV-protection, and antibacterial films that prevent the growth of mould and mildew. Fibreglass and PTFE coated fabrics perform well when subjected to air pressure, and the woven Vectran produced by Warwick Mills was developed with advanced adhesive technology that bonds urethane to Vectran indissolubly. The Vienna-based practice Veech Media Architecture (VMA ) is a leader in the field of pneumatic architecture. They have designed a number of inflatable structures in a response to commissions for lightweight portable architecture.10 When commissioned to design ‘Sprachpavilion’, a travelling exhibition centre, and ‘Radionight’, an elevated broadcasting stage, VMA investigated the potentials that soft materials have to create structures that could be easily de-installed and quickly reassembled. Like hot-air balloons, life rafts and inflatable garments, Veech’s structures relied on air contained within fabric membranes as a source of volume and strength (see Plate 4.1). Both structures were lightweight, quick to disassemble and pack, and easy to transport. They could be recreated in different locations instantly, taking minutes to erect and later shrinking to one-tenth of their expanded size when deflated. The waterproof materials they were constructed from made them ideal for outdoor use. Sprachpavilion was the central part of an exhibition that toured Austria as part of the European Year of Languages in 2001. VMA used the commission to explore flexibility, transparency, lightness and elasticity as a means of developing a portable structure. Sprachpavilion was designed to be a dome-like pneumatic structure whose mass was created as the fabric’s membranes inflated and expanded. Supported by steel lintels, it held its ground as a portable outdoor building, but could also be used as an indoor pavilion to house exhibitions or events. ‘Inflatable structures work especially well in exhibition design’, says Stuart Veech who established VMA with Mascha VeechKosmatschof. ‘They can create a portable exhibition space that can be instantly recreated in the different venues the exhibition travels to. They make a potent response to the nomadic nature of twenty-first century life.’ Veech points out that, despite the advanced structural abilities that inflatable fabrics have, they are vulnerable to high winds and inclement weather, making them unviable as permanent outdoor structures. Even when supported by steel lintels and tension cables, strong winds could cause them to tear or blow them away completely.



VMA’s inflatable Radionight structure was not a habitable environment like Sprachpavilion, but a voluminous membrane that could create the illusion of a floating form. Supported by lightweight aluminium supports, Radionight ‘hovered’ seven meters above the ground as if it had suspended the laws of gravity and inexplicably transformed weight into lightness. Hydraulic lifts were installed to carry visitors up to its perimeter. The inflatable structures of Radionight and Sprachpavilion exemplify the strikingly weightless forms that inflatable materials can create.

FABRIC FORMWORK Concrete and textiles are coming together in new and innovative ways, but the relationship between the two has existed for centuries. Historically, coarse wool and horsehair was added to mortar, and straw was used to fortify Roman cement. In France, hemp fibres have strengthened concrete for several centuries, with products such as Hempcrete used as a construction material for a broad range of applications today. Fibre-reinforced concrete contains filaments made from steel, glass, synthetic materials and natural fibres. The type and length of fibre used creates concrete with different characters, determining their geometries, orientation, distribution and densities. The addition of polypropylene fibres, for example, can improve the concrete’s mix cohesion and impact resistance, and carbon-fibre reinforcements create thinner, lighter concrete panels than those made with steel rebars.11 Almost every kind of formwork concrete can be cast and set in a fabric mould, and fibre-composite formliners can be used to create textured patterns on the surface. Despite the exciting textures and shapes that can be created with concrete, the material is often perceived as a dull, flat, uninspiring substance. Perhaps inspired by the imaginative artworks formed in concrete, architects, looking for methods of sculpting the material in non-linear shapes, are pioneering ways of creating textile moulds. Fabric formwork has emerged as a technique for sculpting concrete into new shapes by pouring it into a textile sheath.12 Architects have successfully created innovative ‘soft’ interior landscapes, and used the technique outdoors to form retaining walls, columns, bridges and façades. The shapes and textures that result are integrating textiles and fibre technology into architectural aesthetics and fabrication methods. One of the first to pioneer this field was the Japanese architect Kenzo Unno, whose methods of creating fabric-formed concrete walls have inspired architects around the world.13 Unno discovered the possibilities of fabric-formed architecture in the 1980s, virtually by accident when he was pursuing a quest to simplify construction methods so that laymen could build houses for themselves.14 At the time, he was also pioneering a ‘zero waste’ approach to architecture, and was looking for alternatives to materials like plywood that are often discarded after just one use. With both of these ambitions in mind, Unno began to explore the possibilities of using fabric moulds to shape wet concrete, and developed several methods of using thin flexible textile sheets to cast concrete walls. By constructing a simple steel frame and crafting fabric ‘walls’ on each side, Unno created a reinforced structure into which liquid concreted could be poured. The back, or inner, ‘wall’ is typically constructed from a rigid sheet of water-resistant insulation, while fabric forms the front surface alone. The sheet of insulation on the inner wall provides an energy-efficient layer that remains hidden from view after construction is complete. Tension applied to the outside surface compresses the wet concrete into the desired shape, creating rippling textures, bold relief or subtle



contours. As the concrete dries, excess moisture is expelled, oozing through the surface of the textile. The expulsion of excess moisture enables the concrete to cure quickly, and the finished result resembles a high-tech concrete panel, even though only low-tech methods were used to produce it.15 Textiles such as woven polyethylene and polypropylene perform well when used in fabric formwork, but Unno’s choice of fabric is typically the synthetic netting used to enclose construction scaffolding. Unno has found good use for a material that would otherwise be discarded. The netting presents a sustainable alternative to plywood, which is typically used to construct the heavy wooden moulds needed for a standard concrete formwork. When casting is completed, plywood moulds are dismantled, often breaking in the process. They seldom last for more than a few castings before the concrete begins permeating the wood grain, peeling away the top layer of the wood. Although the fabric formwork panels are produced from inexpensive materials, they have the sculptural finishes typical of exclusive architectural detailing. Just as a corset moulds the body’s contours into an hourglass shape, reinforced textile sheaths fabricated with eyelets and laces sculpt wet concrete into curvaceous silhouettes. The Fabric Formwork project, an initiative developed by Mark West at the Centre for Architectural Structure and Technology, claims that tube-like textile structures are far more effective than conventional moulds.16 After the concrete is poured, the laces are drawn in and tightened, creating a mould that compresses the concrete exactly as a corset would cinch a waistline. West’s research with fabric moulds for concrete structures originated as a fine art practice, but quickly developed into techniques for developing architectural and structural concrete applications. West’s research connects with a handful of practitioners around the world who are exploring alternatives to the hard, heavy constructions used to form concrete structures. ‘Concrete has been formed in rigid moulds since its invention in antiquity,’ he says. Rigid wood or steel formwork panels have been used since the mid-1800s, giving us a vocabulary of structural form that relies primarily on rectangular shapes. While traditional rectangular forms are simple to construct from rigid formwork panels, the structural members they produce will tend to use more material and carry more dead weight. By replacing rigid wood or steel forms with a flexible fabric membrane that is allowed to deflect under the weight of the concrete it contains, curved geometries become extremely easy to form.17 The sculpture-like forms West creates are formed through use of inexpensive Polyolefin fabrics, known for their slick, non-adhesive surfaces, chemically inert properties, high strength, and low cost. Initial trials revealed that concrete does not adhere to their surfaces, so unlike wood and steel formworks that need to be coated with release oils, Polyolefin fabrics do not. The fabrics were durable enough to be reused many times, and flexible enough to create efficient, structurally defined curves. As West progressed the techniques, he created shapes that were more complex and more extreme, yet each time, the Polyolefin formed them easily. As West continued to advance the techniques, he watched a new language of architectural form emerge, providing a radically different understanding of the aesthetic potentials reinforced concrete architecture can have. ‘The fabric formwork created a new and unprecedented level of refinement in the surface finish and texture of cast concrete’, West says, ‘and provided an inexpensive, lightweight, reusable and globallyavailable formwork material in place of wood’.18 West discovered that fabric has another



advantage over wood in that it is permeable enough to allow air bubbles and excess water to seep out, yielding a stronger and more durable form of ‘case-hardened’ concrete. When using the fabric formwork to form precast concrete panels, West created horizontal moulds for the wet concrete. The force of gravity drew the mould-membrane down into a series of curved forms that were determined by the way the fabric was stretched and supported. West’s current method of forming funicular thin-shell structures utilizes the unique symmetry between fabric and concrete that results when they are curved as one. ‘There is a natural synergy between fabric and concrete’ West explains. Concrete only resists compression forces (it loves to be squeezed, but cracks when it is pulled), so the most efficient use of this material is to form it into arched compression shapes. A pure compression arch is the mirror image of itself as a hanging string. Similarly, a pure compression vault is the mirror image of a hanging piece of fabric. By using hanging fabric sheets to produce moulds for thin-shell concrete compression vaults, we are using the inherent intelligence of textile (tension) structures to ‘calculate’ and naturally produce the perfect shape for compression shell moulds. So, in structural terms, these two materials – the fabric mould in tension and the concrete in compression – they are made for each other. This is a marriage made in the deepest level of natural structural symmetry.19 One of West’s most striking fabric formwork designs was a column created through use of a sheath-like mould joined together with laces. West created the mould from two rectangular pieces of woven polyethylene fabric known by the trade name Propex ‘315ST ’ constraining the concrete exactly as a corset would cinch a waistline. ‘By replacing rigid panels with a thin textile tension membrane, the vast majority of material normally required to restrain wet concrete was eliminated,’ West explains. ‘The only exterior support it required was scaffolding or bracing to hold the top of the form in position. No other restraints are needed to support the formwork.’20 When the mould was removed, a curvaceous silhouette was revealed. Its eye-catching shape and smooth surface stand as one of many monuments to the integration of structural concrete and textile technology. Textiles can shape the appearance of concrete without using compression to form it. By dramatically embellishing wet concrete with rich textures, vibrant colours and striking motifs, its surfaces take on a softer appearance. New print and imprint techniques developed by Belfast-based practitioners Patricia Belford, Senior Research Fellow in Textiles at the University of Ulster, and Ruth Morrow, Professor of Architecture at Queen’s University, are reinventing concrete as a soft surface material. The two are pioneering methods of embedding delicate fabrics deep within the harsh alkaline surfaces of concrete, creating a uniquely tactile material that architects love to get hold of. Their venture is called Tactility Factory, a name chosen because it references the soft, tactile textures applied to a material traditionally associated with rough and rugged surfaces.21 Belford and Morrow experimented with the ‘low-tech’ methods of wet and dry concrete casting and a variety of high-tech textile processes that include digital printing, laser-cutting, etching and flocking. The combination of the two enabled them to align fibre forms with architectural detailing, making the experience of architecture more accessible by cladding a cold, hard material with a warm and inviting texture.22 The high-alkaline surface of the concrete proved to be incompatible with some fibres, which limited the fabrics that could be applied to the concrete.23 Belford and Morrow experimented with many different types of concrete, varying their chemical consistencies



to determine which combinations would yield the best results. Techniques such as lacemaking and devore yielded lasting results, with the devore process eventually leading to the development of their ‘Bubble’ concrete product. The ‘Lava Lace’ motif, which seamlessly integrates the pattern and the concrete as it meshes them together, emerged as a signature design. A chemical reaction occurs when the fabric is immersed in the concrete, making it impossible to predict how the finish will dry. As a result, each ‘Lava Lace’ piece creates a uniquely individual surface every time. Predictably, experiments with flocking resulted in a flocked concrete panel, but one that produced surprising results. Applying the fibres to the concrete softened the surface dramatically, enhancing the sound absorption and acoustic nature of the panels. Subsequently, Belford and Morrow collaborated with acoustic experts to determine the extent to which the technique can be developed to create acoustic panels. By varying the length and density of the fibres, the concrete can be endowed with a wide range of acoustic values. As Belford and Morrow’s research moves forward, they are aiming to develop a core range of fibres that are able to withstand the high alkaline consistency of the concrete while also lending themselves to customization. Future directions include designing and developing weaving techniques and technical processes that will fully integrate woven fabric and concrete.

ARCHITECTURAL TEXTILES The genre of architectural textiles is wide and varied, but a feature common to all is a ‘predictable’ warp and weft, whose tensile strength, modulus and breaking points have been tested and quantified. The most common fabrics are typically woven from electrical grade open-weave glass fibres or high-modulus polyesters. They are usually bonded to other structural fabrics to create an insulative inner surface. Glass fibres can be coated with materials such as Tedlar, a polyvinylfluoride (PVF ) film used to create a moisture barrier.24,25 Materials such as Butacite, a transparent UV-resistant membrane engineered to be an interlayer, make it possible to incorporate UV-radiation protection into architectural glazing.26 Fabrics developed for vehicle airbags and inflatable aerospace components are made with high tensile strength and energy absorption properties to enable them to withstand air pressure and substantial mechanical stress. Originally developed for airbags, textiles such as DuPont’s ‘Airbag Nylon 6.6-HT ’ and ‘Hytrel TEEE ’ have proven to be two of the most reliable inflatable fabrics commercially available today. DuPont are pioneering a process of incorporating Kevlar fibres into the cell walls of a foam material they are developing for aerospace applications. Some day, the fabric may be used to create puncture-proof inflatable structures on earth.27 Award-winning British architect Ian Ritchie broke new ground with his use of architectural textiles in Britain and abroad.28 Ritchie became known internationally for his innovative use of textiles from about 1986, when he incorporated an architectural textile into a striking roof design. Ritchie had been commissioned by La Villette Museum for Science & Industry in Paris to reshape the appearance of the existing building’s main structure. As a result, Ritchie designed an insulated double-skinned permanent roof from two layers of PTFE -coated spun fibreglass fabric. He sculpted the roof into two large dome shapes, and constructed lightweight, wheel-like rotating mirrored devices at each of their apexes. The devices rotated automatically to follow the movement of the



sun, and as they did so, their mirrors reflect the sunlight and channel it into the entrance hall below. The material Ritchie used for the roof membrane was translucent Fibair fabric, which he coated with Tedlar to create a moisture barrier. The layers were separated by a distance of approximately 60 cm to promote ventilation and circulation, yet still channelled a great deal of light into the building. The Fibair has performed well over time, maintaining its insulative properties, shape memory and UV-resistancy. In 1992 Ritchie was commissioned to build an extension to a primary school in Daours, a small town north of Paris near Amiens. He designed a textile roof to bridge the new structure to the existing one, creating a fabric-covered canopy that arced over the entrance to the school. Ritchie used the canopy to designate an intermediate zone between the building and the playground outside. As the children walk past the entrance on their way to their studies, the canopy overhead serves as a subtle educational tool that teaches them textiles and architecture can be one and the same. Ritchie was one of the first British architects to use solar materials for a residential project. ‘Fluy House’, a project completed in 1976, was fitted with solar panels crafted from an aluminium-coated woven polyester fabric. Originally developed by NASA , the material was highly reflective, yet semi-transparent, making it ideal for external window blinds. The fabric disintegrated over time and was replaced in 1988 by Solar-Screen, a reflective woven fibreglass fabric made with UV-radiation inhibitors that deflect heat, glare and damaging rays.29

GEOTEXTILES One of the most surprising congruencies between textiles and the built environment takes place in the landscape, where architects take fabric underground to sculpt and reshape the natural topography. Initially, landscape fabrics were produced as an underground layer to suppress weeds. Because their porous weave allows air and water to pass through to the soil, they were later adapted to serve as filters to purify contaminated soil, and reinforced to create a subterranean barrier for use in landfill engineering. Geotextiles, as they are known today, are widely used in paving projects, as boundary markers and to sculpt hilly slopes on flat terrain. Geotextiles demarcate a new way of thinking about the built environment. By taking built surfaces underground, they subvert the verticality of architecture by projecting architectural space far beyond its outer walls. The proportions of architecture are generally considered to be fixed distinctions, but the presence of geotextiles suggests a continuum of structure and space. Just like other construction materials, geotextiles have the potential to create floor, wall and corner conditions. Such conditions expand the dimensions of a built structure and could mean that a building’s epicentre is repositioned beyond the perimeter walls. This type of parafunctional30 site creates powerful event space that brings materials, programme, place, space, and landscape together in a seamless gesture. Advances in technical fibres have made geotextiles sleeker, stronger and more available than ever before. When used in environmental engineering, they are variously referred to as geosynthetics, geonets and geogrids – names inspired by their woven, mesh-like weaves. They are widely used in civil engineering applications, where they reinforce airfield landing strips, construct motorways and underpin agricultural sites. In the form of AstroTurf, they create smooth surfaces in sports arenas.31 Used in conjunction with water



management engineering, geotextiles line dams and canals, reinforce banks and are used to construct reservoirs and jetties. Geotextiles are designed to be flexible, but engineered to have low creep properties. Their malleability enables them to tolerate the contraction and expansion created by freeze–thaw environments, yet they are stable enough to withstand seismic pressure. They are invulnerable to corrosion from naturally occurring acids and alkalis in the soil, and resistant to the bacteria and mildew that cause other types of fibres to decompose. Typically crafted from spunbonded polypropylene or polyester, or woven from fibreglass yarns or nylon fibres, geotextiles can be produced in a variety of widths and weights. They can be made as a warp- or flat-knit polymeric fabric, industrial mesh or flexible tubes. Some types of geotextiles may resemble felt; constructed from needlepunch or heat-bonding techniques, they can have a dense structure or a gossamer, weblike appearance. Some net-like geotextiles, such as Naltex, an extruded mesh that resembles an expanded net, are manufactured like apertured films rather than textiles.32 Naltex is produced by embossing a thin polymer film with a perforated pattern and expanding the film to induce pores, thus creating a net or extruded mesh. Like all apertured films, Naltex is lightweight and thin, but can be laminated onto a substrate to make it rigid or more absorbent. Also a non-woven textile, Typar is composed of thermally bonded, continuous polypropylene filaments and suited to a wide range of architectural and engineering applications. Typar has good filtration properties and high tensile strength in every direction. Made from 100% polypropylene, Typar is also resistant to rot and bacteria.33 Comtrac and Fortrac are produced from high-tenacity polyester filament yarns woven into an interlocking pattern. Both fabrics are flexible and have high strengths with proven track records in landscape architecture and civil engineering applications. Also made for soil reinforcement, Ringtrac is a continuous, round-weave tube fabric woven from high-strength, low-creep polymers such as polyvinyalcohol.34 Ringtrac may be embedded in a hillside and covered with soil, or used on the surface to dam mudslides or prevent erosion. Historically, theorists such as Semper viewed the surface in terms of its material presence, but geotextiles are remarkably absent from the surfaces they construct. In his analogy of the carpet and the wall, Semper spoke much of the visible boundaries of space.35 Geotextiles move in a new direction as they chart boundaries that are not visible, moving Semper’s ‘walls’ beyond the building and into the landscape beyond.

CONCLUSION The dynamic exchanges taking place between architecture and textiles are creating a new range of possibilities that take both disciplines in exciting new directions. Not only does today’s generation of textiles provide new inspiration for architects, they also present fresh possibilities for urban planners and developers. As buildings, public space and landscapes are reconceived as a single expression, the potential to experience the cityscape as a tactile arena could change our experience of architecture forever.


See Claude Lévi-Strauss (1968).


For more information, see




A worldwide shortage of carbon in 2004 sparked initiatives to recycle all types of carbon waste and fabric construction materials from it. As a result, many sources of recycled carbon material are available for use.


ETFE is ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a fluorocarbon-based polymer plastic engineered to have high corrosion resistance and strength over a wide temperature range. The material is known for its use in the Eden Project’s biomes.


The chemistry at the area of adhesion engineers the calculated control of adhesion variables to create adhesives capable of forming a permanent bond between two materials that withstands pressure when inflated.


A radome is a weatherproof enclosure built to protect antennas from weather conditions. Radomes are typically constructed from fibreglass or PTFE -coated fabric because they allow the signal transmitted or received by the antenna to pass through with minimal interference.


For more information see


For more information see


Applications for inflatable marine fabrics include evacuation slides, emergency boats, pontoons, floatation devices and buoyancy systems.

10. For more information, see 11. For more information on carbon fibre-grids, visit Chomarat’s website: 12. ‘Formwork’ is the term that describes the moulding of concrete in moulds and casts. 13. For more information, see 14. This approach was later aligned with humanitarian aid efforts following the Kobe earthquake of January in 1995. Unno developed several simple methods of building methods so that the people of Kobe could construct temporary shelters even though building resources were scant. 15. Unno’s methods are known collectively as Unno Reinforced Concrete (URC ) and followed by fabric formwork specialists around the world. 16. Also known as CAST, the Centre for Architectural Structure and Technology operates within the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba in Canada. 17. Quinn, Bradley, 2010. Textile Futures, Oxford: Berg: 232–234. 18. Quinn, Bradley, 2010. Textile Futures, Oxford: Berg: 232–234. 19. Quinn, Bradley, 2010. Textile Futures, Oxford: Berg: 232–234. 20. Quinn, Bradley, 2010. Textile Futures, Oxford: Berg: 232–234. 21. For more information, see 22. (8535d199-3cb7-44b6-8358-2e0761c41a18).html. 23. Belford and Morrow are currently researching methods to counteract the high-alkaline content. 24. Tedlar is commonly used as a backing sheet to provide offer protection against the elements. See _Film/en_US , for more information. 25. The external surface of the textile is coated to make it waterproof and enhance its resistance to UV radiation. Transparent films and coating materials include Teflon (PTFE , or polytetrafluoroethylene) and ETFE (ethylenetetrafluoroethlene). 26. Butacite is derived from a polyvinyl butyral. Butacite is used as it is produced as sheeting and wound on a roll. It is flexible but tough, and formulated to absorb ultraviolet radiation from sunlight rather than deflect it.



27. See, for more information. 28. For more information, see 29. For more information, see 30. Refers to the sites Nikos Papastergiadis dubs ‘parafunctional spaces’. This term refers to urban spaces in which ‘creative, informal and unintended uses overtake the officially designated functions.’ 31. AstroTurf is a carpet-like synthetic textile developed as a playing surface for sports. While commonly seen as an interior textile, its application as outdoor groundcover reveals that it is also a geotextile. 32. For more information, see 33. For more information, see /. 34. For more information about Comtrac, Fortrac and Ringtrac see 35. Gottfried Semper (1989), ‘Style in the Technical Arts or Practical Aesthetics,’ in The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings (trans. Harry Francis Mallgrove and Wolfgang Herman), New York: Cambridge University Press.

FURTHER READING Braddock-Clarke, Sarah and Harris, Jane (2012). Digital Visions for Fashion + Textiles, London: Thames and Hudson. Derrida, Jacques (2001 edition). Writing and Difference, London: Routledge. Fausch, Deborah (1996). Architecture: In Fashion, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Gerst, Cole (2014). Buckminster Fuller: Poet of Geometry, Gardena, CA : SCB Publishers. Harris, Jane (2000). Surface Tension – The Aesthetic Fabrication of Digital Textiles: The Design and Construction of 3D Computer Graphic Animation, PhD dissertation, Royal College of Art, London. Hodge, Brooke (2006). Skin and Bones: Parallel Practices in Modern Architecture, London: Thames & Hudson. Jeon, Eunjeong and Worden, Suzette (2011). Aesthetic Experience and Comfort: The Relationship Between Semantic Form and Body Movement in the Design of Wool Clothing, PhD dissertation, Curtin University, Perth, Australia. Jodidio, Philip (2012). Shigeru Ban, Cologne: Taschen. Krauel, Jacob (2014). Inflatable Art, Architecture & Design, Barcelona: Links International Publishers. Lauterbach, Chrisl and Steinhage, Axel (2013). SensFloor: A Large Area Sensor System Based on Smart Textile, Frankfurt: Avantex. Lee, Suzanne (2007). Fashioning the Future: Tomorrow’s Wardrobe, London: Thames & Hudson. Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1968 edition). The Savage Mind, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Minke, Gernot and Eggers, Hans (1976). Pneumatic Structures: A Handbook for Inflatable Architecture, New York: Oxford University Press. O’Mahony, Marie and Braddock-Clarke, Sarah (2005). Techno Textiles 2, London: Thames & Hudson. Quinn, Bradley (2011). Fashion Futures, London: Merrell. Quinn, Bradley (ed) (2007). UltraMaterials, London: Thames & Hudson. Quinn, Bradley (2010). Textile Futures, Oxford: Berg Publishers. Quinn, Bradley (2003). The Fashion of Architecture, Oxford: Berg Publishers.



Rendell, Jane (1999). Gender Space Architecture, London: Routledge. Ritchie, Ian (2014). Being an Architect, London: Royal Academy of Arts. Semper, Gottfried (1989). ‘Style in the Technical Arts or Practical Aesthetics’, in The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings (trans. Harry Francis Mallgrove and Wolfgang Herman), New York: Cambridge University Press. Van Langenhove, L. (ed) (2007). Smart Textiles for Medicine and Healthcare, Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing Limited and CRC Press LLC . Wigley, Mark (2001). White Walls, Designer Dresses, Cambridge, MA : MIT Press.


Patchworking Ways of Knowing and Making KRISTINA LINDSTRÖM AND ÅSA STÅHL

Calls for new ways of knowing have been articulated across practice-based research, social science and design research in recent years (Haraway 1994; Law 2004; Lury and Wakeford 2012; Savage 2013; Jungnickel and Hjorth 2014; Brandt et al. 2011; Andersen 2012; Büscher et al. 2011). While these calls come from different positions and to some extent have different objectives, some overlapping concerns are how to know ‘mess’, uncertainties and entanglements in technological society. They also put a focus on the unavoidable world-making of research. In this chapter we propose what we articulate as the patchworking ways of knowing, which partly draws on our art project Threads – A Mobile Sewing Circle. Threads was touring to rural community centres and other cultural institutions in Sweden between 2010 and 2013. Participants have, during this time, been invited to spend some time together with others that they did not necessarily know, while embroidering their text messages by hand or with a machine connected to a mobile phone with bespoke software. Threads in itself could be seen as a way of patchworking old and new, digital and physical technologies and ways of meeting. Patchworking can thus be understood as concretely taking what is at hand and putting it into new relations, for example an embroidery machine off-the-shelf connected to a mobile phone. Or, when a participant in Threads sent her first-time-ever text message and then had the SMS embroidered on a piece of linen fabric that she had kept in her hope chest for decades. She thus re-patterned materials and mixed temporalities through care and curiosity. Patchworking, in this context, is thereby not only the making of a textile object, but the collective making of a patchwork of different kinds of knowledges, experiences, histories, and anticipations in relation to ways of living with technologies. Staying with, and knowing over time and through multiple presents is a particularly important aspect of patchworking ways of knowing and we consider it neglected in practice-based research. What we propose is that the patchworking ways of knowing is both to make and to know ways of living with technologies. It is both epistemology and ontology – to know and to make the world in one move.




INTRODUCTION Ever since design started to become a discipline, there have been ongoing discussions about what characterizes ‘designerly ways of knowing’. Brandt et al. argue that ‘. . . whereas design education traditionally focuses on a given discipline such as graphic design or textile design, design research often aims to cut across such practices’ (Brandt et al. 2011: 5). Another way of distinguishing between different kinds of design research would be in terms of what kind of knowledge it aims to produce and what role design or design work has in this production. In the early 1980s, Cross (1982) argued that design should be treated as a third area of education and research, in parallel with science and humanities. One of the most cited scholars on this issue is Frayling (1993) who distinguishes between research on, for and through design. Brandt et al. (2011) make the distinction between design theory, design studies, design science and practicebased design research. What characterizes the last approach is that, in line with research through design, it starts off in practice and aims to explore new terrains for design and designer. Learning or producing knowledge through doing and practice is, of course, nothing new. Following the tradition of Dewey (1916/1944) and American pragmatism, Schön (1983, 1987) has done extensive work that articulates/describes how knowledge is produced in professional practices such as design. One of his main arguments is that a technical rationality, which aims to produce universal truths, is only possible if you can isolate a problem. In the swamp of practitioners this is not possible because every situation is infinitely complex. To avoid drowning, you need to be constantly on the move. From the perspective of technical rationality it looks as if practitioners do not know what they are doing. To understand the rationality of practice you have to engage with it through reflection in and on action. This, then, is the reflective practitioner. While Schön himself did not conduct practice-based research, his writing has been widely used by scholars who, through experiments and interventions, aim to develop knowledge on how to improve practices (cf. Eriksen 2012; Brandt et al. 2011; Hallnäs and Redström 2006). Our own practice-based research is an attempt to contribute to methodological assemblages in social sciences, design research, humanities and artistic research. Our practice is Threads – A Mobile Sewing Circle. It was a travelling exhibition, workshop and sewing circle where participants were invited to embroider their text messages by hand or by forwarding them to a mobile phone connected to an embroidery machine (see Plate 5.1). This took place while there were several other exhibitions in, for example, Sweden that connected textiles and technologies.1 Some works were, just like Threads, dealing with the question of how to use design practices and objects to engage publics in societal issues such as modes of production, access to information and gender inequalities. In our thesis (Lindström and Ståhl 2014) we have articulated our and others’ engagement with Threads as a kind of patchworking ways of knowing. The patchworking ways of knowing is, as we will show in this chapter, also a response to various calls for new ways of knowing within design-oriented research and the social sciences. While these calls come from different positions and to some extent have different objectives, some overlapping concerns are the unavoidable – and perhaps desirable – consequences of the world-making of research, and knowing ‘mess’, uncertainties and entanglements in technological society.



To understand these complex and messy sociomaterial entanglements we have turned to Science and Technology studies (STS ), actor-network theory (ANT ), ANT and after (ANTa), feminist technoscience, material semiotics, material turn, feminist materialisms, new feminist materialism and posthumanism, which importantly trouble a binary divide between nature and culture and treat agency as mutually constituted between humans and nonhumans (cf. Suchman 2007). Such an understanding of the world implies that ways of living with technologies are not determined in one moment, through design or use, but are continuously remade. Not purely as a social construct but also material. Our work thus positions itself neither in technological determinism nor in social, cultural or human determinism. The position thereby has consequences for how to conduct design work and where and when to draw the boundaries of the design projects that we engage in. The patchworking ways of knowing means to know through a collective making. It thus intervenes in designerly, artistic and academic practices that localize creativity and agency in one actor – the bounded actor who can be isolated. It proposes serious collaboration and relationality and thereby troubles neo-liberal, capitalist ideas of individuality and discrete entities. Patchworking ways of knowing thereby directs attention towards entanglement of performativity and materiality. Patchworking ways of knowing also intervenes in and troubles linear, singular storytelling and dualisms. It suggests narratives with several entry- and exit-points. Furthermore, patchworking ways of knowing intervenes in the notion that mature and robust knowledge is to be derived securely from established qualitative or quantitative methodologies. Instead, it suggests highly localized and situated ways of knowing and forms of expressions of knowledge. Finally patchworking troubles ways of knowing that are mainly about revealing structures and norms, and instead proposes a mode of producing knowledge through crafting and making. Knowing through crafting and making means that there is a connection between what we can know, what we are making and how we are making what we try to know. In our case we have used the patchworking ways of knowing, in one move, to make and know ways of living with technologies.2

CALLS FOR NEW WAYS OF KNOWING Recently there have been various calls for new ways of knowing within art and design (cf. Hughes et al. 2011; Hannula et al. 2005; Koskinen et al. 2011; Brandt et al. 2011) and social sciences (Law and Urry 2004; Büscher et al. 2011; Lury and Wakeford 2012; Jungnickel and Hjorth 2014). Although these calls come from different fields and have slightly different objectives, they share an interest in knowing ‘mess’ (Law 2004) – that which is contradictory, complex and relational. A consequence of this wish for understanding ‘mess’ is that we cannot expect to know what the problem is in advance. Instead methods have to be inventive (Lury and Wakeford 2012), in the sense that they should not only aim at answering a predefined question or solve a predefined problem, but allow for re-articulations of the problem. The inventiveness of a method lies in its capacity to change the problem that it aims to address. What makes a method inventive or not is not pre-given, but is always in-the-making in what Law (2004) calls ‘methodological assemblages’ that consist of tools, people, context and more. Among the calls for new ways of knowing it is also argued that method and that which we aim to know cannot be separated. For example, in Inventive Methods by Lury and Wakeford (2012) it is argued that ‘. . . it is not possible to apply a method as if it were



indifferent or external to the problem it seeks to address, but that method must rather be made specific and relevant to the problem. In short, inventive methods are ways to introduce answerability into the problem’ (Lury and Wakeford 2012: 2–3). This understanding of methods and problems also implies a shift from doing research within laboratories, where a limited number of parameters can be controlled, to experimentations ‘in the wild’ (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003). Such discussions have also been articulated in Mode 2 (Nowotny et al. 2003), which refers to research in which the researchers leave the observational position of the ivory tower to engage in collaborations with actors outside of academia. On, for example, an EU -level this has been implemented because research money funds the so-called Living labs (Udén 2011; Björgvinsson et al. 2012; Löwgren and Reimer 2013). There are differences between, for example, Mode 2, Living labs, citizen science and public engagement which we will not develop here, but it seems to us that what aligns them is a type of research that also opens up questions of how the researcher is involved not only in unveiling or producing knowledge, but in making the world. Haraway calls this performative entanglement of the researcher and the research world-making (Haraway 2008), which implies a shift from critique to composition. The world-making that Haraway proposes thereby has similarities with the compositionist position that Latour proposes. His argument is that critique ‘. . . “ran out of steam” because it was predicated on the discovery of a true world of realities lying behind a veil of appearances’ (Latour 2010: 4). Instead we need to engage in composing the world. In such a practice the important questions are not whether something is constructed or not, but if it is well or badly composed. Barad aligns with Latour, suggesting: ‘Critique makes people feel attacked. It doesn’t focus on living together, hopefully living well together and flourishing’ (Barad, quoted by Juleskjaer and Schwennesen 2012: 16). Instead she seeks to ‘creatively re-pattern the world’ (ibid, quoted by Juleskjaer and Schwennesen 2012: 16). To be part of world-making is however not exclusive to these explicitly compositionist research positions. For example, Law and Urry (2004) as well as Ruppert et al. (2013) have argued that all methods participate in making realities. To explain this they refer to public opinion polls, and argue that that these polls not only provide knowledge about the public’s opinions on specific issues, they also participate in making an opinionated public. Methods, as Law and Urry (2004) have put it, are thereby not only about epistemology but also about ontology. Our response to these calls for new ways of knowing is patchworking ways of knowing. Before we discuss this further, we will linger on the area of curiosity – ways of living with technologies – that we engage with in Threads. This is important since, as we have stated, method and that which we aim to know are already entangled.

WAYS OF LIVING WITH TECHNOLOGIES Welcome to Threads – a mobile sewing circle! We, Åsa Ståhl and Kristina Lindström, have been hosting this sewing circle since 2006. In this sewing circle participants are invited to embroider a text message from their mobile phone – to choose one out of all the messages stored in their inbox and to make the SMS into a message out of thread and fabric. If you have a look around, you will see already embroidered messages hanging on clothes lines. These are message that have been shared and embroidered by previous



participants of this sewing circle. On the table, that we all are gathered around, we have placed fabric, needles and threads that you are welcome to use, unless you prefer to use your own. Later on, the table will be set with coffee, tea, and biscuits. On another table you will find an embroidery machine that is connected to a mobile phone, through a USB -cord. For those who wish to have their message embroidered by the machine you are welcome to forward that message to the phone. But please keep in mind: the machine is slow. It takes about one hour to embroider a full message, with 160 characters. It might take even longer to do it by hand. At the end of the day you can decide whether you want to bring your embroidered SMS with you or leave it here to travel further. You can also upload a picture of it to the Threads website. We will have a summing up of the day and we all help to pack the things into two blue boxes that have been designed in order to make transportation of Threads easier, so that Threads can continue on its tour around Sweden. This is one version of how the two of us have invited people to Threads – A Mobile Sewing Circle. Importantly the invitation has also been performed by a range of other actors, such as the collaborating partners and local hosts, and through a range of materialities and technologies, such as posters, the project website, phone calls, and how the room has been set up. The first time we invited participants to embroider text messages from their mobile phones was in 2006. At the time a developer was trying to connect an embroidery machine to a mobile phone for us, but the participants of this first sewing circle could only embroider by hand. As we could take an embroidery machine with a USB -port off the shelf, another developer could help us reverse engineer it and connect it to a mobile phone. It thereby became possible to forward an SMS to our mobile phone that was connected to a computer and to transfer it to the embroidery machine in a file format so that the embroidery machine could embroider the message. Since then this assemblage has gone through more iterations. The latest version, a mobile phone directly connected to an embroidery machine, was developed for a collaboration where the sewing circle went on tour around Sweden between 2010 and 2013 (see Plate 5.2). The partners were Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, Vi Unga, the National Federation of Rural Community Centres, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan and Malmö University – where we were based. During this period about 100 sewing circles were hosted, by us and local hosts. The invitation to Threads was a rather specific one. It was an invitation to look into your mobile phone in-box, choose a message and a fabric to embroider it on; and it was also an invitation to sit down for a couple of hours together with other participants that you might not have met before. The reason for the gathering in Threads is not that the participants already belong to a community or share a predefined issue that they want to solve. For some the invitation sparked curiosity. As time went by and we were hosting more and more of those sewing circles, we came to think of the invitation as an expression of an area of curiosity: ways of living with technologies. The expression living with implies an ongoingness, that technologies are always in the making, and that it is a mutual becoming of technologies and other actors such as humans. Another emphasis in the living with is that technologies are not made from scratch. Rather, they are made in relation, with contingent and temporary entities and also become with sedimentations of what has come before them. Such understanding of technology is inspired by feminist technoscience that rests on relational ontology and an understanding of agency as mutually constituted between



human and nonhuman actors (Haraway 1994; Barad 2007; Suchman 2007). The way Kember and Zylinska (2012: 6) put it is that mutual constitutions and relational becomings mean to be neither human-centred nor to be technologically determinist. This means that technologies participate in the making of ways of living, but do not determine them. This also suggests that how a technology comes to matter can never fully be anticipated during a ‘project-time’, by designers or potential future users, but is always reconfigured during ‘use-time’ (Redström 2006; Binder et al. 2011b). While more or less the same materials have travelled with Threads,3 how it comes to matter and what agencies are enabled differ because of the sociomaterial relations it becomes part of. For example, in rural Sweden, where there is hardly any phone reception, participants have not always been able to use mobile phones as expected. Some have had to lean out of the window to be able to forward their messages to have them embroidered by the machine. The capacity to embroider an SMS , in other words, is not located in one discrete entity such as a phone or a machine, but in an assemblage of human, phone, machine, masts, satellites, landscapes, protocols and more. Each actor4 has several potentials and these can never be predefined or anticipated since we do not know with what, whom, how and when they will become. Indeed, living with technologies is unpredictable, and entangles us in a range of issues extended over time and space. Therefore there is a need for continuous care and curiosity. Threads for some has been framed as a push towards slowness, mindfulness and nostalgia. Others have been provoked by the use of machines and have thought that the electronic devices were undermining the very craftsmanship into which they have invested considerable time and effort. On the issue of challenged craftsmanship and ways of living with technologies, we have also been asked if we are Luddites. Regardless of whether we are Luddites or not, we have, in one of the manuals accompanying Threads during its travels around Sweden, written briefly about the Luddites. During the beginning of the industrial revolution the Luddites rebelled against some of the technological changes in Britain, by destroying some of the machines. While the word Luddite today often is used as a synonym for technological scepticism, the Luddites’ reactions were not primarily a reaction towards technologies but a concern about how some of these technologies might de-skill workers (Fox 2004), and disrupt some forms of life. In the manual, where we mention the Luddites, we encourage participants to practise curiosity towards new and unfamiliar technologies, however not without caution/hesitation. Since, as the Luddites were well aware, technologies participate in the making of new ways of living – for better or worse. In our composition of Threads we have tried to stitch together different kinds of technologies. This assemblage also involves in work and ways of living with technologies that are perhaps far away. One man once asked us why we did not just hire some Chinese workers. At the time we did not know how to respond to such a demeaning national profiling. But one answer could have been that, indeed, in recognizing what we had at the table, we had almost achieved what he suggested. The mobile phones, embroidery machine and some of the textiles have been made, if not by Chinese workers, then by precariously employed workers who work under harsh conditions that are indeed changing patterns of life – which bears resemblance to the Luddites. These examples show that technologies are never innocent and that entanglements are made over time and space, and are not always made public. Through our and others’ engagement in Threads we have both gotten to know and made ways of living with technologies. In intra-action with feminist technoscience and



broad methodological discussions on new ways of knowing, and we have come to articulate the patchworking ways of knowing.

PATCHWORKING WAYS OF KNOWING Before we articulated the patchworking ways of knowing we had used the figuration of patchworking in several variations in our academic and artistic practice. For example, we have used it when hosting seminars, when writing texts (Lindström and Ståhl 2012), when hosting sewing circles and when writing our collaborative thesis. We have put the figuration to work differently in different contexts. Of interest in relation to the patchworking ways of knowing is that our and others’ engagement with what is at hand has also become a way to explore the not-yet-existing. Or, put in a slightly different way, to try to understand the world through making new configurations of agencies. In line with much other practice-based research, patchworking ways of knowing thus offers another approach compared with, for example, social sciences, which usually answers the question how. By putting the focus on the making of the not-yet-existing, through engaging with what is at hand, the patchworking ways of knowing suggests a specific engagement with the world that is closely entangled with multiple temporalities and materialities. For example, most of the things that are part of Threads, such as mobile phones, text messages, threads and needles, are also used in a variety of other contexts. In Threads they are put together in new relations, like patches in a patchwork. The patchworking that goes on in Threads is, however, far from perfect. The pieces are imperfectly stitched together and are continuously reordered. Yet another aspect of the patchworking ways of knowing is that it is done collectively. To start with, the two of us have been pursuing this work together and subsequently written this chapter and other texts collaboratively. However, there are also other actors, including collaborators, participants, hosts and technologies, who in different capacities, at different times and in different spaces have participated in the ongoing patchworking. Patchworking is thus operating in sociomaterial entanglements, mess and complexity. What we suggest then is that the patchworking ways of knowing is interventionist in the sense that it is making relational re-orderings. Furthermore, the patchworking intervention is a kind of collective making. Finally, our aim is not to solve or resolve something, but to stay with the complexities and mess of these collective interventions. To know through interventions is not unique for the patchworking ways of knowing, but has several aspects similar to experiments and explorations, which are used in practicebased research (cf. Koskinen et al. 2012; Brandt et al. 2011). Redström (2007) writes that the aim of design experiments is to create concrete images of what is possible, rather than making abstract images of the actual. The aim is thereby not to produce claims of truth, but to make difference differently. By using the word intervention we want to emphasize that the patchworking ways of knowing is not about setting up an experiment from scratch in a restricted lab, but to engage and intervene in materialities, temporalities, knowledges and more that already exist. Or to intervene from within. The patchworking ways of knowing does in that sense also have commonalities with research done in the wild (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003) or in living labs (Udén 2011; Björgvinsson et al. 2012; Löwgren and Reimer 2013; Binder et al. 2011a) that conduct research outside of well-confined labs. This mode of research usually also involves a range of actors in the production of knowledge.



What is crucial in our articulation of the patchworking ways of knowing is the combination of its three aspects: intervention, collective and stay with. This is important since this consequences not only for how we can know but also for the worlds we know and make. Amongst junior and senior design researchers the focus is often on the phase of ideation or invention as a temporally discrete instance. For example, when we first started our academic research work, we had already started Threads, but under a different name and in other collectives. A design research colleague of ours was wondering why we stayed with it. To our colleague, that project seemed done, finished, over with as a research project. This is understandable since, within for example, design, the phases before use, such as prototyping, ideation, etc., are often where invention is located. We have seen this also happen in other practice-based research work and we were keen to try something different. To stay with making that is ongoing over time and geographical location is, however, not only a way of knowing, it also has consequences for what we can know. In this case it becomes a way of knowing how ways of living with technologies becomes over time and in use, rather than how it was invented. Others have also reacted towards the temporalities of research. Stengers (2011), for example, has argued for what she calls slow science. In contrast to mainstream research that feeds the current state of knowledge economy, slow science is meant to be able to grapple with complexities of the common world. To allow for ‘. . . a reembedding of science in a messy world’ (Stengers 2011: 10) implies dealing with issues, questions and concerns that do not arise and become relevant in the relatively well-controlled confines of the lab. Slow science is thus, through its focus on temporalities, in dialogue with the above-mentioned calls for new ways of knowing that range from discussions on methods (Law 2004), to the positions of researchers (Callon and Rabeharisoa 2003). Slow research for us is to stay with the collective intervention of patchworking. Staying with, in this context, also means not to rush to solutions or to resolve problems, but to stay with something, with complexities, mess and troubles. What we argue is that patchworking ways of knowing is to know the world through making and that this making or intervention is collective. Since issues of living with technologies are continuous, never fully resolved, we have also argued for staying with such interventions.

PRACTISING CARE AND CURIOSITY We have suggested above that our invitation to participate in Threads also expresses curiosity. We engage with curiosity through the patchworking ways of knowing. It has not resulted in any snappy conclusions in bullet point forms, although we have been asked to map, for example, the text messaging of participants in order to come up with a comparative study of different parts of Sweden. The patchworking ways of knowing has instead generated a variety of situated, located, partial stories of how we live with technologies. But perhaps more importantly the patchworking ways of knowing, we argue, can also become a way of practising care and curiosity towards ways of living with technology. For example, before hosting Threads we gathered fabrics from second-hand stores, where we have come across and had to choose between buying fabrics with obvious layers of use, or those that seemed to have been tucked away in drawers without ever having



being used. We found lots of textiles for everyday use, with carefully embroidered nametags and initials, that cost very little. We have wondered if we could bear bringing those to Threads where they would be cut apart to be put into new relations. However, the patchworking interventions through Threads are not conceived to preserve but rather, to engage – as Barad speaks of creativity with dis/continuity: . . . creativity is not about crafting the new through a radical break with the past. It’s a matter of dis/continuity, neither continuous nor discontinuous in the usual sense. It seems to me that it’s important to have some kind of way of thinking about change that doesn’t presume there’s either more of the same or a radical break. Dis/continuity is a cutting together-apart (one move) that doesn’t deny creativity and innovation but understands its indebtedness and entanglements to the past and the future. —Barad, quoted by Juleskjaer and Schwennesen 2012: 16 To craft things well, as patchworking reminds us, is not about the cult of the new, but about continuous working with patches that have a genealogy, and through the relational reordering reconfiguring the world and relations in a responsible way. The interventions of patchworking are thus to attend with care and curiosity to histories, materials, and genealogies of the past, and bring these into future configurations. Similarly, making in Threads has the potential to enact both care and curiosity. For example, a participant came to Threads without much prior experience of text messaging. While she did not bring experiences of mobile phone use to Threads, she brought other things, such as an apron that she had made out of her hand-woven linen cloth that she had picked up from her hope chest. Since she did not have any text messages to embroider she decided to write a new text, send it to the embroidery machine, and have it embroidered on the apron. The text said: ‘Svetten lackar’, which can be understood as sweating in anticipation as well as sweating because of the hard work. In this case the hard work included composing and completing her first text message as well as finding reception for the SMS (see Plate 5.3). We take this to be an example of the co-articulation of an issue of living with technologies, made through the practice of making. More precisely, this co-articulation has to do with how to handle the familiar in combination with the less known, or not yet known. It is also an example of how making in Threads becomes a way of practising and bringing together thoughtfulness, care, curiosity and making. In the making in Threads she found ways for her hopes from the past and her apprehension of the new to be brought into the present. Doing so demanded tremendous effort and courage. In the book The Craftsman, Sennett describes craftsmanship as a kind of citizenship which is characterized by ‘. . . the desire to do a job well for its own sake’ (Sennett 2008: 9).5 To become a skilled craftsman takes time and practice and is not always an easy and joyful process. To have the skills of a craftsman, Sennett argues, is of great importance, since craftsmanship is a way of knowing the material conditions of the world, a knowing that also makes it possible to engage with and transform it. His support of craftsmanship is also a critique of the separation between making, on the one hand, and thinking, debating and judging on the other. These schisms can be traced to industrialization. To avoid this separation, Sennett argues for a kind of craftsmanship that is an ongoing engagement, that enacts curiosity directed not only to what it is possible to make, but also to address why. We find parts of his work useful as it suggests a temporal shift – from an after-the-fact ethics to a more ongoing engagement that involves both curiosity and care.



Several other thinkers have connected making, craft (cf. Rosner 2010) and repair (Callén forthcoming) with care. For example, Matt Ratto, inspired by Latour, has argued that making can engender care for something, rather than simply caring about. The difference here is that care for also means to see oneself as part of the issue and thereby also being partially responsible. Such reasoning is also in line with Suchman’s (2002) concept of located accountability that suggests that in order to be responsible for what we design, we need to locate ourselves within extended networks of sociomaterial relations: Not to seek absolute control, but to recognize what one can do is to ask how one can proceed responsibly with this set of working relations. While her reasoning is based primarily on the development of technologies, often made by designers and engineers, the same could be said about the everyday demands of living with technologies.

CONCLUSION Patchworking as we present it in this chapter is not only the making of a textile object, but the collective making of a patchwork of different kinds of knowledges, experiences, histories, and hopes in relation to ways of living with technologies. In other words, what we have proposed is that the patchworking ways of knowing is to make and to know ways of living with technologies. It is both epistemology and ontology – to know and to make the world in one move. The idea of knowing through making is certainly not unique to our work. Many others argue for the same connectedness between epistemology and ontology. What characterizes the patchworking ways of knowing is the combination of being interventionist and collective and the staying with. These characteristics, we have argued, have consequences not only for how we know, but also what we know. We have primarily focused on the staying with. Compared to much other practice-based research that puts the focus on, for example, ideation phases, to stay with allows us to know how ways of living with technologies become over time through a continuous patchworking. However, through the composition of Threads we have not aimed at privileging slowness as a given value. One point with Threads is that the efficiency of industrialization, the meditative, the digital, the physical, the here, the now, the past, the human and the nonhuman are all gathered at the same table. To be able to handle the co-existence of various ways of living with technologies and complex relations that span time and space, we argue that there is a need to practise care and curiosity. One way of practising this, we suggest, is through a continuous patchworking, without a final solution. This is also to suggest a way in which to acknowledge one’s own responsibilities in technological societies. A challenge that we and others face is how to sensitize oneself to the paradox that taking what is at hand as a patchworking of knowing might hold back the attention to long temporal and spatial networks. Taking what is at hand might seem like an excluding binding to temporal presents and geographical presence, although we aim to get to the long networks and mean that the materials themselves are never in one time and space. Feminist technoscience forces us to remember to keep questioning power: where does it come from, how, when, why? And if there is one aspect in particular that we find neglected in practice-based research, it is temporality and multiple presents of the different materials with which we engage. Threading these together remains for us a potent figuration of practice.




Threads has been just one among many expressions of an interest in the combination of textiles and computation. In Sweden alone there have been three major exhibitions emphasizing slightly different aspects of living with mundane technologies and textile craft: Craftwerk 2.0 (cf. Åhlvik and von Busch 2009; We make money not art 2010), Open Source Embroidery (cf. Carpenter 2012, n.d.) and Points of departure (cf. Fiber Art Sweden n.d.).


This chapter is a revised version of chapters in our collaborative thesis, written across the disciplines ‘interaction design’ and ‘media and communication studies’ at Malmö University and published as Lindström and Ståhl 2014.


To make Threads portable we have put together the materials that travel with Threads in two blue cases. The cases are made so that they can fit into a car and include durable goods such as needles, fabrics, and threads, an embroidery machine, table cloths to embroider on, clothes lines to hang embroideries on and much more.


We here follow the earlier mentioned ANT (a) (cf. Latour 2005; Law 2009) and feminist technoscience (cf. Barad 2007; Suchman 2007; Haraway 2008; Lindström and Ståhl 2014) thread, which emphasizes relational and mutual becoming, which means that objects and subjects are always in the making and become together.


It is noticeable how scholars and artists in a variety of contexts work with an expansion of the category of citizenship. These expansions move beyond citizenship as solely discursive and parliamentarian by including DIY-citizenship that emerges through direct action and maker cultures (Ratto and Boler 2014), citizenship performed through sensing technologies in relation to environmental issues (Gabrys 2013; Pritchard 2013) and various kinds of material participation in the everyday life (Marres 2012).

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Making Known The Textiles Toolbox—Psychoanalysis of Nine Types of Textile Thinking CLAIRE PAJACZKOWSKA

The aim of this chapter is to show that an embodied relationship with materials, characteristic of making, has the effect of activating specific kinds of thinking. This is sometimes described as ‘tacit knowledge’, ‘craft’ or ‘skill’, in which the neural pathways of kinaesthetic memory serve as pathways for unconscious thought, fantasy and meaning. It is the work of ‘praxis’ to authorize and acknowledge this silent, ‘tacit’ knowledge, which can otherwise atrophy like soft logic under the deformation of the more conventional hard logic of authored discourse. Proposed here are nine forms of tacit knowledge held within the cultures of textile. The concept of a ‘Handbook of Textiles’ connotes an instruction manual for artisanship, craftsmanship and the classification and dissemination of techniques of making. A handbook suggests that it is a proximate repository of proximate knowledge, the hand indicating a metaphoric ‘close to hand’edness of both knowledge and its form of transmission. This knowledge, it suggests, is not something to be sought from high priests of the academy, nor from the academy itself. A manual – stored, perhaps, within a toolbox or kitchen drawer – rather than an academic text held within a scholarly library or archive. The knowledge stored in a handbook aims to transmit, by written words but more likely by diagram and illustration, the knowledge that is transmitted by apprenticeship in technical college or workshop, or to children watching adults working at home. Now widely transmitted through home videos uploaded onto YouTube and websites, the knowledge encoded within handbooks suggests the lost wisdom of our pre-industrial ancestors. It suggests that some connectedness has been lost in the progressively mechanized and digital cultures of virtuality: the touch, hold, and grasp of social learning, which can be reactivated by new forms of enquiry. The new project initiated here by Janis Jefferies, Diana Wood Conroy and Hazel Clark does not represent a nostalgia for a quaint past, or a romance with the nobility of craftsmanship, but is one that challenges the traditional distinctions between the technical skills of making and the intellectual skills of understanding, knowing and authoring. Current conventions of cultures of making constrain the impact that this culture might bring to existing methodologies and the theories these support. For example, understanding that knowledge arrives to the mind through the body will transform the way that we classify social learning as ‘pedagogy’. It will transform the way that manual labour is 79



denigrated in post-Cartesian, post-Comtean traditions, and will reframe the discussion of the meaning of gendered knowledge. Whilst the idealization of abstraction was, notes Lévi-Strauss (1978), necessary to establish science as distinct from mythology in the Enlightenment, there is now a need to reconsider the authority of the discourses that do not conform to rationalist abstraction. The concept of body, for example, as the antithesis of the abstract, finds current usage in many accounts of making, usually through the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, the emerging data from neuroscience or from evolutionary biology and physical anthropology. These theories offer a materialist concept of the body, which supports the psychoanalytic conceptualization of the body as simultaneously biological and social, an outcome of the two evolutionary processes described by Darwin. The body, and embodied knowledge, has a contradictory place in Western culture and its economics of globalization. The industrial revolution, initiated by Britain’s technological innovation, resulted in the social stratification of workers as manual or ‘white collar’, with the residual taint of denigration attaching to manual labour and an idealization of alphabetic knowledge and its transmission through the Logos (word). In a post-industrial culture the artisanal, material cultures once marginalized as lacking the authority of symbolic meaning, or the capacity for abstract thinking, are becoming reconsidered as sources of knowledge. The academic context associated with postindustrial, post-Structuralist culture also tends to idealize the reactivation of artisanal and manual skills as ‘art’, ‘craft’ or ‘creativity’. Yet, without devaluing or idealizing the knowledge of making, it is possible to reconsider the significance of the savoir faire of making as a contribution to existing, post-Positivist, theories of knowledge. Integrating the techne – technique and technologies of manufacture by hand and machine – in relation to the episteme – techniques of knowledge, philosophies and theories of knowledge – the new handbook invites makers and theorists to collaborate in a new culture of ‘making known’, with the capacity to understand the meaning and significance of making and the role of holding and handling that articulate mind and materials. Conceived as a form of praxis, the textile practices of felting, spinning, stitching, knotting/knitting, weaving, plaiting, draping, cutting and styling are offered as a textile ‘toolbox’ of techniques of articulating activities of embodied knowledge with forms of thinking and knowing. These nine types of practice can offer a way of thinking about the relationship between knowledge as both qualitative and quantifiable. The post-empirical academic culture of Western education leaves a legacy of the idealization of the quantifiability of data and the calibration of ‘method’, and this chapter might be used as an experiment in thinking. The classification here is, therefore, described in verbs – traces of action and process – rather than nouns or names of artefacts, objects or craft. The aim is to question the forms in which cultural and social praxis can best be recorded and transmitted. Historians and anthropologists of textiles have used their respective methodological systems as context. Rozsika Parker’s (1989) Subversive Stitch, for example, has explored the place of textile crafts within the social history of gender divisions within culture. Anthropologist Susanne Küchler has understood textile as a paradigmatic material and as one of a range of materials analysed within material culture (Küchler 2003). Recent thinking in social science investigates the place of material praxis as a substrate of abstract conceptualizing, Richard Sennett (2012) offers the concept of ‘dialogical interaction between making and knowing’, and Tim Ingold (Hallam and Ingold 2014) proposes ‘corespondence’ between making and thinking. It is possible, when approaching the question



from the point of view of the maker, rather than the social scientist, to reframe the circularity between embodied knowledge and social structure. While there is a complex co-evolution of mind and body – and specifically hand–eye coordination, tool-making and social learning – the perspectives from the biology of mind can best be found in psychoanalysis and its theory of the uses of instinctual energies when integrated into social and cultural activities. Laboratory research in material science, in collaboration with industry and manufacture, has generated new directions for textile design research into digital, biological and chemical hybrids of science and art. Smart and advanced textiles explore the capacity of materials to act as prosthetic, activating human agency and extending the human ego beyond its biological constraints. It is possible to consider the concept of a ‘textile ego’ in the way that Didier Anzieu (1989) considers the ‘skin ego’. The ego, as defined by Freud and post-Freudian psychoanalysis, is a concept that describes a threshold between bodily experience, as a product of biology, and the embodied knowledge that is deployed through culture and society. Conceptualized as both a spatial and symbolic process, the ego acts as the interface between biological instincts and the subject, individual and social structures. The ego is described as a ‘representational world’ (Sandler 1987), comprising symbol, language, image, fantasy, feelings and the articulation of these into thoughts, beliefs, identity, experience and ways of knowing. The Freudian concept of ego includes the thought that most of its operation is unconscious and is accessible to conscious thought only in retrospect, through methods of interpretation and techniques of self-reflexivity. Two concepts that are fundamental to psychoanalysis and that are of interest to textiles praxis, enabling us to consider these as fabrications and epistemic practices, are those of the unconscious and of the ego. Although a ‘representational world’, hingeing on and articulating the biology of ontogeny and phylogeny with the reality of the symbolic, the ego, suggests Freud, is ‘first and foremost a body ego’. This accounts for the way that some bodily experiences are repeatedly symbolized within material culture. The self is often imagined, subjectively, as composed of ‘layers’ of varying permeability and flexibility. These ‘defences’, which are dynamic forms that mediate instinctual drives and social structures, are materialized as fantasy, as narrative and as embodied knowledge. While cultures that do not make use of a complex concept of subjectivity often describe the self as an ‘interiority’, which can be more or less separated from its social ‘context’, a more psychoanalytic concept of subjectivity conceives the ego as a Möbius strip, where outside and inside are part of a continuous surface, the flexibility of the Möbius curve inviting thoughts on how material is used as metaphor for mind, and how mind is constructed through the human capacity to meet its needs by an embodied encounter with materials. Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott (1974) suggested that the self is a product of a transitional and transformational emergence from a primary, mammalian dependency to an individuated interdependency, in which the capacity for relatedness is at the centre of the definition of the self. Alterity and the ‘capacity for concern’, or empathy, is the indissoluble, biological legacy of mammalian evolution which is manifested in the fact, observed by Mary Douglas, that ‘the primary function of a house is not to offer protection from the elements but to offer hospitality to others’ (Douglas 1966). This capacity for primary identification is the basis for the way that a maker, in making an object, artefact or repair, is simultaneously making the self, and making society. This is the phenomenon that Richard Sennett describes as the proto-social dimension of craftsmanship, which means that making is always a social activity, even when it is carried out in isolation



(Sennett 2008). The relational meaning of making is inscribed in the unconscious ego as a body memory and as a range of emotional affects, or meanings. Psychoanalyst Mervin Glasser (1979) proposes a concept he termed ‘core complex’ to describe the dynamic of the psychological relationship between self and its object within the early years of pre-Oedipal life. Describing the psychic metabolization of aggressive instincts into mechanisms of ego defences of control, Glasser posits the primary relation as one of calibrating space, distance, proximity and control. This intrapsychic relation of early infancy is played out and reactivated with external objects, such as in relations of making and other forms of creativity. For Melanie Klein (1930) the need to find a symbolic equivalence between internal object and its signifier is a need to make reparation for anxieties of destruction. The first relation to an object is so infused with violent appetites and fantasies that the self protects and defends against fear of annihilation by means of making equivalent objects. The aggression that is at the root of creativity in the making of artefacts is also noted by anthropologist Alfred Gell (1998). The violence that is the mainspring of the ontology of the artefact and the praxis of making is often overlooked or neglected in favour of utilitarian, romantic or idealizing conceptualizations of the maker. Glasser and Klein worked with different theories of mind, and especially different theories of instinct. For Glasser the ethological concept of aggressive and sadistic instincts has a primacy in ego development, whereas for Klein the concept of a death instinct is significant. However, the two psychoanalysts have in common the understanding that all ego structure is developed through the use of its first object relationship, and that this sets a template for the qualities of the representational world, or ‘internal object’, an ‘inner world’ that continues to activate meaning throughout later life. Ernst Kris (1953) writes that the maker’s art requires the coordination of hand and eye in relation to an external object, such as material, technique or aim, whilst the cathexis, in the unconscious, is to the imago of the repressed memory of the experience of being with the mother. Marion Milner writes of the maker’s ‘embodied encounter with materials’ as a medium that enables the self to experience the interface between conscious and unconscious mind (Milner 1950/2010). Psychoanalysts and anthropologists often interpret artefacts as if they were a dream-like structure of symbolic production. The knowledges of making can, therefore, be unavailable to makers themselves, and this sense of being at the mercy of spontaneous ability or response is often projected as representing the artist at the mercy of a muse, or the shaman as conduit for deities and supernatural powers. This vulnerability to non-rational, spontaneous ability is not the same thing as being resistant to translation. The practice of showing how knowledge of making is articulated through the body, and stored in embodied memory, can offer a number of new directions for conceptualizing the value of culture. When making is understood as praxis it becomes clear that in postindustrial economies manual labour has a troubled and contradictory status, and it is evident that anxieties about knowledge that is too proximate to the body are also activated. This anxiety extends to a conventional disdain for ‘women’s work’ and a reactive distinction made, in the academy, between expert knowledge of culture and culture as social learning. A psychoanalytic understanding of the unconscious substrate of materiality as articulated through the body ego shows that the bodily is unconsciously coded as maternal, and demonstrates why social structures that employ precepts of patrilineal descent generate suspicion and mistrust of the body as a dark continent of matrilineal, relational, unauthored (and therefore unauthorized) meaning, which must be symbolically tamed by being brought under the name of the father.



The practice of making textiles holds, tends and carries something of the undisciplined, because it is multi- and inter-disciplinary, and also something of the dangerously collaborative and relational, and is, therefore, disdained as illegitimate, as excessively material and utilitarian. This Handbook invites us to join in an investigation of the way that the material is substrate to meaning: how, for example, a thread is made by spinning fibre, extruding polymer, or pulling metal, and how thread is line as a movement, articulating both concrete movement and abstract conceptual space, like a line of ink on paper which becomes a logos or word, the basis of Law. The psychoanalytic perspective shows how the thread of attachment becomes a body ego (Freud 1923/1964), a threshold between the biological and social, a second skin (Bick 1968), a membrane of simultaneous connection and division.

THE TEXTILES TOOLBOX The toolbox contains nine types of activity. These are not tools as objects or nouns, but processes of the body through which we can think; described as verbs. What follows are reflections through the praxis of felting, spinning, stitching, knotting/knitting, weaving, plaiting, draping, cutting and styling. These nine types of practice are offered as a series of experiments in the transformation of thinking through nouns, words and objects, through the invitation to think through activities and relationships. It is an advantage if the reader is able to do the action by hand in parallel with thinking through the reading. Noting the associations, memories and thoughts produced by making expands the meaning of the action, and, as Freud noted, civilization and culture must be invented and rediscovered anew in each individual. Each textile praxis is explored in relation to the practice-led research undertaken by the postgraduate Textiles research group at the Royal College of Art, London. As global warming melts the permafrost that has preserved the material culture of the last Ice Age, earliest textiles are revealed to be densely felted fibres of animal pelt, strongly pigmented in green and red. Because the organic materials of textile, and their pigmentation, rapidly decompose in natural conditions, worn on the body as clothes or used in tools or construction, the material evidence of the early history of textiles is largely absent from archives, and therefore absent from scholarship. The structuring absence of textile from both record and theory has resulted in an overestimation of the significance of hard materials such as metals, ceramics and stone, which do not atrophy and are abundant in archaeological sites. The question of how the soft logics within the human sciences fare alongside the hard data sought by empirical sciences is raised: Remember how surprised we were when the fossil data first suggested that dinosaurs were not covered in a khaki-grey leathery reptilian hide but were fluffy and feathered, with brightly coloured plumage?

Felting Felting uses the naturally striated, abrasive, scaled or otherwise textured surfaces of vegetable, but especially animal, fibre to form a structure of entanglement. Further manipulated with chemical or body liquids, such as sweat and urine, to abrade the fibre surfaces and act as mordant for pigmentation, the natural structures of entanglement are further enfolded into a dense but supple matting. Artisanal display of traditional handmade felt techniques is part of the textile culture of central Asia and Anatolia. With properties of conformability through use, and with qualities of absorbency, felt is today



used as a sympathetic material. Current practice in felting by textile researcher Carmen Hijosa uses fibres extracted from the leaves that are the waste product of pineapple production to make a new form of felted material inspired by the ‘Cradle to Cradle’® design framework (Braungart and McDonough 2008). Agriculture is the main source of employment in the Philippines, and the aim is to find a method that can be used for industrial manufacture in this context using only sustainable materials, as an integral part of the project to develop a form of production that meets the needs of the contemporary textiles industry whilst generating a socially and ethically sustainable source of employment in the Philippines and elsewhere. The felted piña fibre can be used as an alternative to leather in the manufacture of shoes, upholstery materials and fashion accessories. The use of an ancient method to counteract the effects of global warming carries symbolic meaning in both the research and the making aspects of the ‘Ananas Anam’ project (Hijosa n.d.).

Spinning Second is the practice of spinning and twisting both natural and artificial fibres to make thread, yarn or string. The etymology of the word ‘thread’ is found in the root word ‘to throw’, and this suggests the projectile and active agency which underlies all artisanal activity. ‘Object’, is, similarly, derived from the concept of a projectile externalization of something. The proximate familiar is rendered distant and external. String is known to be one of the first human artefacts. Recent archaeological finds dating from 70,000 years ago include artefacts that appear to have been accompanied by some ritual form of mourning, including a series of small ceramic beads, bearing traces of applied red ochre pigment, arranged across a skull’s forehead. These red painted beads must, archaeologists speculate, have been strung onto a thread and tied across the forehead as a form of tiara or headdress. Accessories, far from being peripheral or insignificant, are amongst the earliest of human artefacts. Again, the concept of the ‘structuring absence’ is so crucial to an understanding of the centrality of textile thinking to the history of civilization that it becomes, intermittently, invisible. Textiles, like the thread of the umbilicus that supports foetal life, are made to be outworn. This suggests that the affective and relational ‘thread of attachment’, which in phylogenesis replaced the primate grasping reflex, and in ontogenesis replaces the umbilicus with a ‘need facilitating environment’ of empathic primary identification, is similarly outworn but remains as vestigial trace in the unconscious, and should not be omitted from the theory of materials. Thread, made by twisting fibres, or filaments such as silk polymer, into a continuous string, is widely found in all native cultures, used for binding building materials into more robust forms of container, and in habitation, transport, and as tools for hunting, agriculture, farming, fishing, cooking, preservation, exchange, trade and display (Gell 1998; Küchler 2003). For some contemporary South African peoples a string worn around the abdomen is the only form of clothing and individuated bodily adornment: the marker of culture itself. Spinning thread from animal hair emerges, along with felting, as an early form of textile practice, each using the hand’s ability to transmit sweat and moisture, as well as movement, as a part of the binding of filaments and fibres into a unity. Hungarian psychoanalyst Imre Hermann (Klaniczay 2012) offers case studies and a theory of embodied meaning according to which the physical, manual acts of twisting, wringing and tightening are clearly evidenced as material traces of unconscious aggression and sadism. The evolution of the opposable thumb continued a history of the hand as organ of control and agency with specific cathexis of instincts of self-preservation and



mastery. Social learning, which is culture, involves using the hands in a gesture in which the amplification of the grasping reflex becomes a hyperbole of control. The use of the hands to exert pressure in order to exercise mastery through the deformation or manipulation of innate material properties to bestow utility on the maker carries connotations of the manipulation and the cleverness, calculation or craftiness attributed to manual dexterity. The iconography of the spinster, or woman alone, is emblematic of the depth of an unconscious, ritual ambivalence. The line is, in abstract, a materialization of the dot, or point, in movement. The directionality of the line is created when materialized in fibre, filament or yarn. The wicking properties of textile are important, filament acting as a directional conduit of fluid, or, in metals and polymers, of electricity. The characteristic of absorbency is a source of extreme cultural ambivalence: regarded as highly dangerous as a repository of the unclean and forensically dangerous stain, it is equally highly prized in textiles as clothing, for cleaning and bandaging, and as household and sacramental cloth. This absorbency is the quality that most visibly demonstrates the principle of disrespect for boundaries. Representing a kind of stigmata that reiterates the porous quality of the skin envelope itself, the textile is a porous threshold that is more liminal than absolute boundary. Researcher Myrto Karanika experiments with several aspects of thread and line, integrating the electroconductivity of wire and the textile properties of thread, stitch and felt. Karanika, who trained as an architect, deploys the spatial properties of architecture with the material culture of textiles in her use of thread and filament to make an interactive textile that actively externalizes and adapts the cross-modal neural capacity of the human brain and central nervous system. By stitching copper wire filament into a grid system, through the striated structure of an industrially manufactured carpet underlay, Karanika connects the grid to an Arduino digital system that translates kinetic pressure into an acoustic signal. The grid substrate has a hand-stitched, textured overlay surface of brightly coloured, patterned, figured and embroidered felt. The rug’s surface attracts visual and tactile attention, and invites interaction as people kneel to look more closely and to walk, sit or play on the carpet, where they find that their movements are related to a sonic envelope with a musical quality. The immersive quality of the experience is created through this externalization of the brain’s intrinsic capacity for interconnecting kinetic, proprioceptive, tactile, optical sensory processing (Karanika 2014). In this work the researcher considers the affinities between textile threads and the neural networks of the synaptic transmission of the biochemical substrate of human energy, action and meaning.

Stitching Third, the process of stitching. Spun thread – silk, wool, cotton – is, along with piercing, the elementary structure of stitch. Emma Shercliff (2014) explores the symbolic equivalences between stitch and articulations as an epistemic and technical process of hand-making, working with a series of groups of hand-stitch communities. Shercliff shows how the process of working in a group to stitch or sew takes on meaning of the articulation of social relations within the group, the relation of the group to wider society and the articulation of different aspects of the subject, especially between silent and explicit experience, which engenders articulate culture. The research concludes that craft practice can evidence forms of relationality that are often absent from other social science research methods. The idea of stitch as the first, founding and originary act of culture, as depicted in the Hebrew Bible, is an interesting mythic symbol. The repetition of piercing and binding,



simultaneously destroying and uniting the fig leaves, or nature, is the destructive and reparative dynamic process that psychoanalysts understand as the origins of symbolism. The act transforms nature into the first cultural artefact, a covering for the man’s penis. This mythology raises questions of the kind of data, method and theory best used for textile practice research. The word ‘cloth’ is, etymologically, derived from ‘cling’, which in turn derives from ‘cleave’, the antithetical word that, as Sigmund Freud (1910/1957) noted, is an indication of the contradictory logic of unconscious thought: ‘to cleave’ means simultaneously to hold fast and to split asunder. It is surprising how the process of reflexive looping, or doubling back, which is so integral to the stitch process, becomes a metaphorical, as well as literal, mechanism of reflexivity. When a progressive movement forward includes a backwards movement within it, there is a space and time of reflexive thought.

Knotting/Knitting Fourth is knotting and knitting string, fibre, yarn and thread, as a form of fastening, and in knotting, crochet and lacemaking as a means of growing and making pliable, conformable, soft lightweight surfaces. Fastening, making fast, is both to accelerate and to remove all movement, to render immobile and static. In the knot the yarn is doubly twisted, thereby carrying interesting symbolic connotation. The loop, required for the knot to be made, has affinities with stitch: the movement of thread as a material equivalent of a directional line, transformed backwards in a movement of reflexivity, carries the meaning of retracing embodied action through memory. Depicted in myth as Ariadne’s gift of a ball of spun yarn to the Minotaur-slaying Theseus as a means to retread his path within the labyrinth, the meaning of the thread’s directional linearity as a material equivalent of the neural synaptic pathway of memory trace is found in the etymology of the English word ‘clue’, as in ‘meaningful sign’, which is derived from ‘clew’, meaning thread and, by association, clout and cloth. The use of rewinding as a metaphor for retracing an activity indicates the liminal power of textile as a medium, which enables the transition between activity and passivity, objectivity and subjectivity, selfhood and alterity. The thread is an activity which, becoming reflexively transformed into doubling back, a return, is a form of regaining a lost origin as a precursor to memory as an actively passive reflection. This may be seen in the symbolic use of knots used in the South American quipus, the leather thongs knotted in order to help orators recite the lineage of tribal descent, filiation and myth. It is also used as a form of accounting and debt reckoning. The development of knotting into functional nets and decorative meshwork such as lace and crochet leads to the symbolic significance of textile material as characteristically pliable and conformable, offering affordances and tolerances not found in harder, more rigid, materials. Knitting is probably the best example of this form of textile, with its capacity for growth. Knitting grows by repeating a simple manoeuvre of winding and twisting or knotting, thereby transforming the static predicament of repetition into the transformational material trace of manufacture. While the process of stitch is often rendered invisible in daily use, for example in seaming, the process of making is the visible surface of knitted material. An indigenously Nordic cultural skill, apparently unknown to native Chinese, Asiatic or African cultures, the technique is notably associated, in the UK , with the maritime cultures of Jersey and Guernsey and the Scottish islands. Synonymous with garment and material, wool, cotton or silk jersey is a soft and pliable material no longer associated with fishermen’s sweaters. When developed into a



mechanized system for the industrial manufacture of fabric for underwear and medical textiles, it was favoured by the Rational Clothing movement and by enterprises such as the Jaeger clothing company: jersey was, famously, adopted by Coco Chanel as a modern, proto-feminist material for uniting the lightness and pliability required for freedom of movement with the softness and ‘feel’ desirable for garments worn next to the skin. Knitter Freddie Robins completed research for the Arts and Humanities Research Council using new technologies of digitally programmed industrial machinery for knitting seamless, three-dimensional structures. Using techniques known as ‘perfect’ or ‘fully fashioned’ knitting, the machines allow designs to be made without seaming. Robins has continued her work of investigating and questioning the cultural iconography of knit as domestic and feminine. The experiments with industrial mechanization produced a series of human forms, in a range of ‘sizes’ from adult to infant: when exhibited in a range of contexts, these works invited discussion of the dialectic between the inhumanity of the perfection in machine-made form and the significance of the traces of hand knitting in the ‘feel’ of a material.

Weaving Fifth, weaving, as a process and as structure, is the clearest material example of the abstract system that the linguist and semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure described as the universal co-existence of two axes of symbolic order (Saussure 1910–1911/2011). Imagined as vertical and horizontal axes of abstract order of sound differences that comprise speech, the syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes of linguistic textuality and of meaning are also thought to be the fundamental structures of the unconscious ego (Kristeva 1980). The vertical warp and horizontal weft matrix of the loom is what allows, in weave, the linearity of thread to become the planar surface of cloth (Jefferies 1995). The surface of cloth produced by weave is infinitely variable in texture, depending on loom type, technique, yarn and weave, but each weaving process has the property of being a transformation of the singularity of the point to the field of the plane. The plane further offers the surface as medium of boundary and interface, and as layer or substrate. Weave designer Akaiza Mota is known for her use of colour in complex stripe and check or plaid designs. Bringing the experience and memory of the intense colours used in building and decorating from her native São Tomé and adoptive Portugal to the traditional sobriety of British textiles, Mota led innovation in the textile design – tartans, stripes and knits – for Paul Smith in the UK before becoming a senior furnishing fabric designer at Zara Home in Spain. Mota was awarded the Marianne Straub travel award to investigate colour and design in São Tomé, and the Althea McNish prize for colour design (established by McNish, the first Black British textile artist of international reputation) for a series of experiments which show the ‘windings’ of the threads to be used to warp a loom before weaving. Mixing pigment to find the exact colours needed, and using silk thread for its quality of holding colour and its sheen, Mota did not discard the stripes of thread that were hand-wound onto strips of card, a technique used by weavers to design the loom’s warp, and these were exhibited as artefacts, revealing the skilful use of colour by weavers.

Plaiting Sixth, plaiting, a word derived from the word ‘pleat’, and which has within it the Latin root pli, denoting the concept of fold. Plaiting is a linear and planar form of woven knot that replaces the closure of the knot with the potential infinity of weave. The advantage



of plaiting over loom weave is the absence of technology. A plaited strip is a plain handweave in which warp strands are interlaced. The material function, to generate surface from line, is also to transform the fragility of a single thread with the tensile strength of a multiplicity of threads in a structure of interlacing. Plaiting, notes Kirsten Scott (2012) in her study of the tradition of women’s hand-plaited textiles for sleeping mats in rural Uganda, is a powerful symbol for the strength in co-existence which, on several levels of meaning, is a fundamental characteristic of sociality (see Plate 6.1). The fact that women weave the plaited sleeping mats when seated outdoors in public space, in collective, collaborative groups, while chatting and embracing babies and children, is one feature of this textile practice as a cultural form that illustrates, through its rituals, the function of society as a means of securing its reproduction. The women make the artefacts whilst also ‘weaving’ the emotional threads that secure the attachments between one another and between generations. Working with a rural Ugandan village over ten years, Kirsten Scott noticed how the ritual practice of plaiting provided a place of integration between women from different local Muslim, Christian and tribal cultures as the work of making textiles and raising children was shared. Scott notes the sleeping mat as one element in the signifying economy that includes mattress, matrix, material and mother, all of which are forms of culture and society that tend to become invisible, unconscious or undervalued. The mat as substrate of sleep signifies the mother’s role as guardian of the liminal space between conscious and unconscious self, and as keeper of the voyage through sleep. Scott also notes the significance of the dynamic between uniformity and irregularity within the hand-made plait, suggesting that whilst evenness and uniformity in pattern is valued as evidence of skilled craftsmanship, the irregularity in texture is especially valuable as a symbol of the presence of the hand and the (maternal) body or touch. Kirsten Scott, a successful couture milliner in the West, was concerned to value the plaited materials through Western as well as indigenous value systems, and initiated a trade in the palm plait for millinery. Scott also sourced historic plait techniques from the archives of the British straw-hat industry at the Wardown Park Museum, Luton, in order to bring a wider range of innovative methods to the Ugandan women’s repertoire. Sharing millinery skills of sewing, shaping and designing, Scott found that the village women were willing to invent and construct a wide selection of hats, such as peaked caps, fascinators, toques, visors, sunhats and bonnets. The hat as an alternative to hairstyle, headscarf or traditional headdress generated interest in the cultures of modernity, and questions about the conduct of family life in other cultures. The collection, produced in an array of different plait styles and hand-dyed colours, found a market in regional tourism, national cultural events (such as the annual goat race) and international millinery trade fairs. Scott’s research traced the consequences of remuneration for a traditionally unpaid work on the structure of marriage, family and society, and found that when earning an income women were more highly respected by their husbands, were able to pay for their children’s schooling and were able to buy livestock to enhance the family and village resources.

Draping Seventh, folding and draping are perhaps the simplest, almost diagrammatic representations of the ego as a structure that epitomizes both the morphology of human biology (brain and neurology) and the cultural systems of symbolic relations. Found in nature in the curvilinear property of helical movement, in forms from atomic structure to those of galaxies, as well as the growth of heliotropic plants, the Fibonacci series of shell structures



and embryonic ontogeny in mammalian animals, the form and structure of the fold is especially found in the textile propensity to drape. Evidence of the high value accorded to drape in early cultures is found in the Anatolian civilizations’ textiles and in Egyptian, Sumerian, Cretan, Greek, and Roman iconography. The care taken in carving the structures of complex textile folds into marble, evident in Egyptian statuary, shows that the textile fold was as significant as the face and the socalled ‘Archaic smile’ of ancient Greek sculpture from the Archaic period. The fold as a structure that reveals the invisibility of interiority is, perhaps, the material equivalent of a smile. The fold as a characteristic of European Enlightenment thinking in the writings of Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716) is famously explored by French Structuralist Gilles Deleuze, who follows the curvilinearity of Baroque and Mannerist pictorial perspective as a principle of ‘multiplicity’ and the monad (Deleuze 1993). Leibniz, also known as a scholar of Sinology, published studies of Chinese civilization that have yet to be integrated into the post-Deleuzian exploration of the excessive and transcendental structure of the Baroque. Soft logic has enabled the rationalist grid of binaristic logic to be qualified by properties of movement, the kinaesthetic and the durational. Movement takes place in time, the basis of modelling of innovatory, post-Newtonian astrophysical theories. Textile designer and researcher Rachel Philpott (2007, 2010, 2011, 2013) has explored the fold as a textile property over several years, working with thermosensitive nonwoven fabrics to make a series of prototypes of textiles with the capacity to fold and unfold according to patterns of movement and direction. The folding surfaces greatly multiply the directionality of planar surfaces in ways that could, for example, be used in the absorption of solar light. The display and demonstration of the several fold prototypes is best transmitted through time-based media such as film, thereby showing the textile in movement and process. The drape is, in fashion design, considered one of the three fundamental structures of tailoring and dressmaking. Along with cut and silhouette, drape is a textile material property that transforms cloth into clothing. The play of clinging and falling, as figured in making and wearing clothing, is one of the most profound materializations of human culture considered as a mechanism for calibrating proximity and distance between bodies and selves, individuals, groups and abstract collectivities. As a materialization of separation and spatial dimensionality the fold and the drape invites the conceptualization of abstract thought. Intrinsic to this play, the ludus, of illusion and occlusion, is the function of cloth as covering, as curtain, veil and shroud (Pajaczkowska 2008).

Cutting The eighth process is cutting. Neither exclusive to textiles nor inherently textilian, cutting has, nevertheless, a range of meanings in fashion and textiles that generates new questions and forms of reflection in practice. The proximity of cloth and clothing to the skin, and their ability to become the defences that psychoanalyst Esther Bick noted as a ‘second skin’ (Bick 1968), make the cutting process one which materializes anxieties, thoughts and logic derived from the co-respondences between body, culture and material (Hallam and Ingold 2014). Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim (1955), for example, in Symbolic Wounds: Puberty Rites and the Envious Male brings the ethnography of ritual scarification to analytic consideration, noting that the cutting of skin in rites of passage testifies to the sharing of experiences of loss as young people leave their role as minors in order to



become reintegrated into society as neophytes or adult subjects. Cutting is seen as a symbolic wound, which gives social recognition to the experience and travails of the transition from one form of dependency to a different state of interdependency and social reciprocity. Anthropologist Mary Douglas frequently addresses textile as a cultural form. Her essay on folklore, analysing a variant of the Red Riding Hood story, interprets the tale as a play on feminine rites of passage (Douglas 1996). Elsewhere, Douglas notes the status of uncut cloth in Indian cultures as pure, and the cut cloth as polluted (Douglas 1966). Symbolic rituals accompany the transition from one state to the other. In Orthodox Judaism the tearing of clothes and the draping of mirrors accompany the rituals of mourning in ‘sitting shiva’. Judaism also includes a prayer to be recited on wearing new clothes. The cut may thus be understood as a symbolic representation of an imaginary separation (Lacan’s definition of psychic ‘castration’). Rituals evidence unconscious ego ambivalence, maintaining a tension between aggressive and libidinal instincts, as these are activated in the painful work of mourning. The cut, incision or indentation made by the hand by applying hard matter to soft is the second origin, after thread, of line. The importance of line as trace of a forceful impact of intentionality (agency) of self onto matter is especially evident in the signifying chain that leads from stylus to style. The tool that impresses marks into soft clay tablets, such as those used in the earliest ‘writing’ of Sumerian maps, becomes the prosthesis that amplifies the will, and thus the self, of a social subject.

Styling Finally, therefore, the ninth process, styling, is here discussed as a material process. The legacy of Claude Lévi-Strauss to textile culture is an understanding of the materiality of language-like structures (Lévi-Strauss 1978). Whereas styling is present in textile practice it is more pronounced in fashion thinking, where stylistic innovation is, in itself, the material or medium of meaning and exchange. Fashion thinking – a further iteration of textile thinking but also a culture in its own right, which shares the meaning of the eight processes discussed above – also has properties that derive from fashion as a specific modernist and urban culture of clothing produced by mechanized mass manufacture in the industrial capitalist era. Modernity may be defined as a culture that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe from the rapid urbanization that followed the industrialization and mechanization of manufacture and factory production; fashion is, today, the major site of textile production. Modernity is therefore inherent to fashion thinking: with its concomitant cultures of mass media and the discourses of science, secularity, medicine and transport, it enables fashion to be more fully understood as a product of the relationship of the ‘subject in the crowd’. Using clothing and appearance as a medium of transmission, fashion thinking is characterized by a number of features. The neophilia that values markers of innovation and change for the sake of their play on tradition, rather than as a means of copying markers of status, wealth, social and economic capital, is the principal characteristic of fashion thinking, distinguishing fashion from the cultural approach seen in costume and dress history. Neophilic innovation is dependent on the second feature of fashion thinking: its hyper-sociality. As members of a social group, participants in fashion form elements of a social and cultural circuit, which transmits innovation as a signifier. The third notable feature of fashion thinking is the heightened



reciprocity of its culture: highly collaborative and interactive, the fashion participant is offered agency as a subject ‘in relation to’ her others. This heightened reciprocity is a performative celebration and validation of the relational qualities that are, according to neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen, especially ‘feminine’, as the empathic side of a spectrum that calibrates the relation between reciprocity and autistic and procedural thinking (Baron-Cohen 2003). A fourth feature of fashion thinking is its affinity to bespoke, personalized and customized fitting as acknowledgement of individuality. Whether materialized in forms of adornment, decoration, ornamentation, maquillage, styling or ‘drape’, the customization of the fashion idiom is a signifier of the value of difference within collectivity. The fifth feature of fashion thinking is its adaptive pliability, which relates to, but differs from, its neophilia. The play of innovation that characterizes all modernist art depends on knowledge of history and its conventions as material for reiteration and ludic articulation. The adaptive quality of fashion thinking extends this game of modernist innovation within a circuit into an adaptive relationship to the reality of the outside world with its predicaments of, for example, class identity, ethnic difference, gender conventions and concerns for sustainability, politics and power. Fashion thinking is quick to recognize and disseminate these concerns. The final feature of fashion thinking extends from the ludic innovation of the modernist play on illusion and disillusion to a fully ludic quality of the joke. Fashion is parodic, self-parodic, knowing, funny and fun. This aspect of levity and humour is, perhaps, what has inspired the greatest reactions of disdain and contempt from scholars and others. Radically insubordinate, sharing the cultural agency of the ‘trickster’ (like Macunaíma, the Brazilian trickster hero) and the ‘shape-shifter’, fashion thinking is associated with the culture of resistance and revolution of an underclass, revelling, studiously and unseriously, in performing its alterity as the ‘feral underclass’ of bourgeois propriety. A researcher and practising professional fashion photographer, Nick Clements (2011) has used the history of cinema and the documentary photography of contemporary cultures of revival and re-enactment to explore the emergence of a new fashion culture in his project entitled ‘Revival: the Aesthetics of Revival Subcultures and Re-enactment Groups Explored Through Fashion Image-making.’ Using design history and the work of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies to trace the emergence of post-war white working-class male subculture in the UK , Clements produced a menswear collection, a journal, Men’s File, and a series of photographs that accurately detail the stylistic specificity of the way that new identities of masculinity were materialized (see Plate 6.2). Clements then traces the global impact of British youth subculture within fashion and re-enactment revival subcultures today, and worked with Lewis Leathers to design a black leather jacket which recognizes the authenticity of its stylistic sources. Clements’ research reminds that the word ‘fashion’ derives from the French word façon, invoking the ‘way’ that something is done, said, worn or meant. Style is, therefore, fundamentally a process, a ‘way’, rather than garments themselves, and this process of producing meaning through difference and innovation is the reflection of the language of culture itself.

CONCLUSION This essay offers a conceptual ‘toolbox’, containing nine qualities of textile thinking, including one concept of styling, which refers to fashion thinking and which has six features of its own.



The aim of this chapter, as part of the Handbook of Textile Culture, is to propose that the distinctions drawn, in academic discourse and research protocols, between theory and practice of textiles is a convention that inhibits epistemic innovation in the arts and humanities alike. When it is more readily accepted that the knowledge of practitioners can illuminate the abstractions of historians and theorists it will be possible for the cultural agency of textiles to be more fully understood and recognized. Until then, there is still the danger that textiles will be considered an ‘applied art’, a form of commerce, or will continue to enter the archive only as part of the collections from aristocratic or bourgeois interiors or garments, classed in terms of provenance rather than understood in terms of the making. It is one innovation and originality of this Handbook that it makes a valuable contribution to the evidence for a revolutionary way of reconsidering the cultural praxis of textiles, and, by extension, to the consideration of creative practice itself. To explicate silent knowledge is to offer a toolbox of tropes that may enable makers to give a more permanent verbal or written account of their work in a more confident way by finding words and concepts that do justice to the complexity of their logic and grasp of matter and meaning. The writing of practice is not a new orthodoxy but depends on the maker finding their own idiomatic form of recognition, textual expression and denotation of their experience and knowledge. Like all testimonies to an experience, like all testaments to a transformative process, each text is unique. A methodological study of the different techniques of recording, denoting and classifying practice enables each maker to identify the ways in which her or his practice is new and original. The existing examples of a creative practice are identified, described and compared. The comparative study is the methodological study that enables a practitioner or researcher to identify the method that is completely their own. A method may be hybrid or interdisciplinary, or even an application of the theory of another to one’s own practice. In doctoral practice-led research it is useful to explore an autoethnography that enables one’s practice to generate data for analysis and discussion. Knowledge of materials and techniques can constitute a conceptual toolbox for thinking, and is why it belongs in a Textile manual, which is a gift for makers. This is also why this process is called ‘Making Known’.

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Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge. Freud, Sigmund. 1910/1957. ‘The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words.’ In Collected Papers, Vol. IV. London: Hogarth, pp. 184–191. Freud, Sigmund. 1923/1964. The Ego and the Id. London: Hogarth Press. Gell, Alfred. 1998. Art and Agency. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Glasser, Mervin. 1979. ‘Some Aspects of the Role of Aggression in the Perversions.’ In I. Rosen (ed), Sexual Deviations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hallam, Elizabeth and Ingold, Tim. 2014. Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts. Farnham: Ashgate. Hijosa, Carmen. n.d. ‘Ananas Anam: New Materials and Mapping for Twenty-first Century Design.’ Available online: Jefferies, Janis. 1995. ‘Text and Textiles: Weaving Across the Borderlines.’ In Katy Deepwell (ed), New Feminist Art Criticism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Karanika, Myrto. 2014. ‘Looking at the Crossmodal through the Textile Medium.’ Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice, 2 (1): 89–108. Klaniczay, Sara. 2012. ‘Imre Hermann: Researching Psyche and Space.’ In Judit Székács-Weisz, Tom Keve and Peter L. Rudnytsky (eds), Ferenczi and his World: Rekindling the Spirit of the Budapest School. London: Karnac Books. Klein, Melanie. 1930. ‘The Importance of Symbol Formation in the Development of the Ego.’ International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11: 24–39. Kris, Ernst. 1953. ‘Psychoanalysis and the Study of the Creative Imagination.’ Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 29 (4): 334–351. Kristeva, Julia. 1980. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Leon S. Roudiez (ed), T. Gora et al. (trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Küchler, Susanne. 2003. ‘Imaging the Body Politic: The Knot in the Pacific Imagination.’ L’homme: revue française d’anthropologie, 165: 205–222. Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1978. Myth and Meaning. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Mitchell, Victoria. 2012. ‘Textiles, Text and Techne.’ In Jessica Hemmings (ed), The Textile Reader. London: Berg. Milner, Marion. 1950/2010. On Not being Able to Paint. London; New York: Routledge. Pajaczkowska, Claire. 2008. ‘The Garden of Eden: Sex, Shame and Knowledge.’ In Claire Pajaczkowska and Ivan Ward (eds), Shame and Sexuality: Psychoanalysis and Visual Culture. London: Routledge. Parker, Rozsika. 1989. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: Women’s Press. Philpott, Rachel. 2007. ‘Structural Textiles: Adaptive Form & Surface in Three Dimensions.’ In Sandra Kemp (ed), Research RCA . London: Royal College of Art. Philpott, Rachel. 2010. ‘Ways of Knowing and Making: Searching for an Optimal Integration of Hand and Machine in the Textile Design Process.’ In Proceedings of the Textile Institute Centenary Conference: Textiles: a Global Vision. Manchester: The Textile Institute. Philpott, Rachel. 2011. ‘Structural Textiles: Adaptable Form and Surface in Three Dimensions.’ PhD thesis, Royal College of Art, London. Philpott, Rachel. 2013. ‘Engineering Opportunities for Originality and Invention: The Importance of Playful Making as Developmental Method in Practice-led Design Research.’ Studies in Material Thinking, 9: 1–16. Sandler, Joseph (ed). 1987. From Safety to Superego. London: Karnac.



Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1910–1911/2011. Course in General Linguistics (trans. Wade Baskin). New York: Columbia University Press. Scott, Kirsten. 2012. ‘Pidgin Plait: Fashioning Cross-cultural Communication Through Craft.’ PhD thesis, Royal College of Art, London. Sennett, Richard. 2008. The Craftsman. London: Allen Lane. Sennett, Richard. 2012. Together: the Rituals, Politics and Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Shercliff, Emma. 2014. ‘Articulating Stitch.’ PhD thesis, Royal College of Art, London. Winnicott, D.W. 1974. Playing and Reality. Harmondsworth, UK : Penguin.


Textile, Narrative, Identity, Archives



Editorial Introduction JANIS JEFFERIES

To tell a story then, is to relate, in narrative, the occurrences of the past, retracing a path through the world that others, recursively picking up the threads of past lives, can follow in the process of spinning out their own. But rather as in looping or knitting, the thread being spun now and the thread picked up from the past are both of the same yarn. There is no point at which the story ends and life begins. —Ingold 2007: 90

INTRODUCTION What the contributors to this section of the Handbook do is get under our skin, touching us and moving us, constructing knowledge that can be seen in the material world. We can be touched by the journey of Oicherman’s Torah binder, be affected by McGuinness’s Lived Lives, encounter Goett’s Mirabilia Domestica and be lost in Wood Conroy’s ‘archive fever’ and be emotionally drawn into sensory worlds where intimate knowledge is being created anew. Some people see textile and cloth through the sound it makes, the sound when people are walking and the cloth moving against the skin; and there is very often an erotic connection to the sound of certain textiles. Skin may be the first toy, but think of the range of surfaces that touches the flesh – rough, smooth, shiny and sticky – and what an autoerotic experience it is.1 The legacy too of our earliest cognitive explorations is, as Kenya Hara writes: ‘that the sense of touch dwells in that of sight, while that of smell exists in that of hearing’. It is possible to touch colour in a sense, because vivid red will work on expectation so that somehow the colour brings warmth. As Winnicot pointed out from his observations in working with children, the imaginative ‘bridge’ (the transitional object) between the self and the outside world is nearly always represented by a piece of material, a blanket, a nappy, a soft toy. His transitional object is the first ‘not me’ object and is a bridge between the child and the external world (Rodaway 1994: 41). As babies we learn to define and refine our relationship with our surroundings through licking, touching, smelling, hearing and seeing, and throughout our lives we continue to experience the world through our senses. Our skin is the active medium through which we process information; the mucous membranes and the membranes of the eardrum and retina allow us to taste, smell, hear and see. Yet once we have acquired verbal language, we rarely acknowledge how much we understand through our sensory awareness, the importance of textural experience. As a consequence, we risk losing that level of communication achieved through attention to the senses, for ‘to touch is also to be touched’ (Winnicott 1971). In Jane Graves’ writings and particularly in ‘Beast Dreaming: Myth, Material, Fantasy and Psychoanalysis in Making a Beast Costume’, the passion inspired by a tactile object 97



– a piece of material, touched, smelt, wrapped – is a tempestuous love affair with materials. The moment a shop assistant unfolds the fabric from its cardboard flat, the counter space is overfilled with material ‘pouring down like Rapunzel’s hair from the tower’ (Graves 2003). Materials, she says, are bought to be used, but who hasn’t stored and hoarded hundreds of bits and pieces, all colours, shapes and sizes, stuffed in drawers, carefully piled and arranged in remnant boxes for some other time? A remnant does not cascade, like Rapunzel’s hair, but from within its folds and twisted threads emerge stories, bits of stuff as evocative signifying agents. As in the Deleuzian figure of the fold (1988/1993: 12) relations between subjects and objects are reconfigured, through the textures folded into and between them, and into their unique perceptions. We are continually made and unmade as we fumble with the stuff that in turn moulds the inner surfaces of our interior senses of self. Material is, for Graves as for Katya Oicherman and Solveigh Goett, a transitional object accompanied by autobiographical passages, which has expanded into a social and cultural framework. In quoting Attfield (2000: 126), Goett makes this comment in respect of the transitional object, ‘it hardly needs to be observed that textiles have a particularity which cannot be replaced by say a tractor or a needle.’ The particular affinity between body and cloth is self-evident – we understand the relationship between first and second skin without much explanation. For Oicherman, the triggering of autobiographical accounts maps the story of a specific Torah binder (a Jewish ceremonial textile) from its situation in a museum to addressing Jewish identity practices. Cloth, stitch and material practices join together as a re-examination of her family history. Oicherman became convinced that the embroidered Torah binder she was examining was made by a woman. For her, the signature and the stylistic choices were a kind of concealed female presence in the overwhelmingly male artifact and ritual context.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES , SUBJECTIVITIES AND SELVES When a female signature is assigned to authorship, autobiography – within the literary histories in the West – has been named paradoxically both as a mainstream writing genre and positioned as marginal practice. Traditional opinions on autobiography usually have been grounded within the idea of the ‘I’, of self-identity as reflective self-presence, and discussed within the terms set by the Cartesian subject: a universal, singular self – linked with the thinking, rational subject of eternal human nature. Historically this has been codified as male. For women, autobiographical spaces have been profoundly fraught with tension, since the struggles to be the subject both of and in our own writing and speaking discourse incur problematic gendered readings.2 However, as Jeanne Perreault has remarked, one way in which autography differs from autobiography is that it is not necessarily concerned with the process or unfolding of life events as reflective self-presence. Rather, autographies make the writing itself an aspect of selfhood through which the writer experiences and brings into being the possibility of playful, even wicked, self-invention (Perreault 1995).3 Fictional manifestations may go beyond representation of the self, just as contemporary cultural practices may transgress the very naming of their gendered categorization to produce an infinite undecidable set of contestations. These manifestations of ‘throwing-out-of-joint’ disrupt any notion of stable and definable subject or genre and lurk at the very margins of mobile, fluid identities and subjectivities. I would argue, however, that each category remains provisional as a tentative grammar of transformations and differences. These are the new possibilities of both disciplines – of writing and textiles in an ongoing relationship – which provides an



eclectically errant and culturally disruptive range of practices within an expanded field of cultural terms and definitions. In earlier decades, the linking of the metaphors of pen and needle is retold and recalled in a fragment of Elaine Showalter’s own autobiographical anecdote, which denotes a hidden meaning behind the text, and textile, which forms the very intertextuality of its pages. A women’s language in particular is evoked as a social document of female experience. Piecing and writing are analogous to the process of quilt making which ‘. . . corresponds to the writing process, on the level of the word, the sentence, the structure of the story or novel and these images, motifs or symbols that unify a fictional story’ (Showalter 1996). Within a dispersed set of autobiographical anecdotes of making and writing textiles – from work to textiles to text – a writer and maker can give way to writing, are ‘susceptible to writing’ as Barthes would have it, in which the processes of personal insight are transformed into cultural critique. The shiver and shuffle, the inscription of physical details, touch, taste and texture, can produce in a reader the recognition that new passports of developing writing practice, or practice writing, offer no limits to where a traveller can wander, fluid as ever in an encounter with what we do not know. Can such musings provide new insights into the lived tension between the ‘I’ and the other, the life of the text and the ‘textile’ and the terrain of the lived? This implies a certain kind of risk, which sputters over the boundaries of formal closure in an anxiety of uncertainty, a crisis or turning point whereby speculative mutterings, à la Barthes, are worked out: in the tissue, the generative idea that the text is made, is worked out in perpetual interweaving; lost in this tissue – this texture – the subject unmakes himself, like a spider dissolving the constructive secretions of its web. —Barthes 1975: 64 The idea of making and unmaking, of being lost in this tissue, plays with the mobility of textile signs to conjure a messy game. It is a wonderful image, this evocation of mess. Perhaps slightly frazzled and fluffy, dishevelled and woolly, chaotic and confused, and the more you linger the more uncensored and improper you become. No longer controlled and disciplined, nor a regulated space of writing proper, but an under-theorised space, which Sarat Maharaj has called a ‘disagreeable pulp’; a process of digestion that is in fact, a mess.4 Such a scene of writing is considered irrational, emotional, messy (more often than not projected as a sign of the ‘feminine’ but marvellously fluid) as a further sign of disorder and deviance; such a scene is precisely a space where textiles, as mobile sign and material practice, have been loosened to play out a sensuous mapping of sweat and scribble. It is in this space that models of self-hood are made and unmade as the inscription of physical detail, touch, texture, a ‘bit of the story’ connects the small personal voice against the autonomy of theory or closed borders. It is also in this space that the affinity between fibre, fabric, cloth and metaphorical expression is itself a sign of the intricate and transformative contribution of textile processes to culture. I hold the view that the weave is the most political ‘mark’ of all. It works around the body and it is so ‘handed’, handson. Think of the journeys mobilized by a ‘simple’ piece of cloth. If I have strayed from the point it is that those irritating, messy scribbles and thoughts at the edges of the paper force recognition that there is no limit to mobility in nomadic space. The location of the ‘I’ at its edges maps out a terrain of shifting subjectivities, of



not being quite here or there, in neither one place or another, of day dreaming and meandering that correspond to an oft-quoted phrase of mine . . . ‘textiles’ . . . is always ‘not quite’ there and also ‘not quite’ that . . . never quite settles in the same space, can never be read in the same place, in the same way twice.5 Maybe there is a less resolved term than ‘textile’? Textile (and text), after all, is derived from the Latin – textus – to weave; a firm fabric, finite and edged but not for long as it unravelled in my hands, through use and misuse. Such references suggest that textiles is a kind of pliable language, which is useful in the transformative power of metaphor and interweaving between words and things. Barthes uses the analogy of braids to illuminate the multiplicity of intersecting codes that help us make sense of the gap between the tactility of making and the intertextuality of signs, ‘each thread, each code, is a voice; these braided – or braiding – voices form the writing.’ Here the writer meets the reader, the weaver meets the thread to create meeting points. Italo Calvino, for example, has explicitly explored the relationship the writer has to his/ her writing in terms of position – where a writer stands – inside and/or outside the text/ textile (Calvino 1997: 7). In another essay, Calvino discusses the places writers occupy in relation to writing and the different identities as subjects or ‘I’s. And in these operations the person ‘I’, whether explicit or implicit, splits into a number of different figures: into an ‘I’ who is writing and an ‘I’ who is written, into an empirical ‘I’ who looks over the shoulder of the ‘I’ who is writing into the mythical ‘I’ who serves as the model for the ‘I’ who is written. The ‘I’ of the author is dissolved in the writing (Calvino 1997: 15). In textile, there is an edge and if an edge denotes a border, between self and other, skin and skin, we can go over the edge. And if the self, the ‘I’ dissolved in writing becomes the selvedge of the textile, then similar to the Deleuzian figure of the fold (Deleuze 1988/1993), there is a move to a reflective consciousness, willed as much by an ‘interior’ self-made drive, as by social formation. The most significant point being that self can be envisaged as innumerable selves, some of which bleed over the edge, edge to edge in a fluid encounter with others (Mitchell 2000). In such a fluid encounter with others, a growing interest in different autobiographical forms brushed alongside established forms of self-documentation, such as diaries and memoirs, runs concurrently with a reawakening of interest in social histories. A new focus on autobiographies of people from minorities and marginalized groups describes their social rise along with their personal search for identity. The concept of a unified life story shifted from the evidence of an achieved identity to the processes of the fractured narrative of autobiographical writing itself. A subject in the making searches for an identity rather than what is merely the possibility of identity.6

MATERIALIZING STORIES ‘Stains and all because I didn’t get it cleaned or anything . . . the stains are still in it’. As Seamus McGuinness opens with and recounts in his chapter, ‘Lived Lives: Materializing Stories of Young Irish Suicide’, these words were spoken by Vera in Chapter 10, as she caressed her daughter’s red graduation dress. Neasa, aged seventeen, had taken her own life the previous year. Neasa’s story is one of forty-two that form the fragile warp threads of Lived Lives. The weft threads are the stories of the families they left behind and they



too are loose and somewhat fragmentary. Narrative is provided as a first-hand testimony or witness to a traumatic event, yet the personal structure of feeling – drawing as it does on textile and cloth’s ability to form human connections because the body and the senses are integral to the making. It is also gives form to textile knowledge as it emerges in felt experiences, traced back in time through stories and memories, shaped by transcription and narration. Contary to Walter Benjamin’s lament that story telling has come to an end (Benjamin 1936/1999a: 83–107), Lived Lives re-inserts narrative as a form of living speech. The profound connectedness that Benjamin identifies between, for him craft and for us, textile is echoed in the commentaries by those who had lost a loved one to suicide, through the touch of the dress, the smell of the coat, the dirt on the football shirt. The act of smelling the garment of a loved one and recalling their absence is explored by the cultural theorist Peter Stallybrass (1993): ‘cloth is a kind of memory’. Similarly in Juliet Ash’s essay ‘Memory and Objects’ (1996) her personal experience of bereavement is conjured remembering a tie belonging to her dead husband which for her relates to memory, loss and absence of a loved one. The tie was lingering in a drawer, which could be a silent archive of personal forgetfulness until discovered in a different time and place.

ARCHIVE FEVER Archives, derived from the Greek word for town hall, are the reservoirs of data and factual information such as records, documents, photographs, manuscripts, contracts, plans, and other material, considered significant for preservation (see Hodder 1998: 393–402). They are places and sources of inherited knowledge, that is, they are sources of information and simultaneously places of preservation. In Archive Fever the French philosopher Jacques Derrida emphasizes the fact that archives are depositories of knowledge as well as physical spaces.7 This dual nature of the archive as a conceptual and a physical entity grants it its singular status. Though archives are a depository of civic record and public social history, they are stocked with personal, intimate traces of private lives. Though an archive typically conjures up images of bookshelves, endless rows of boxes, folders, maps, and documents that sit waiting for scholars to discover and reactivate them, the term has a more flexible application within the context of critical writing and collecting material traces, objects from childhood or in McGuinness’s case, a repository of donations from the forty-two families immersed in the Lived Lives project, which also formed some of the archive rooms produced as part of a series of site-specific installations. There is a moment in Goett’s work (Chapter 8) where she references the childhood memories of Walter Benjamin (2006) and his discovery of how he found knowledge in his bedroom drawer playing with his socks. Rolled up they looked like little bags with a present hidden inside, but when he tried to pull the present out, the bag mysteriously disappeared and he was left with just one thing, a sock. Her collections of textile thoughts, memories, stories and things, found or made, led to an archive that she calls Mirabilia Domestica, which is inspired by the cabinets of wonders and curiosities of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, assembled to reveal a better understanding of the diversity and complexity of the universe by creating a microcosm of its wonders in their collections. Like its predecessors, Mirabilia Domestica is a gathering of artefacts and found objects, set up in visual correspondences. As an archive, a collection, and an exhibition and now online, it is a place of accumulated material knowledge, an aesthetic experience and a space for imagining and creating meaning. The readers of the Handbook are also



encouraged to enter the textile ‘Wunderkammer’ (what the cabinets of curiosities were called) through her project website.8 When someone accesses such an archive, he or she enters into a process of exchange. Interpretation is coloured by our current values and knowledge and in this way it is permeable to its users. The archive becomes enigmatic and the notion that archives are spaces of structure, control and order becomes an oxymoron as the encounter with the archive often resembles the loss of direction within a maze. We can become entangled in a web of classifications, categories, keywords and so on; archivists and researchers become accomplices in experiencing the traps of the archives, their secret passages and hidden rooms. In McGuinness’s exhibitions, hidden archive rooms become highly visible and emotionally charged as in the Lived Lives project where Neasa’s dress provides the trigger memory. It is the bare experience of visiting and touching items from an archive, thus gaining something new, which makes it irresistible. For example, Arlette Farge (1989) is feverishly entangled with the archive. In Derrida’s words she is en mal d’archive: in need of archives. Derrida describes the symptom of being en mal d’archive as burning with passion, hence the English translation of archive fever which Diana Wood Conroy unpacks in Chapter 9, ‘Archives of Cloth: Shadows of the Past in Re-visioning Textiles’ in this Handbook. Carolyn Steedman’s (2002) account in Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, and the further analysis by Jo Tollebeek (2004) in his essay Turn’d to Dust and Cultural History gives us an important account of a researcher’s reaction inside the archive. Steedman cites, among others, the testimonies of Richard Cobb, a historian who travelled in many provincial French towns researching in archives, and who described the ‘trembling excitement’ that grips the historian when he or she brings to light archive collections or items that have remained closed for years. As Wood Conroy informs us in her chapter, the rediscovery of archives such as Coptic or Peruvian fabrics has influenced contemporary textile practices from the Bauhaus in Germany in the 1920s through to the 1970s fibre movement in the USA .9 In the early 1980s, Seth Siegelaub began collecting textiles and books about textiles, and in 1986 founded the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (CSROT ), which conducts research on the social history of hand-woven textiles. In 1997 he edited and published the Bibliographica Textilia Historiae, the first general bibliography on the history of textiles, which has since grown online to over 9,000 entries. In 2012, Raven Row, a gallery situated in an eighteenth-century house within the historic Spitalfields silk district of London’s East End, presented over 200 items of Siegelaub’s textile collection from this extensive archive and collection of fragments. The selection included woven and printed textiles, embroideries and costume, ranging from fifth-century Coptic to PreColumbian Peruvian textiles, late medieval Asian and Islamic textiles, and Renaissance to eighteenth-century European silks and velvets. Barkcloth (tapa) and headdresses from the Pacific region (especially Papua New Guinea) and Africa were also shown. Relevant texts and historic books, drawn from the CSROT Library, provided a technological, social and political context for re-thinking and re-presenting textiles and artefacts from around the world. For Diana Wood Conroy, the rediscovery of archives is also a potent force for renewal and counters the ‘archive fever’ put forward by Jacques Derrida, the fever that recognizes in each archive the memento mori, the recollection of death central to Sigmund Freud’s understanding of civilization. At the same time there are artefacts whose memory of those textiles are now lost from the archive and yet the archive can hold many surprises; it is a



result of the direct and tactile interaction with the past, what the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga refers to as a historical sensation. Similarly an archival sensation has its roots and links to the historical sensation. The feeling of an immediate contact with the past, a sensation as deep as the purest enjoyment of the Arts. You touch the essence of things, the experience of Truth through history. . . . You walk on the street and a barrel organ is playing, and if you approach it, it suddenly brings a breeze of recognition that blows through your mind, as if for a moment you understand things which otherwise would be covered by the shrouds of life . . . —Huizinga 1950: 566 Shrouds of life takes me back to the Turin Shroud, a cloth that has iconic status. It offers us a mysterious and yet (apparently) a medically accurate rendition of the stain’s traces, conferred upon the surrounding linen by a body that had undergone cruxification. The linen material is mythologized as an active witness to a history of the absent body that it once enveloped. Look at the formless stain and consider what lies beneath the surface of the weave that consumes the effects of detailed distinction. This implies that knowledge can be seen in the material world and yet what the contributers to this section of the Handbook do is to get under our skin, touching us and moving us, for to be touched by the journey of a particular Torah binder, to be affected by Lived Lives, to encounter Mirabilia Domestica and to be lost in ‘archive fever’ is to be emotionally drawn into sensory worlds where intimate knowledge is being created anew. The caressing of fibre enables the remnants of an interior life to cross the boundaries of the body, from an ‘inside’ that is constantly in the process of weaving itself to propose a distinctive relationship between touch and vision, a crossing over from the tactile to the visual and back again. Merleau-Ponty (1968), in his essay The Intertwining – The Chiasm, considers the relationship between touch and vision by proposing flesh as a place. A place where subject and object coexist through what he calls an intertwining of sameness and difference. An intertwining that occurs through tactile palpitation, as when one hand holds the other (of the same body) so whilst the hand is felt from within, it is also accessible from without (Merleau-Ponty 1968). It takes its place amongst the things it touches and becomes in a sense one of them. ‘My body,’ Merleau-Ponty writes, ‘is the fabric into which all objects are woven’ (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 234). At such a juncture at the border of oneself, another self emerges, self and edges reform within a range of sensory economies and proximities from which there is no escape.


‘Memory and Touch: an exploration of non-verbal communication’. Conference organized by University College for the Creative Arts, Royal Institute of British Architects, Portland Place, London, UK , 2008.


Much of this material is taken from Janis Jefferies (1995). See also Smith (1993), which provides a useful, gendered account on this issue.


In her critique of autobiography, Jeanne Perreault proposes that ‘autographics’ is a kind of writing which evokes and suggests the flexible process of both autos and graphia. She proposes that, although an unwieldy generic term, ‘autographics’ can just about encompass the complexities of contemporary texts which index the conventions of autobiography but resist the monadic by bringing into being a ‘self ’ which the writer names as ‘I’.




Sarat Maharaj seminar discussion, Considering Crafts Criticism. Camden Arts Centre, London, UK , October 1994.


Jefferies, Janis. 1995. ‘A Textile Identity’ from Textile: Seismographs, symposium fibres and textiles, papers published by Conseil des arts textiles, Quebec; 34: 44.


One of my favourite examples from writing is Carolyn Steedman’s (1986) novel, Landscape of a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives in which Steedman’s story of the eye and that of another ‘I’, the Usher of her mother’s story, allows me, as a reader, to be involved in the places where what has already happened is reworked to give events meaning. Steedman, a social historian, tells of her mother wearing the New Look coat/dress of gabardine, which, from waist level, fell into pleats at the back. On one level this is a literal image since throughout the narrative it figures as a very real and constantly present thing. Yet, it also projects an image of desire as the New Look of her dreams: a common fantasy for white working-class women in postwar Britain.


In Archive Fever, Derrida (1996) analyses the dual nature of the archive: the physicality and non-physicality; he gives an etymological account of the term archive and continues by analysing the archive’s primary functions: its nomological (the document of law) and topological (the place of law) functions.


A dedicated website,, provides a link between text and artwork, and serves as an online catalogue of the installation, Mirabilia Domestica (2010), Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA ) at Middlesex University, London, UK .


For example, the work of Sheila Hicks (2014), Thread Lines, Drawing Room, New York. See and read the transcript at (accessed 17 August 2014). Hicks was interviewed by Monique Lévi-Strauss for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Ash, Juliet. 1996. ‘Memory and Objects’, in Pat Kirkham (ed), The Gendered Object, Manchester: Manchester University Press. Barthes. Roland. 1975. The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill and Wang. Benjamin, Walter, 1936/1999. ‘The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov’, in Hannah Arendt (ed), Illuminations (trans. from German by Harry Zorn). London: Pimlico. Benjamin, Walter. 2006. Berlin Childhood around 1900 (trans. from German by Howard Eiland). Cambridge, MA : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Calvino, Italio. 1997. ‘Cybernetics and Ghosts’, The Literature Machine. London: Vintage. Deleuze, Gilles. 1988/1993. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (trans. Tom Conley). London: Athlone Press. Derrida Jacques. 1996. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hodder, Ian. 1998. ‘The Interpretation of Documents and Material Culture’, in Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (eds), The Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods. London: Sage. Huizinga, Johan. 1950. ‘Het historisch museum’, Verzamelde Werken 2, Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon. Foster, Hal. 2002. ‘Archives of Modern Art’, October, No. 99, Winter.



Foster, Hal. 2004. ‘An Archival Impulse’, October, No. 110, Fall. Graves, Jane. 2003. ‘Beast Dreaming: Myth, Materials, Fantasy and Psychoanalysis in Making a Beast Costume’, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 1(3). Ingold, Tim. 2007. Lines: A Brief History. London and New York: Routledge. Jefferies, Janis. 1995. ‘Autobiographies, Subjectivities, Selves’, in Juliet Steyn (ed), Act 1: Writing Art, London: Pluto Press. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception (trans. Colin Smith). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Meleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1968. The Visible and the Invisible (trans. Alphonso Lingis). Evanston, IL : Northwestern University Press. Mitchell, Victoria. 2000. ‘Selvedges and Self-edges’, in Victoria Mitchell (ed), Selvedges, Janis Jefferies: Writings and Art Works since 1980. Norwich: Norwich School of Art and Design. Perreault, Jeanne. 1995. Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Rodaway, Paul. 1994. Sensuous Geographies: Body, Sense and Place. London: Routledge. Showalter, Elaine. 1996. ‘Piecing and Writing’, in Nancy K. Miller (ed), The Poetics of Gender. New York: Columbia University Press: 222–247. Smith, Sidonie. 1993. Subjectivity, Identity and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century. Bloomington, IN : Indiana University Press. Stallybrass, Peter. 1993. ‘Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning, and the Life of Things’, The Yale Review, 81: 35–75. Steedman, Carolyn. 2002. Dust: The Archive and Cultural History. New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers University Press. Tollebeek, Jo. 2004. ‘Turn’d to Dust and Tears: Revisiting the Archive’, History and Theory, 43, May: 237–248. Winnicott, W. David. 1971. Playing and Reality. London: Tavistock/Routledge Publications.



Binding Autobiographies A Jewishing Cloth KATYA OICHERMAN

What kind of knowledge is held within a piece of cloth? How complex or simple is the pattern, how elaborate or common is the embroidery, does silk or linen underlay it? For it is just a piece of cloth, it is forever caught in the hierarchical conundrum of material and object; it is forever tied to the everyday in all its forms, from the dullest to the most heavily symbolic. Tie and die, weave and live. When we encounter a cloth – no, when I encounter it – as ‘she’ does not wish to get rid of the burden which the ‘I’ brings into this text, just as ‘she’ wishes not to become accommodated into the safety of an imaginary collective ‘we’. When I encounter a cloth there is no safety, no comfort, but those provided by it, only illusive, only elusive and always personal. I insist: it always gets personal with cloth. When a student of textile design, I felt the lack in the teaching of the history of textiles – not the content of the lessons but the ways in which this knowledge could be lived through, reenacted. This chapter tells a story of such ‘reenactment’ of cloth, exploring how a museum textile, here a Torah binder, has been used as a departure point for my textile practice, as it were, ‘personalizing’ a piece of history. The chapter brings together academic and autobiographical passages (marked in italicized font), both reflections on my practice. Rather than just examining historical objects I want to create a hybrid space that is transformative of relations of artist–artifact. This is necessarily a subjective view of my chosen textile, the Torah binder, and it is developed in my art practice saturated by experiences of cloth from my own family history. Writing here functions as a critical tool in constant conversation with my textile work. The reader will encounter four main elements in my story: the history of German Torah binders; the story of the particular binder that became a model for my textile work; my autobiographical accounts, and the critical account of the work that has emerged. This combination of elements may offer a method of creative research relevant for other textile artists and also for others from a broad range of creative disciplines concerned with material culture. The hybridic space of writing and making offered here suggests a heightened sense of a personal, creative responsibility towards material culture. Beyond the ‘objectness’ of a museal artifact, it envisions the subjectivity of relations, resulting in an active and activating use of an historical and often presumed ‘dead’ textile. 107



THE BINDER A Torah binder is a Jewish ceremonial textile, which in different variants exists throughout the Jewish world. Usually, it is a long and narrow cloth band (common proportions 300 cm × 20 cm) used to wrap and fasten the Torah scroll when it rests in the ark. Traditionally, the binder is wrapped five or six times around the whole length of the scroll so that no parchment remains uncovered (Yaniv 2009: 17, 23–24, 82; Hamburger 1995 vol. 2: 551–571). The end is thrust upwards in between the edges of the cloth so no knot or additional fastening device is needed. Towards the Middle Ages in Europe, the Jewish liturgy and its accompanying objects altered; the positioning of scrolls in the ark changed from horizontal to vertical, thus the wrapping textiles that had to reinforce the standing scroll changed (Yaniv 2009: 22). As a result, the scroll covering cloth, a Mappah, evolved into an Avnet – a binder wound around the scroll to keep it safe and hold together its parts (Feuchtwanger-Sarig 1999: 23; Yaniv 2009: 81). The cloth’s ritual function is to create a physical ‘partition of honor between the scroll and its users’ (Yaniv 2009: 16), including preventing the direct touching of the scroll by the human body and any avoidable disclosure of the sacred text.1 Through their closeness to the scroll, the binders themselves were imbued with a high degree of sacredness (Yaniv 2009: 16). This ‘elevation to sacredness’ conditions a degree of sacredness that can be associated with material objects, based on their vicinity to the scroll.2 Once an object has been ‘elevated’ (Hoffman 1996: 160–161) it cannot be degraded and returned to its previous state.3 The ritual elevation influenced an approach to aesthetics: binders were commonly embellished with painting and embroidery, or produced from luxurious textiles (Yaniv 2009: 83–87; Veselska 2009: 29–31).

BINDING , WRAPPING , SWADDLING The Hebrew verbs used in the Tosefta (Talmud additions), as well as in later sources up to the twentieth century, in relation to Mappah cloths are: ‘wound around’, ‘wrapped’, ‘rolled up’.4 They suggest a circular way of packing or swaddling the scroll. In this sense the Torah binder is reminiscent of a baby-swaddling band. In the medieval European context, the link to baby swaddling is quite direct, since newborns were commonly wrapped in long and narrow bands of linen along the length of their body to prevent movement (Stahl 1983: 287–288). In Germany this custom persisted until the middle of the nineteenth century in cities and lingered longer in rural areas. This binding–swaddling connection received an explicit expression in the material culture of German-speaking European communities.5 Torah binders or Wimpels were made from swaddling clothes used during the circumcision ceremony. The circumcision binder, an ‘object of commandment’, is firstly dedicated to circumcision, and secondly to wrapping and embellishing the Torah. It was perceived in the rabbinical discourse as a pure donation, a pious expression of gratitude after the successful entrance of a son into a new stage in life. The earliest circumcision binder known today is dated 1569.6 The binder arrived at the circumcision ceremony already made to shape, but unembellished. The newborn’s attire prepared for the ceremony included two bands, often given by the godparents: an outer band in which the newborn was brought to the synagogue and an inner plain linen band. This inner band was mostly used to swaddle the newborn during the rite itself. After the ceremony the binder was embroidered or painted



with the names of the child and his father, the date and sometimes the place of birth. Thus the binder acts as a sort of birth certificate in cloth. The mother’s name was mentioned very rarely.7 The inscription ended with a blessing taken with slight variations from the concluding lines of the circumcision liturgy: ‘may God bring [the child] to Huppah [marriage], Torah [sacred learning] and good deeds, Amen Selah’. Decorative elements traditionally added to the text included signs of the Zodiac, the wedding canopy and the bridal couple, Torah scrolls, blessing hands, flower garlands and other images mostly positioned on the cloth in correspondence to the inscribed words. Usually the text was written by the local scribe or rabbi, and then embroidered by the child’s mother or a skilful female relative. Wealthy families could order binders from professional workshops that specialized in painting or embroidery.8 The binding act was performed in a special presentation rite in the synagogue (Feuchtwanger-Sarig 1999: 25–30). Its kernel was the donation of the binder by the child and wrapping the scroll with it on his first visit, sometime between six months and three years of age. The donation was understood as one of the first pious acts of the child, and was imbued with considerable educational significance.

A JEWISHING CLOTH : BINDING NAMES AND RITUALS Yuspa Shammash, a seventeenth-century Jewish writer from Warms, called the swaddling band used during the circumcision ceremony a ‘Jewishing swaddling cloth’, combining the German windel with the archaic Judeo-German ‫יידשען‬, to circumcise, to make Jewish (Hamburger 1995 vol. 2: 548). Functionally Torah binders were wrapping cloths, intended to protect the scroll and to manage the interaction of human bodies with the body of the sacred text. Because of their special features, German binders performed as certificates-in-cloth of male Jewishness. The validity of binders as ‘certificates’ of male Jewishness came from their embeddness in the context of birth and the post-natal primary rite of male identity in Judaism: circumcision. The binders forged a material and symbolic bond between circumcision and Torah (Hamburger 1995 vol. 2: 145, 548; KirshenblattGimblett 1982: 137; Susser 1997: 45), between male physicality and access to the duties and privileges of Jewish law and spirituality. Its meaning is produced against the background of the principal connection of circumcision, blood and naming. In Judaism naming and circumcision act as sorting tools, clearly dividing sacred and everyday, public and private, male and female, Jewish and gentile. Circumcision is a gender-specific bodily mark of difference and consecration, which demanded the doubling of the names of the marked body. The sacred name was the one given publicly by the male community, the keepers of the religious law, upon entrance to the sacred covenant. The secular name for everyday life was given in the private space of the home by the mother who was absent from the circumcision ceremony. Circumcision and the act of binding the swaddling cloth on the scroll continually performed a ritual of remembrance, in linking the sacred given name of the newborn boy and the mark on his body to make him remember the covenant. The very term for ‘masculine’ or ‘male’ in Hebrew comes from the root z.h.r., which has to do with memory, remembering, reminding (Susser 1997: 44). In the ritual contexts described above, the cloth sustains the domains of the everyday and the sacred by preventing conflict between them. As a swaddling cloth it stands for the everyday, as an absorbent and a wrapper it embodies very literally the bodies of everyday that are generally removed from the sacred: incomplete, children and women. Once marked with the blood of circumcision, again as an absorbent, the cloth is consecrated. In



this sense it certifies the entrance of the male child into the domain of male ‘culture’ and his departure from female ‘nature’. Once the cloth is embroidered with names, a date and blessing, the newborn’s covenant is documented and certified, and the cloth’s consecration is officially confirmed. Once the cloth is wrapped around the scroll, its elevation is complete: the newborn’s official status as an observant Jew at the beginning of his life journey is ‘activated’. The course of the Jew’s life journey consists of constant and repetitive transitions between domains. The need to negotiate identity anew, to sort and mark identities with names proper for each domain is created. The cloth testifies to and confirms those negotiations and changes its own ‘name’ too, as it passes from the everyday to the sacred.

THE PARTICULAR : AN 1836 BINDER FROM FÜRTH The particular binder which has informed my historical and creative thinking and making comes from the Bavarian town of Fürth, carrying the name of Tzvi son of Yoel, born in 1836. It is exhibited in the Museum of the German-Speaking Jewry (MGSJ ) in Tefen Industrial Park, Israel (see Plate 7.1). Embroidered with silk thread on linen cloth, the binder follows closely the conventions of similar artifacts in terms of inscription, images and techniques. A certain diversion from convention is present in the images that adorn the joining seams. These offer a material and pictorial narrative of identity staged on the seams or margins of the textual conditioned by the social and cultural setting of Jewish emancipation in Bavaria. The inscription on the binder states: ‘Tzvi called Hirsh son of Yoel [may he live long] born [under a good constellation] on Monday 26 Tamuz 5596 [by abbreviated era] may God bring him to Huppah, Torah and good deeds, amen, selah’.9 The Hebrew date corresponds to 11 July 1836. At the lower left corner appears the partially surviving signature of the maker: ‘MADE BY (B/H)’G (?-L-?/M-N) FING (ER )SPI (GE )L [HOLY COMMUNITY ] FIRTE ’. Visually the binder stands at a stylistic mid-point between the ‘refined’ Jewish domestic semi-ceremonial textiles, acculturated to the general spirit of the bourgeois aesthetics of the period, the traditional ‘folk’ character of earlier wimpels and late Baroque metallic embroideries in monumental synagogal textiles, such as the ark curtains and valances (Yaniv 2009: 57–59). The signature formulation, the general level of craftsmanship and mature visual stylization in the binder suggest a professional production associated with a male embroiderer.

IMAGES -ON -THE -SEAMS Three joining seams in the binder are concealed with elongated images of two thin stems of carnations with buds and leaves, grown in a pot or a basket, tied to a supporting stick, which actually cover the seam; a thin conical tree with white round fruits among rare foliage and a curling serpent, adjacent to a vase with a triple white lily; an indoor plant with white buds grown in a pot, also supported by a stick. The seams were integrated into the imagery on the binder in ways that made sense of the total elongated format, consciously playing around with conventional symbols and allowing insights into the maker’s world. Images of flowers and plants are associated with the Torah, the Tree of Life. The appearance of the Serpent on the middle seam and doubling of the Tree image (the tree with the Serpent and the vase) suggests a shift in the



common scheme of meaning, from Tree of Life (Torah) to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, an admonition to the child to be aware and wary of the temptations of emancipation. Acute internal conflicts in the Jewish community of Fürth, provoked by emancipation and the rise of the Reform and Neo-Orthodox religious movements, were the historical context of the binder’s making. The concealment of the seams only stresses their presence and appears as an ambivalent troubling act at the liminal area of the cloth’s edges. The embroidery is there to deal with the question that concerns the maker: how to join together, to keep whole what seems to be torn apart? The embroidered ‘images-on-the-seams’ of the binder provide a material narrative to cope with this question. They are an alternative to the textual narrative which, following conventional formula, creates a clear and stable Jewish identity, covering up what embroidery strives to reveal.

IN THE MUSEUM The binder is presented in the section of Judaica of the MGSJ . This section is significantly different from the rest of the exposition of material culture, mostly based on massproduced personal objects, the value of which is in its connection to a particular story of the family who donated it. The handmade binder was specifically dedicated to the birth of a son and to confirmation of his Jewishness. The level of investment in this object imbuing it with such specific information is exceptional when compared to other personal objects in the museum. Paradoxically, this ‘super-personal’ textile is detached from the entire exposition, notwithstanding the curatorial concern with a biographical presentation of objects. The binder comes from a different convention of ‘identification’, according to which Jewishness is not just a matter of a common, if individualized, hi/story of modernity, but a matter of custom and ritual. In the Judaica display of the MGSJ , a religious identity becomes a picture of a ‘cultured’ way of life. Shown is what can be considered ‘beautiful’, or impressive. The story of Judaism in Germany is represented as ‘cultured’, a story of fine aesthetics and good taste. Two other binders in the collection of the museum, modestly painted at home by amateur artists, are not part of this picture. There is a felt contrast between biographical rather than aesthetic value in the displays relating to the history of the German Jews in Palestine and Israel, and the overt aesthetization of the presentation of the religious life of Jewish Germany. As opposed to the fragmented, ‘biographized’ histories of mass-produced personal objects, ‘the past of Judaica’ remains untouchable and de-politicized. Once the binder is released from the status of ‘a beautiful thing’, and regains its biography, it tells the story not of an imagined magnificent ‘once upon a time’, but a deeply politicized and unsightly story of an inner religious and social struggle. The danger of reawakening the ghost of this struggle unsettles the cultured picture of the ‘magnificent’ German-Jewish past created in the museum. The question of a uniqueness of a thing, Michel de Certeau’s ‘dream of countless combinations of existences’ (De Certeau 1988: 21), is a political question, a matter of relationship, engagement and re-enactment. The removal of Judaica from the politics of its time restricts its possible links to a politics of the present, thus it activates a form of forgetfulness that suggests that the religious life of Jews in a specific time existed separately from their social life, picturing an idealized existence outside of history. The impossibility of seeing a fully historical, and thus political Judaica, creates a motive for a similar blindness in the present, regarding not just objects, but communities with



which objects are associated as falling outside of time, or as fixed within a particular, nonrelevant past. Paraphrasing Doreen Massey’s discourse of space, the de-politicization of Judaica refuses to recognize ‘the radical contemporaneity’ (Massey 2005: 8, 69–70) of material culture. The task of an artist in a museum, as I understand it, is to re-politicize, reactivate artifacts in the present.

REACTIVATION : CREATIVE RESEARCH My practice has developed through a series of successive moves that have been mobilized by the Fürth binder as my expressive and conceptual model. The initial idea was rather ‘simple’: to learn something about binders through practice, I thought it necessary to make a binder. I hoped that by remaking it I could clarify some technical aspects of its production, and thereby perhaps glimpse the decision-making behind the design, that is in itself a reflection of the complex cultural and social factors that conditioned its particular appearance. Once the remaking started to acquire a shape, it became clearer that apart from being a ‘deciphering tool’ serving research, this work occupied its own unique space and position. At stake for me was the relationship between art and craft, which I recognized as becoming a hybrid space in which the new binder could find a different way of belonging. In 2008 I became convinced that it had been a woman who had embroidered the Fürth binder. The signature and the stylistic choices seemed to me a kind of concealed female presence within the overwhelmingly male artifact and ritual context. This is the case with the majority of embroidered binders. In a sense, when deciding to remake the binder, I had already contrived a fictional narrative that allowed me to ‘reoccupy’ the position of a hidden female maker. The Fürth binder appeared as two identity narratives superimposed, with the possibility that the subsumed female narrative, linked to craft and making, acts as a subversion of, or at least an alternative to, the ‘official’ religious narrative instituting male Jewish identity through circumcision. The female/male dichotomy in traditional Judaism was the premise of my reaction to the binder, while the temporal leap from 1836 to 2009 allowed me to suffuse the cloth with autobiographical stories related to my own immigrant history and experience. At a very early stage I decided, in defiance of the original artifact, that the ‘remade’ binder will be dedicated to a female story, and that this story will be mine and my female lineage. This decision changed irreversibly the ‘original’ relationship of form and content in the work and introduced into play elements of a subjective nature, which were foreign to its initial subject. Balancing between past and present, in the discrepancy10 between historical and autobiographical narratives, it occurred to me that my work entered a realm of nostalgic imaginary. The romantic discourse of making, ideological idealization of handicraft as a ‘memorative sign’ (Boym 2001: 12), of an imagined lost past of a nation in need of restoration, was not part of my motivation. To a certain extent the binder was an ‘exotic object’ for me, inasmuch as it appeared in and appealed to the separation of its use value from its display value (Stewart 2007: 146–149). Yet the binder never appeared ‘primitive’11 and thus a more ‘pure and authentic’ thing. Handmaking the work was important as a learning tool, and undoubtedly began to occupy a political position in my practice, as a reflection on the episodic constructedness or ‘craftiness’ of identity.



The binder acted as a creative ‘home’ for my practice, although fictive, as the Jews of the Russia of my predecessors did not produce circumcision binders. The ritual and social aspects stitched in the cloth became a distancing device through which I could view my own life-story. Remaking the ‘original’ binder became a way to address the present through the framework of an imaginary past. I was not reviving a ‘lost’ tradition, rather I was contemplating my identity in the act of a ‘reflective nostalgia’. According to Svetlana Boym such nostalgia is ‘oriented toward an individual narrative that savors details and memorial signs, perpetually deferring homecoming itself ’ (Boym 2001: 49). Its narrative is ‘ironic, inconclusive and fragmentary’. The uniqueness of an autobiographical story in this case is also the singularity of a particular relationship between past, present and future (again to paraphrase Boym). Far from being teleological, this relationship opens the past up to a ‘multitude of potentialities’ of historic development, so that the past might be ‘inserted’ into the present. Such a Benjaminean, philosophical, rather than historical approach to objects is about ‘recognizing for the present, “as one of its own concerns” – the objects of its inquiries, which flare up only for brief instants’ (Bal 2002: 61). I was seeing the binder exactly in this way, a flaring instant, a nostalgic image of an artistic persuasiveness and wholeness. The binder needed to be ‘translated’ rather than researched, and translation suggests ‘liberation, transformation, renewal, and a supplementation that produces the original rather than being subservient to it’ (Bal 2002: 64). To achieve this state the artistic and academic voices had to be balanced between my historical subject, the binder of 1836, and the subjectivity of my address, my nostalgia for it, the longing for an artifact which was in front of me and was at the same time irredeemably distant, an imaginary binder I could never have possessed.

SURFACES OF SHAME , RESISTANCE AND DESIRE As I decided to remake the binder, I intended to remain loyal to the basic idea of reusing a swaddling cloth. At my disposal were my own swaddling cloths. They had been turned into pillowcases, and had served our family for two decades at least before they travelled with us from Russia to Israel in 1989. When I discovered that the old pillowcases were in fact my swaddling cloths, they were nearly at the stage of being downgraded to dust cloths. I collected every piece of them from my mother and grandmother, together with our old Soviet bedlinen, which for me was closely linked to pillowcases. This was to be my material, like the binder of 1836, a firm starting point for the work, which would not change, to which it is possible to return, but impossible to remove or ignore. By that time (2007) the shamelessly confessional quilts of Tracey Emin appealed to me in their soft and colourful brutality, yet aesthetically my own previous work lingered in a very different realm. Cloth, as a bearer of memory, had been of concern for me for a long time. The problem with the swaddling cloths was their ordinary look: spotted pink printed with pink blooming roses with tiny emerald leaves. The bedlinen fabrics were pink, peach and thinly striped with white and vinous red. This was my ‘whole cloth’ (Constantine and Reuter 1997): mundane, cute, girly, mass-produced woven textiles, some of them so ordinary and common in their design and presence that it would be difficult to classify them. The simplicity of the design of my swaddling cloths offered a key to the universal conventions of surface distribution in textiles: a plain woven cloth, a simple stripe and a half-drop diamond repeat, there in the rose pattern. With such simple geometry and basic



flower images, those textiles appeared archetypal in their look and in their function as body wrappers and comforters. At the same time, they were particular and historicized, fabrics produced in a specific time and place, and those same fabrics became part of the biographical narratives in our family. Towards the end of the 1980s in Pskov, just as in many other places in the USSR , those narratives inexorably and increasingly related to emigration, and to the ado of preparations towards it. Bedlinen figured there, particularly as quantities of stuff to be packed and taken. New bedlinen and towels were all bought, printed cotton with simple flowery and dotted designs, made in Russia, or striped and checked coarse linen from Lithuania. Bedlinen, old and new, was sealed into black polyethylene, then packed into boxes, then deposited into wooden crates. Later, trying to remember, I wrote about this as a link between cloth and departure: In the mild asphyxiation of emigration dreams, I’ve spoken with my grandfather about books, how is it going to be once we unpack them in a new place, who will stand by who; with my mother – about bedlinen, how new and shiny patterns will take their place by the old, worn, soft and most favourite of sheets and pillowcases. Books and bedlinen were inseparable, because we all read in bed. It took time until the dreams began to come true, since the crates were shipped by sea and took more than six months to arrive to their port of destination. During that time, we have used bedlinen provided by the Jewish Agency, two sets that were delightfully modern and non-creasing. Newly arrived ‘Russian’ women exchanged news during Hebrew lessons and in super-markets: ‘Do you know that they do not iron the sheets here?’ It didn’t stop most of them from ironing; some (including my mother) still haven’t given up. Those cotton-polyester sheets and pillowcases (quadrangular, but not square, as in Russia) produced in India, brightly coloured with orange, purple, green and yellow shapeless patches, are now part of our family pantheon of bedlinen, laying in the stack with once-new Russian and Lithuanian sheets. A feeling of clandestineness in relation to everyday aspects of dealing with and using cloth/clothes forms a part of the outrageous closeness of cloth. This feeling originates in the discourse of modesty and shame, which in the Soviet social space extended into everyday life and specifically into its bodily aspects and the cloths that accompanied it (Degot and Pepperstein 2000: 48–56). Lingerie was one such, publicly invisible, area of shame (Gurova 2008). Bedlinen, in a sense, belonged to the same discourse and scene of intimacy, the other side of the monitored official glamour of news and ceremonies. Yet, as opposed to Soviet lingerie, which presented a very limited range of cuts and types, bedlinen was based on the enormous pull of printed cotton, which was present in the USSR even in the hardest times. The manufacture of printed fabrics was highly developed in Czarist Russia, and, in spite of breaks in production during revolutionary times and the Second World War, it survived and developed through the Soviet era. A distinctive language of elaborate floral and geometric patterns developed in Russia towards the nineteenth century, originating from the craft of icon decoration and Russian native block print, as well as from European and naturalized Eastern designs (Sobolev 1912). Modified by the mechanization of production, pattern design passed through the reductivism of revolutionary modernism of the 1920s, evolving into the narrative propaganda textiles, in which ‘the rose was replaced by the Red Army soldier’ (Karateeva 2011). In the preface to the exhibition catalogue from 1928, featuring propaganda prints, the Soviet art critic Fedorov-Davidov referred to cloth as an ‘ideological commodity’, capable



of ‘appealing straight to emotion, past the logical associations, being perceived purely reflexively and leaving its imprint on the very foundations of psychic life and public behavior of man.’ Those ideological commodities, magically and ‘literally wrapping the body of the citizen and his everyday life into the Soviet ideology’ (Widdis 2010: 102), were dismissed as irrelevant at the beginning of the 1930s (Kareva 2010: 59), together with the reminder of the constructivist project. The 1930s re-appropriation of the exuberant florals of nineteenth-century patterns marked the rise of Stalinism, and a turn in the total official aesthetic agenda, labelled as ‘socialist realism’ (Groys 1992: 34–36). Hammer and sickle were evacuated from the cloth, which once again was filled with tiny flowers, dots, circles and stripes. Even if the cloth gave away its power as an omnipresent ‘ideological commodity’, as the revolutionary drama and the events of the Second World War gave way to the strange normality of the Soviet everyday existence, this existence was nevertheless enveloped in its own cloth. As early as I can remember myself reading, this memory is wrapped in cloths that now figure in my work. Spotty swaddling cloths made into pillowcases, similar motley sheets and covers. Curled in bed with a book among the soft medley of cloths, this has always been my best embodiment of happiness. This custom has been engendered by my mother and grandmother, often scorched by my grandfather, not for the reading itself, but for the rosy entourage of meekness and careless self-indulgence, unbearable for his vigorous bodily discipline of a soldier and a pedagogue. The duty of reading then, as if forever appeared to me enveloped in a pinkish patterned cloth; black lines of text in the double spread of a book coincided and laid upon the thin vinous stripes of a duvet cover. The rhythmic pleasure of the text, the flight of imagination, were conditioned and protected by the pervasive pattern and caressing texture of cloth. My ex-pillowcases and once-swaddling cloths were pieces of this cloth, produced in one of the Ivanovo mills. I have managed to find some very similar samples in a 1959 catalogue of Soviet textiles from various mills in the Ivanovo region: Trekhgorka, Vera Slutskaya Cotton Printing Mill, Kalininsky Mill, Tejkovskaya Mill. Trekhgorka and Kalininsky are still active today. Being notoriously anonymous and mundane in their appearance, ‘the unassuming material base of life that “importance” commonly overlooks’ (Bryson 1989: 61), those textiles nevertheless were hopelessly bound to my intimate and particular life experiences. They were ‘tainted’ with stripes, flowers and dots, they were mass-produced and marked by a design, which was meant to serve and accommodate the taste of the collective, of the ‘masses’. On the other hand they were commonly personal, mundanely autobiographical, in the ‘almost-kitsch, almost nostalgia’ (Harper 2004: 22–25) spirit of materials akin to those of Emin’s quilts. For me the patterns on the textiles neutralized a possibility of a romanticized, survivalist fascination with Cloth as an ancient or timeless, basic and pure superstructure. As materials, thus, they were particularly poignant, since in their appearance alone they undermined the comfortable possibility of an ‘original’ work telling a solipsistic, unrelated story.

MY STORIES AND THEIR DESIGN I dedicated the embroidery to my female genealogy, to the women who had the most interaction with the cloths, reflecting on the link between my grandmother, mother and myself. Following the formulation on the binder I had to edit our life-stories, relating



them to the most important elements in it, reconfigured as female: names, dates and marriage. Before formulating the actual text I was to embroider I wrote about those elements in my grandmother’s and my own short biographies: My grandmother, Sarah Maximovsky, known as Sonya, received her identification card upon arrival to Israel in 1990. Due to a mistake in the registers of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the space for ‘nationality’ was printed with the words ‘not registered’. Henceforth, Sarah, a surgeon who chose not to change her name during the ‘Killer Doctors’ affair in the end of Stalin’s regime in Leningrad, has become an unidentifiable agent in terms of national belonging. I received my ID in 1993, reaching the age of sixteen. Due to a mistake in the registers of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the year of my birth was printed as 00. Henceforth a doubt is imposed on my being in the world. In 1997 I wanted to marry. The Rabbinate asked to verify my Jewish decent. I showed my ID, which stated in the space of nationality: Jewish. Not convinced, they demanded to speak with my grandmother. They called her and asked in Russian: ‘Is your name Sarah?’ ‘Yes’, – she replied. ‘Have you always been Sarah or have you just become Sarah?’ Sarah, who due to her age had hearing deficiency and was anxious for not answering adequately, replied: ‘What? Ahhh . . . Yes, I have always been Sarah.’ They then asked her to speak Yiddish, and she spoke as well as she could remember. Thereupon it was decided that I am Jewish. The described events relate to the troubles of immigrants’ identity re-acquisition in Israel, when during the issue of passports and ID cards mistakes can instantly create new identities. Taking into account the special sensitivity of nationality, this process can be traumatic. The problematic creative power of a written word or number in the official document further generates anxieties when applied to dates, such as with the case of a mistake in my own ID . The power of the state converges with the power of its maledominated official religious institutions, when dealing with the registration of birth, marriage and death. Orthodox and mostly reactionary in their view of Judaism, those institutions exert their power over a population that does not necessarily share their worldview, but has to conform due to the lack of an official alternative. Tension arises when it comes to immigrants, especially the big waves of immigration from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Both bride and groom have to pass the ‘Jewish check’, to prove their Jewish descent to the religious council in order to obtain permission to marry. The Israeli passport, issued by the state upon arrival, is not valid as proof of descent. The procedure of descent verification is obtrusive and traumatizing. The state allows entry, but refuses its new citizens full civil rights, suggesting differentiated degrees of acceptance into Israeli society. This realization guided me when writing the short passage on my binder. I addressed it in a way that would emulate the sparsity of the official parlance, avoiding emotions, as if just presenting an account of events. The next step was to formulate the Hebrew inscription on my binder, increasing and exaggerating the reference to the style of the original formula and the passport. Here is the result in English translation: Sarah called Sonya, daughter of Shlomo Lioznov from Nevel born under a good constellation on Sabbath 1st Heshvan 5680 by abbreviated era the name [god] is not written [stated]



Ekaterina, whom they wanted to name Esther, daughter of Vasily Lavorko from Briansk, born under a good constellation on Monday 8 Elul zero zero the name [god] did not write [register] That inscription transgresses the dominating male narrative customarily told by the binders. To stress the interconnectedness between religion, authority, masculinity and the act of inscribing words and dates, the blessing formula has been changed. God in the original formula is designated as ‘the name’, a traditional substitution of Jehovah, which I used to point to the erasure of identity in my grandmother’s passport: ‘the name is not written’ and as a presence of an anonymous force preventing the identity re-emerging in my own: ‘the name did not write’. The whole formulation thus has been recharged in absurd mode, emphasizing the discrepancy between the vital actualities of birth and naming and the incongruence of their registration and authorization. In Hebrew the institute of registration and the physical act of writing down are designated by the same verb ‫( רשם‬RSHM ), a feature that I used to further stress the negating power of the bureaucratic machinery. It is the same feature that also became the path of subversion and criticality when the inscription had to be transposed onto fabric with needle and thread (see Plate 7.2).

REACTUALIZATION : ON THE SEAMS OF TEXT AND TEXTILE The Fürth binder acted both as a written text and as an embodied material history – an embroidery. Its conception withdrawn from the initial context and appropriated within my own framework of remaking unleashed an exchange between those two states. This exchange allowed me to redo the auto/biographies, once word became text and text became thread. The juxtaposition of the colourful patterned fabric of the swaddling cloths with the solid solemnity of the square Hebrew script, with its contained colour palette, compromised the aura of sacredness and authenticity of the Fürth binder as a ‘respectable’ museal object. A juxtaposition of the original Fürth binder with the ‘forged’ contemporary version, made according to the traditional rules, provides a fresh marginal scene where voices previously unheard come into being. It is important to remember that swaddling cloth binders were not used in Russia but in Germany and my own family does not have German-Jewish roots. My binder thus possesses a fictional character, which aims to destabilize the existing frameworks of inscriptions of Jewishness in Israel, as much as to locate and provide a voice for a problematic and complex Russian-Jewish identity underrepresented in that scene. Art practice makes way for the manipulation and collaging of real remnants (I use my own swaddling cloths and re-write real life stories). Yet, those fictions, fixed in the woven surface of the cloth and destabilized in the ‘crafty’ act of embroidery, are not entirely fictitious. They are stubbornly material, stained swaddling cloths, which resist the institutionalization of identity stories enforced by the religious and the official state certifications and the museal set-up. Still, as artworks they also do not entirely allow the undoing of this setup, since it is within and against it their content actualizes. The presence of fiction here is the materializing ‘design of the life-story’, using Adriana Cavarero’s (2000) expression. It is the desire shared by biography and autobiography – to see and touch a unique story – my own, related to the stories of my mother and my grandmother: unique, but also ordinary, like my swaddling cloths.



The extended length of cloth of a traditional binder held within its text a promise for a future story, guiding the future life that started with the unique event of birth, motherless in most binders, into the right and moral path of a Jewish man – religious learning, wedding, moral conduct. It contains a certain contradiction between the concreteness and uniqueness of the names and dates inscribed on it and the generalizing character of the blessing formulation. My own binder tells of a life lived till the moment of its transcription onto cloth. Its promise is that of remembrance; it claims as its own a sequence of time, from my birth until now. It is this and not another birth, even if its date has been written wrongly, for I know that I was born on a specific date, as do others around me. The embroidered zeros do not negate the fact of my birth, rather they signify the difficulty of the coexistence of diverging modes of inscription and management of uniqueness. That management becomes coercive once the concreteness of name and birth is superseded by universalizing notions of national belonging, enacted by the problematic union of reactionary male-dominated religious Judaic institution and the supposedly neutral identification apparatus of the state. The binder, uniquely embodying in its production, ceremonial function and particular history, the transition between cloth and object, becomes an embodied material location of biographical and autobiographical story-telling, a position, speaking or rather embroidering from which the creation of material narratives of selfhood is facilitated. Those narratives interact with and re-cast universal conventions of identity description (ID s) and subvert gender codifications of the traditional Judaica objects. The cooperation of woven cloth and embroidery needle becomes a way to reflect critically on the place and function of a materialized autobiographical narrative in a text-dominated world, without losing the subtlety and in-substitutability of the sensed uniqueness of a singular human existence, of a particular life-story.


The Jerusalem Talmud, Megilah, 1:9, XII GG .


Babylonian Talmud, Megilah, 27a2.


Babylonian Talmud, Megilah, 26 b4.


The Tractate of Scribes 3:13, ‘Masseket Soferim’, in Minor Tractates of the Talmud.


The geographical provenance of the binders included the communities of Germany, Alsace, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Bohemia, Moravia and neighbouring areas.


A binder from Hégenheim, Southern Alsace, in the collection of Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris (num. 90.1.22). See Yaniv (2009: 88).


This is correct for the German binders. In Bohemia and Moravia and in Denmark, it was common to mention both parents’ names.


This was a frequent case in Denmark, while the majority of binders produced in Germany were home-made.


Square brackets are used to disambiguate Hebrew acronyms.

10. ‘History – the name of the discrepancy between intention and occurrence’ (Jonathan Culler, quoted in Bal 2002: 60). 11. In the reflections on ‘the primitive’, Stewart relates to Baudrillard’s text The System of Objects.



REFERENCES Bal, Mieke. 2002. Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Boym, Svetlana. 2001. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books. Bryson, Norman. 1989. Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still-Life. London: Reaktion Books. Cavarero, Adriana. 2000. Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood (trans. P. A. Kottman). London and New York: Routledge. de Certeau, Michel. 1988. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley, CA : University of California Press. Constantine, Mildred and Reuter, Laurel. 1997. Whole Cloth. New York: Monachelli Press. Degot, Ekaterina and Peperstein, Pavel. 2000. ‘A Dialogue about Shame’. In The Memory of Body: Lingerie of the Soviet Era, ex. cat. 11/2000–1/2001, curators: Degot, Ekaterina. Demidenko, Julia. The State Museum of St Petersburg [in Russian]. Feuchtwanger-Sarig, Naomi. 1999. Torah Binders from Denmark. PhD Thesis. The Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Groys, Boris. 1992. The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond (trans. Charles Rougle). Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press Gurova, Olga. 2008. The Soviet Lingerie: Between Ideology and the Everyday. Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie [The New Literature Review]. Harper, Catherine. 2004. ‘I Need Tracey Emin Like I Need God’. Selvedge. 1: 22–25. Hamburger, Benjamin Shlomo. 1995. Roots of Ashkenazi Custom. Vols. 1–2. Bney-Braq: Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz [in Hebrew]. Hoffman, Lawrence A. 1996. Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Karateeva Tat’yana. 2011. ‘A Red Army Soldier Instead of a Rose: Textiles for the Soviet Man’. Teori’a Mody: Odezda, Telo, Kultura [Fashion Theory: Clothing, Body, Culture] 21 [in Russian]. Available from Kareva, Galina. 2010. ‘The Third Proletarian Capital’. In Ostrakova, I. (ed), 100% Ivanovo – Propaganda Textile of the 1920s–1930s from the Collection of the Burylin Ivanovo State Historical Museum. Moscow: Pervaya Publikacia [in Russian]. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. 1982. ‘The Cut that Binds: The Western Ashkenazic Torah Binder as Nexus between Circumcision and Torah’. In Turner, Victor (ed), Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual. Washington, DC : Smithsonian Institution Press. Massey, Doreen B. 2005. For Space. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage. Sobolev N. N. 1912. Block Print in Russia: the History and Method of Work. Moscow: Sytin [in Russian]. Stahl, Avraham. 1983. ‘Swaddling: Its Disappearance as an Illustration of the Process of Cultural Change’. Koroth, 8 (7–8): 285–298. Stewart, Susan. 2007. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durnham, NC : Duke University Press. Susser, Bernard. 1997. ‘The Covenant of Circumcision’. In Friedlander, Evelyn et al. (eds), Mappot . . . Blessed be, Who Comes: the Band of Jewish Tradition. ex. cat. the Hidden Legacy Foundation and Prähistorische Staatssammlung München. Veselska, Dana. 2009. ‘Bohemian and Moravian Torah Binders and Covers from Circumcision Swaddling as a Source for Social and Art History ’. In Cermanová, Iveta and Putík, Alexandr



(eds), May God Let Him Grow: A Child’s Birth in the Culture and Customs of Bohemian and Moravian Jews. Jewish Museum in Prague. Widdis, Emma. 2010. ‘A Man is What He Wears: the Thematic Textile Drawing and the Formation of a Soviet Man’. In Ostrakova, I. (ed), 100% Ivanovo – Propaganda Textile of the 1920s–1930s from the Collection of the Burylin Ivanovo State Historical Museum. Moscow: Pervaya Publikacia [in Russian]. Yaniv, Bracha. 2009. Ma’ase rokem: Textile Ceremonial Objects in the Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Italian Synagogue. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute & Hebrew University of Jerusalem [in Hebrew].


Materials, Memories and Metaphors The Textile Self Re/collected SOLVEIGH GOETT

BEGINNINGS We had to dress ourselves before building, clothe ourselves in loose garments before constructing solid buildings. —Serres 2008: 83 ‘Tissue, textile and fabric provide excellent models of knowledge, excellent quasiabstract objects, primal varieties,’ Serres writes (cited in Connor 2005: 323), ‘the world is a mass of laundry.’ Studying textiles not only provides information about cultural practices from past and present and across the globe, but an insight into our own being and becoming, because the fabric of our life is not just metaphorically but quite literally made of textiles. From vests and lucky underpants, sheets and carpets, curtains and covers, to uniforms and flags, beer tents and parachutes, wires and cables, from digital networks to string theory and the twisted strands of DNA , we live in a world heavily layered with textiles, a truly world wide web. Indeed, human life without textiles is unimaginable. Essential for survival, they are at the core of human experience: before the pleasures and particularities, intricacies and meanings of textures, adornments, patterns or weaves, old or new, fashionable or otherwise that arouse our curiosity with their manifold cultural meanings, comes the need to clothe ourselves and our environment in order to survive and thrive. Textile knowledge at its most basic starts, is closest to us, and affects us most through the everyday garments and fabrics in the laundry that surround our bodies in touch with the world. The laundry itself, I suggest, is a textile multiverse: every garment on the washing line of memories imbued with mixed belongings; every textile process with its traditions and myths, histories and practices attached; every fabric with its unique sensory properties, its texture and weight, its particular way to fall, drape, stretch or tear; every thread and fibre a different relationship between nature and culture. Working as a textile artist, investigating themes of identity and memory, I became intrigued by the power of the ordinary, the strong emotions that are evoked and sustained 121



by such humble items as curtains, socks, blankets or jumpers in people’s life stories. The domestic textiles at the core of our material experience while in daily use seem ordinary items of little significance beyond the obvious; yet from the moment we are born and long before we can speak we are in touch with textiles. ‘I can recall the sense of frustration at being unable to pull my left arm away fully from the metal bar of my pushchair. The wool of my sleeve had got caught on something underneath’, reads a contribution to the nation’s memory survey conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2006 (BBC 2006). ‘I can remember both my hands were enclosed in knitted mittens tucked into knitted sleeves and that I didn’t have the manual dexterity to free myself.’ Other participants tell first memories of the safe smell of the pram’s plastic lining, the soggy ear of a toy rabbit, the prickliness of the father’s khaki uniform, the soft silky texture of the mother’s petticoat, still vividly sensed in their minds. The large number of such pre-verbal sensory ‘pram memories’ contributed to the survey confounded the experts because autobiographical memory is understood to be linked to language acquisition and our very early years shrouded by childhood amnesia (Frostrup 2007). Beyond the individual life span and the personal story, our experience is embedded in the cultural memory of human involvement with textiles that reaches back into prehistory, into a pre-verbal past: ‘needles, carding combs, and spindles litter the floors of Stone Age dwellings’ (Lebeau 1990: 7). The discovery of how to twist fibres into string 4,000 years ago improved the odds of survival and opened up unprecedented possibilities for conquering new habitats and ‘taming the world to human will and ingenuity’ to such an extend, Wayland Barber (1994: 45) suggests, that we should call it ‘the String Revolution’. But already long before they knew how to spin yarns and weave cloth, our ancestors started to clothe their bodies, probably as early as 190,000 years ago (Bower 2010). Just like our own early memories, so these beginnings of textile experience are from a pre-verbal era, but maybe they linger as sensory memory in collective consciousness, and perhaps ever since not only our bodies and environments, but also our memories, thoughts and theories have been clothed.

BODY And there you’ll be, in your cotton housecoat holding a wooden peg between your teeth, as the washing flaps on the clothesline you once briefly considered hanging yourself with – —Margaret Atwood 2006: 111 ‘My body’, Merleau-Ponty (1962: 234) writes, ‘is the fabric into which all objects are woven’ – but some, we might say, more clearly than others. As Attfield (2000: 126) notes with regard to the transitional object, ‘it hardly needs to be observed that textiles have a particularity which cannot be replaced by say a tractor or a needle’. The particular affinity between body and cloth is self-evident – we understand the relationship between first and second skin without much explanation. In a teaching story from the East (Shah 1993: 57) the wise fool Nasrudin ‘seeing a white shape in the garden in the half-light, [. . .] asked his wife to hand him his bow and



arrows. He hit the object, went out to see what it was, came back almost in a state of collapse. ‘That was a narrow shave. Just think. If I had been in that shirt hanging there to dry, I would have been killed. It was shot right through the heart.’ A newspaper clip about a man arrested for shooting holes in his neighbour’s underwear on the washing-line in her garden tells a similar story of the intertwined relationship between body and cloth, textiles standing in for the body and vulnerabilities of the body given expression in injuries to the fabric skin: ‘Police said the two neighbours had fallen out, and L [. . .] thought leaving bullet holes in the underwear would frighten her enough to leave him alone’ (The London Paper, Monday 21 July 2008: 7). The relationship between self and fabric is complex and complicated – both terms, incidentally, with their own textile roots, derived from the Latin plectere, to weave, braid or twine, and plicare, meaning to fold or weave. A woman remembers her unhappiness at school through the cardigan she was wearing at the time. ‘It is my second day at school, I am three years old, I am wearing a red woollen cardigan and I am sobbing uncontrollably. . . . I remember my cardigan being very wet and glistening with my tears. All the sounds around me are muffled – I feel very miserable and scared’ (BBC 2006). In such memories textile knowledge can be traced: the connectivity between body and object – textiles as physical manifestations of connectedness: the tears of pain and happiness, the sweat of anxiety and excitement both part of the self and absorbed by the cloth, perception and affection, inside and out, body and object interwoven in memory. Folds, entanglements and creases, comfort and restraint, interwoven strands, loose ends, unravelling threads, seams and knots, wear and tear, invention and imagination, magic and symbolism, are all embedded in the fabrics of our life. Long before we have the words to describe it and even longer before we are taught how to tie our shoelaces, we already know what tying is and does, and what it feels like to be tied in and entangled. We learn about presence, absence and transitions and how to cope with them, as we carry around, cuddle, sniff and suck the father’s handkerchief, mother’s old night dress or a threadbare grubby flannel, and learn, not through words, but through our senses about the properties of the material and social world. It is by acting on and in the world, not by observation, and by experiencing the consequences of our actions, that we learn – be that about wetness and absorbency, stretch and resistance, or folds and change. The fluid and sensory properties of textiles and their intimate relationship to our bodies make them such powerful carriers of knowledge and experience. Thus Serres (2008: 81), seeking the ‘best model for a theory of knowledge, less solid than a solid, almost as fluid as liquid’, chooses fabric: the world as a ‘heap of fabrics, a thousand possible arrangements of veils’.

METAPHOR In our imagination we can create an inner world of great delicacy, spun out of the threads of human experience and dreams. . . . Little does the child know that those who have lived for many years sometimes lose access to their ability to weave a web of make-belief, that their dreams may lose potency and experience of the world can cause a thickening of the fragile threads of wonder. —Gersie and King 1990: 35, 36



In myth the three Fates hold our destiny in their hands: Clotho spins the thread of life, Lachesis measures it as she draws it out and Atropos cuts it. The self thus can be ‘understood as a moving line or thread that takes us toward becoming other than that which we may think “we” know’ (Jefferies 1998: 116). This thread is a continuous one, but rather than dangling without shape or form between beginning and end it makes up the fabric of lived experience and clothes the self. In academic discourse the embodied self tends to be a naked concept bereft of its material shell in relation to unspecified objects and others. But however abstracted from the materiality of lived experience such writing may be, textile knowledge reveals itself in metaphors of folds and threads, knots and weaves in the fabric of life. As we weave stories, spin yarns and embroider the truth, the special relationship between threads and words, text and textiles beyond joint etymological roots becomes evident in the metaphors we live by (Lakoff and Johnson 2003) and the concepts we think with: Metaphorical concepts can be extended beyond the range of ordinary literal ways of thinking and talking into the range of what is called figurative, poetic, colorful, or fanciful thought and language. Thus, if ideas are objects, we can dress them up in fancy clothes, juggle them, line them up nice and neat, etc. —Lakoff and Johnson 2003: 13 Metaphor, itself defined metaphorically in textile terms, ‘provides an interpretative thread by means of which we can weave together into a fresh constellation the brute “literal” facts of the world’ (Tilley 1999: 7). As the mind and thinking itself are embodied and shaped by bodily experiences and interactions, both in daily life and in theoretical discourse, everyday textiles are central and essential – rendered marginal only by force of habit. Habit in research, art and daily life, is a double-edged sword – important and appropriate to have automatic responses and useful orders of concepts and categories to act and think – but to sense the extraordinary in the ordinary we need, in Bergson’s (1896/2004: 118) words, ‘attentive recognition’, ‘the power to value the useless’ and ‘the will to dream’ (Bergson 1896/2004: 94). We are thinkers, makers, players and storytellers – homo sapiens, faber, ludens – and we are narrative selves, creating meaning in our lives through narration (Andrews 2000: 77), but whatever we might be and do we are also textile selves. Textile knowledge is not acquired through formal instruction or textbooks, but literally carried as tacit knowledge on our skin throughout all our endeavours. Tacit knowledge – implicit, created by and held in unique personal experience – is a rich and complex source of knowledge. It cannot be generalized and expressed in words, but plays an essential role in guiding our responses to experience and our attempts to make sense of it (Rust 2004). Textiles enter academia two-fold: once through language in metaphor, metonymy and structure and simultaneously as tacit embodied knowledge, and thus end up in and in-between all disciplines (Helmhold 2007).

NARRATIVE Far from connecting points in a network every relation is one line in a meshwork of interwoven trails. To tell a story then, is to relate, in narrative, the occurrences of the past, retracing a path through the world that others, recursively picking up the threads of past lives, can follow in the process of spinning out their own. But rather as



in looping or knitting, the thread being spun now and the thread picked up from the past are both of the same yarn. There is no point at which the story ends and life begins. —Ingold 2007: 90 Textile knowledge emerges in felt experiences and can be traced in our stories and memories. We tell stories to engage each other’s feelings (Rosen 2007: 36) and make art to give form to them (Ingold 2000: 36). Stories and art were ways of making sense of the world and coping with the vicissitudes of life long before text and discourse came into existence. Both relational practices (Cavarero 2000; Bourriaud 2002) unfolding between maker and receiver, they link singularity and universality of human experience within an intricate web of mutuality, in the process bearing witness to the primacy of affect, ‘the felt reality of relation’ (Massumi 2002: 16), that precedes and shapes intellectual endeavours. Thus story and art foreshadowed what neuroscience would later confirm: namely that ‘consciousness begins as a feeling’ (Damasio 1999: 312). Narrative is not about facts, order and certainties, but about finding meaning and, therefore closer to the truth of lived experience and more scientifically valid than more detached and seemingly more objective methods as Mark Freeman suggests narrative inquiry is where science and story, indeed science and art, meet. ‘Narrative imagination seamlessly mingles the factual with the fictitious, the real with the possible; in fact, it fuses the real and possible with the impossible’, writes Brockmeier (2009: 227). It creates conditions for new meanings to be made that in their turn will suggest new possibilities for action (Brockmeier 2009: 222). Narrative imagination, understood as a practice of agency, be that in the unfolding of real or fictive scenarios, enables us to live simultaneously in different realities of our own creation and to imagine things and ourselves as different (Brockmeier 2009: 227, 228), as we weave delicate webs of meaning and fabrics of cohesion, of ‘pictures and words, imagery and narrativity . . . interwoven in one and the same semiotic fabric of meaning’ (Brockmeier 2001: 255), in ‘the manifold layers of the cultural fabric that weaves together individual, group and society’ (Brockmeier 2002: 9). Our life stories are made up from memories – and the flow of memory, like that of life, could be visualized as Bergson (1903/1992: 164) does, in ‘the unrolling of a spool, for there is no living being who does not feel himself coming little by little to the end of his spool; and living consists in growing old. But it is just as much a continual winding, like that of thread into a larger ball, for our past follows us, becoming larger and larger with the present it picks up on its way; and consciousness means memory.’ Our own memories change as those of others blend into them, be that in the words of a poet or a story we have been told and made part of our own remembered past. It does not matter whether they are true or false, whether they are truly our own or made up from those of others, but how we make meaning through them, of our past, in the present and with view to the future. The knowledge of memory is not a collection of empirical facts, but arises in the weaving together of felt and imagined experience. Whether we genuinely remember being strapped into a pushchair, unable to move with a sleeve caught in the buckle and no words, only tears, to make our discomfort known, matters less than how we remember and make sense of our own frustration and helplessness, understand ourselves in relation to the material world through textiles. Storytelling, Benjamin (1936/1999a: 86) writes, is a craft, the artisan’s task ‘to fashion the raw material of existence, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful and unique



way’. The story ‘bears the marks of the storyteller much as the earthen vessel bears the marks of the potter’s hand’ (Benjamin 1939/1999b: 156). Thus our practices and projects are embedded in our own experiences and life stories. The German author Erich Kästner, the only writer present at the burning of his own books on the fateful 10 May 1933 in Berlin, realized ten years later, when his flat was hit in an air raid and all his possessions burnt, the overwhelming feelings that arise from the loss of what might seem small and insignificant. Not only his precious library of three thousand books, his typewriters, letters and manuscripts, the tools of his trade, were destroyed, but also the mundane paraphernalia of the quotidian, the toothbrush, the chrysanthemum in the vase, the salami in the larder, because fire does not make any distinctions or exceptions. And then the bed linen, the shirts, the embroidered handkerchiefs, the ties that mother gave to me every year for Christmas. The proud joy of giving which she ironed back into them after every wash. That’s also burnt. I used to think things like couldn’t be burnt. One has to experience first before one can comment, on one’s own body. Or on one’s own underwear. Well. —Kästner 1943, quoted in Strich 1978: 155 What was lost, was not only – as if that was not enough – material, utilitarian and symbolic value, but also relational value, the materialized affective bonds with his mother, things, he thought, that could never be burned. Narrative concepts and methods have been embraced by academics and professionals across disciplines (Riessman 2008), including the sciences: ‘Continuing the story’, Hoffman (2000: 310) writes, ‘is the motive force for experimentation and the weaving of theories.’ Narrative discourse indeed relies so heavily on textile metaphors that we could conclude that narrative is actually a textile concept. We are born into stories as we are into textiles. The everyday textiles at the heart of my work can be understood as the literal fabric of life in sustaining and supporting the body, narrative as a metaphorical fabric of life creating a sense of self through meaning making. In conjunction, we might say, they hold body and soul together. Collecting other people’s textile stories and recollecting my own, in words, images and things, I made archives in support of an intellectual and artistic enquiry that aimed to link threads of everyday experience to lines of thought regarding the embodied self and arrive at suggestions for new spaces and models of knowledge. Collecting and narrative are both meaning making methods from the toolbox of everyday life. ‘The collection encodes an intimate narrative,’ Cardinal (1994: 68) writes, ‘the continuous thread through which selfhood is sewn into the unfolding fabric of a lifetime’s experience.’

MAKING I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands. —Louise Bourgeois Working among stories and memory fragments with the materials that gave rise to them and with attention to the possibilities and potential of things to be, I explored yet untold storylines evoked and suggested by the paraphernalia of our everyday textile existence. From what I found, felt and imagined, in textures and patterns, among napkins and



handkerchiefs, in needle books and sewing boxes, from my and other people’s material memories, I made artefacts and assemblages, things to entice the narrative imagination and open up new meanings. Whether we make things or theories, friends or homes, making is an intelligent activity that requires skills and mindful attention to what we work with or on, be that materials, concepts, situations or relationships (Harrison 1978). As the mind is embodied, the hand connected to the brain ‘can see and feel and think’ (Ufan 2004: 549), a process often described as thinking through the hands, thus defining making as a particular form of thinking. However, the reverse might be nearer to the truth, and thinking is a form of making as Harrison (1978) suggests, because thought emerges from action. Making, then, far from being a mere manual filling in of a preconceived mental plan like painting by numbers, does not follow ideas, but generates them. Therefore making might better be understood as weaving, as Ingold (2000: 64) proposes, because ‘to invert making and weaving is also to invert idea and movement, to see the movement as truly generative of the object rather than merely revelatory of an object that is already present, in an ideal, conceptual or virtual form, in advance of the process that discloses it’. Rather than follow an a priori blueprint, design or rigorous methodological path – hands following mind or culture shaping nature – making as weaving emphasizes the mutual relationship between maker and material. Making is world-making, experience ‘continually and endlessly coming into being around us as we weave’ (Ingold 2000: 64). Making is weaving is narrative as ‘every movement, like every line in a story, grows rhythmically out of the one before and lays the groundwork for the next’ (Ingold, 2000: 66). If making is weaving, we might say, then maybe in some way all artefacts are textiles, although not all fabrics are woven. For Kraft (2004: 79, 80) weaving, done on a loom and limited by its size, is an activity of settled people, of stability, planning and geometrical form, lending itself to mechanization and thus leading to dominance of woven cloth over other fabrics, a dominance also apparent in the paradigms of weaving that underpin language and theory of Western civilizations while the knitting of continuous yarn is a ‘dimensional experience . . . an experience of infinity’. It is useful to ponder such differences – and why suits, shirts, curtains and sheets are usually woven, while jumpers, socks, stockings and vests are made from knitted fabric – and to pay attention to those material differences, in how we write about textiles, literally and metaphorically, in a meaningful, precise and evocative way. Textile writing – where a jumper is never woven nor a sheet knitted unless in purposeful subversion – requires paying the same careful attention to roots and implications of words to make sense as to the qualities of threads and fabrics in the choice of materials to make things. Just like weaving underpins concepts of thought, so knitting provides a way of thinking knowledge, not in the tension between different intersecting threads, but along the looping line of the continuous thread of selfhood, in ‘the ceaseless unravelling and reknitting of the body’ (Connor 2005: 333). While the woven fabric is created in steps, as the weft fills the warp of parallel threads set out in advance, the knitted fabric grows as a whole in the making. ‘As one grows and changes’, Obermeyer writes, ‘the loops of Self are continuously connecting with each other through memory. As I knit loop into loop my memories intersect and connect to my present Self ’ (Lawrence and Obermeyer 2001: 66). As in Penelope’s weaving, so in knitting, time is marked, made and coped with in the making. Herzberg (1990) tells of a Jewish couple hiding from the Gestapo: ‘During these



two years in the cellar, his wife very slowly knitted a skirt, which she unravelled as soon as it was finished, only to start again.’ In both stories process matters more than outcome, but the finished product may bear the marks of the making, as in this story about a pair of knitted baby mittens . . . knitted for me by my then eight-year-old brother. No longer in existence, sadly – they would have been 45 years old. The mittens were made for me prior to my birth and presented from behind his back with pride when I was born – he had learned to knit to do these gloves, as he was so excited. He was responsible for naming me and our relationship has always been a special one. The mittens were a very tight tension, which expressed the struggle he had on his own to produce them in secret. Also they were apparently presented in a grubby state, which declares the same thing. The fact that they existed at all represents the love he had for me even before I existed. The mittens . . . no longer exist except as a memory, which makes me feel very sad as our relationship has also deteriorated slightly – this seems almost symbolic of that fact (Britta).1 Textile knowledge does not only sit, somewhat passively, on the skin, but it emerges in action, by thinking through the hands, be that in making or playing. In his childhood memories Walter Benjamin (2006) recalls how he found knowledge in his bedroom drawer playing with his socks. Rolled up they looked like little bags with a present hidden inside, but when he tried to pull the present out, the bag mysteriously disappeared and he was left with just one thing, a sock. He could not get enough of this astonishing experiment. It made him realize that form and content are the same and that truth needs to be teased out of text as gently and carefully as the child’s hand pulls the sock out of the ‘bag’. Another example of thinking through the hands are textile models of abstract concepts, such as mathematician Taimina’s hyperbolic crochet models: overlooked by force of habit, the solution for a conceptual problem had been sitting all along on the sideboard in the living room, yet it took over 100 years for the connection to be made between the familiar textile object and the abstract concept, to see the potential hyperbolic structure in the frills of a doily and to arrive via textiles at a ‘more complex embodied way of thinking about the world both mathematically and physically’ (Hayward Gallery 2008, exhibition text). Knitting (and crochet) can themselves be understood as mathematical concepts (Harris 1997; Belcatro and Yackel 2007). As Belcrato (2013) points out, applying the geometry of knitting to the knitting of mathematical concepts offers several advantages: the knitted objects make excellent teaching aids, ‘a knitted object is flexible and can be physically manipulated, unlike beautiful and mathematically perfect computer graphics. And the process itself offers insights: In creating an object anew, not following someone else’s pattern, there is deep understanding to be gained. To craft a physical instantiation of an abstraction, one must understand the abstraction’s structure well enough to decide which properties to highlight.’

EXCESS How big, how enveloping, is an old sheet when we unfold it! —Bachelard 2004: 81 The problem with my eclectic collections of textile thoughts, memories, stories and things, found or made, was how to order and organize the materials in a useful way without losing



the richness of their actual and potential meanings. There is always more in textiles than can be neatly fitted into concepts – slippage, overflow, potential exceeding rationales, transitions unaccounted for in theory, frameworks that can be ignorant, as Steedman (1986: 16) notes, of the ‘material stepping stones of our escape’ such as ‘clothes, shoes, make-up’. Jefferies uses the term ‘labored cloth’ (Jefferies 2007: 283). Fabrics and fabrications are always laboured in many ways, from production to daily use, made, cared for, altered, put to new uses in different and always changing circumstances. A sheet can carry the weight of child labour in its weave or family values of cleanliness and caring, give comfort and protection, be a den or turn a child into a ghost, become screen or banner, ripped into strips to dress wounds, knotted into a rope to end a life or escape into a new one, can be transitional object or make a statement in the art gallery. Stained or crisp, fluttering on the washing line or folded in the linen cupboard it sparks off memories, dreams, flights of the imagination. Benjamin (2006) in his childhood memories senses in the crisp creaseless sheet on his bed the comfort of a clear conscience. Steedman, writing on the archive fever keeping her awake away from home, writes about ‘the sizing and starch in the thin sheets as you turn again and again within their confines’, waking up ‘wringing with sweat, the sheets soaked, any protection they afforded quite gone’ (Steedman 2001: 17, 19). In a poem by Brecht, when a revolt against labour conditions is crushed, a sheet stained red by the blood of the worker shot dead by the storm troops replaces the red flag of freedom on the factory roof: This flag is a sheet on it we carried away the one who died yesterday. We are not to blame for the colour it is red from the blood of someone who was murdered. —Brecht 1984: 546 Wholeness and happiness before things were torn apart can be remembered in a sheet: ‘I remember climbing onto my parents’ green sheet covered bed on a sunny day when I was just a toddler, my last memory of my parents ever being in a state of unison before they split up’ (BBC 2006). Whether sheet, jumper or sock, the textiles of everyday life are hybrids on the move, sometimes bearing the physical traces of the body’s action and experience, but, I suggest, always storied, always part of and embodying, visibly or imagined, lived experience. Their wondrous power to evoke and affect transcends dimensions of function, time and space; their multi-sensory nature cannot be captured by words and images alone. Following the trails of the textile self in a meandering fashion, led by curiosity and serendipity, I searched for a space to accommodate the excess, the ‘boundaried boundarilessness’ (Maharaj 1998: 191) of textiles, without restricting their fluidity and multiplicity of meanings, a space to engage with the surprise that escapes from habit, where the everyday, the usual, the obvious become wondrous in a process of ‘Miraculation’ (Massumi 2002: 7). Wonder, Najafi writes, ‘makes the world and all its phenomena into an invitation to research; knowledge will only increase engagement and wonder, not diminish it’ (Najafi 2008: 139). Making wonder my theory and using curiosity as my method, I chose the Wunderkammer as a model for my own collections of domestic wonders: a gathering of things for curious hands and minds to explore, an archive of material knowledge, an aesthetic experience and a space for imagining and creating meaning.



TOUCH The raw material that I most like to use consists of discarded fabrics. I have no interest in new fabrics, they don’t appeal to me. It’s not their innocence that puts me off, but their lack of experience. The more stories a fabric has lived beyond those of its production, for example a garment that has been worn, torn and mended, or a sheet or pillow with their secrets, the more the fabric appeals to me. It’s the accumulation – the layering of stories – which makes the fabric valuable to me and which inspires me. —Goldenberg 2009 Textile knowledge emerges from experience involving all the senses – it touches the skin, enters through the nose, makes sounds and has taste. We might remember the sensory delights of chewing a face cloth in the bath or being captivated by a loved one’s smell in a towel, remember the rustling of a silk dress or the screeching sound of fabric being torn, or recall the all-enveloping sense-scape of washing days long ago – experiences lived and felt by being, quite literally, in touch with textiles. Described by Aristotle as ‘the sense of being’ as distinct from the ‘senses of well-being’ (Stewart 2005: 61), touch is the oldest and most basic sense, ‘the earliest sensory system to become functional in all species’, thus ‘the mother of all senses’ (Montagu 1971: 1). The Wunderkammer collections of the past were inspired by the desire to recreate the richness and variety of the universe in eclectic arrangements of artefacts so that the macrocosm could be studied and grasped in the microcosm of the collection in order to find patterns, links and relations in its apparent disorder and thus better understand its complexity. Forerunner to universities, museums and galleries alike, the Wunderkammer with its emphasis on material objects and the playful exploration of potential links between them can also be understood as a pre-disciplinary example of interdisciplinary practice-based research. While only recently rediscovered as a model of knowledge beyond the word, the Wunderkammer has always been an inspiration for artists yet the rules of the modern museum and gallery have impinged on the concept privileging the visual, prohibiting touch and keeping the visitor at a distance. In the Wunderkammer and the early museum, it was common practice, indeed deemed necessary, to examine things through touch. For Herder (1778/2002: 38) sight was ‘but an abbreviated form of touch’. ‘The light that strikes my eye’, he wrote in 1778, ‘can no more give me access to concepts such as solidity, hardness, softness, smoothness, form, shape, or volume than my mind can generate embodied, living concepts by independent thinking’ (Herder 1778/2002: 36). Touch also provided an intimate link to the artefact’s maker or user, bridging, as if by magic, distances of time and space. Touch is always reciprocal: we cannot touch without being touched. Enriching our experience, touch also affects the object, and is therefore taboo in the institutions whose main remit is preservation. ‘The banal fact that material practice revolves around loss more often than preservation – luster fades, things fall apart, we eat soup,’ ColloredoMansfield (2002: 246) remarks, ‘receives scant attention or is tidily dismissed’. Understanding the artefact itself as a process rather than a stable physical entity, De Silvey (2006: 324) suggests, might enable us to engage with the ambiguity of materiality. On the artefact ‘as a temporary arrangement of matter, always on its way to being something else’ (De Silvey 2006: 334), the marks of entropy are our memory traces: the threadbare fabric a reminder of life lived, stains and holes marks of experience.



In Jose Luis Sampedro’s (1993) novel La Sonrisa Etrusca an old man refuses to let go of a threadbare blanket: imbued with the sweat of the best and worst moments of his life, carrying the marks of partisan battles fought in his youth, it will soon be his shroud. The blanket provides warmth and protection in this life and in preparation for the next. A young woman is holding on to a pair of old trousers: the first garment she bought herself, they accompanied her through the passage from childhood to adulthood: the first dates, gigs and festivals, getting drunk, melancholic nights full of ruminations. ‘My mother wants to throw them out, because they are falling apart, but I keep them: just touching and smelling them releases so many memories, as if they were part of me’ (Bella). In the white gallery space and the glass cases of the museum, the wonders of creation are displayed for the eyes alone, out of the visitor’s reach, as if in a static tableau. The Wunderkammer, in contrast, Stafford (2002: 6) writes, was ‘a drama of possible relationships to be explored’ not only through mind and eye but through all the senses. In my cabinet, as in those of the past, there are boxes and drawers to be opened. We cannot know in advance how what we find will affect us. The opening of a box may release a genie, an unexpected jolt or a story, of magic and metamorphosis, or desire and danger. Rather than a mere display of wondrous things, the Wunderkammer is an auspicious space for wonder to emerge and be felt; a site of transformation. What matters most is not container or content, but the movement opening one and revealing the other – it is in the action that meaning is made. The visitor is no longer a detached observer, but an acting participant. The Wunderkammer challenges both the logo-centric bias of academia and the ocularcentricity of the visual arts. It welcomes paradoxes and uncertainties, encourages stories in the making, that feed not only on what is there, but even more so, perhaps, on absence and gaps in-between left for the work of the imagination. It provides an intellectual environment and poetic space to think and feel about the world in a different way. Where the growing quantity of knowledge once led to specialization and the establishment of disciplinary borders, the growing complexity of knowledge now calls for moves across them. As ‘the boundaries between art, technology, and science are beginning to break down in a similar manner as has been demonstrated by the Kunstkammer’, Bredekamp writes, ‘their lessons of visual association and thought processes which precede language systems take on a significance which might even surpass their original status’ (Bredekamp 1995: 113). I put together my cabinet as a visual and tactile proposition, a model to open up ideas how to engage with textile knowledge. The richer and more mysterious its content, the more threads of attachment for links to be made, be that to scholarly pursuit or personal life story, or blurring the boundaries between them. For me the quirky and eclectic cabinet of curiosity, the open playground for investigations without a pre-set agenda, is a pocket of resistance, not against established institutions of knowledge per se, but resisting the instrumentalization of art (Heartfield 2005), as a panacea to deal with matters other methods can’t reach, be that in the service of social justice or urban regeneration. Indeed, putting art into the service of the state has its own troubled history. In times when art and research are increasingly purpose-driven, the Wunderkammer proposes a different engagement with the wonders of the world, led by curiosity, which is in Nabokov’s words, ‘the purest form of insubordination’ (Warner 2004: 1).



EPILOGUE . . . the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind. —Woolf 1928/2003: 37 In my mother’s wardrobe there was a bright red skirt, embroidered in big stitches and colourful threads, with hearts, lines and stars, made by her, or maybe her sister, out of flag material, at a time when cloth for clothes was scarce, but fabric for military and propaganda purposes readily available (Plate 8.1). Living in a working-class neighbourhood with socialist leanings, my grandfather, keen to distinguish himself, pledged his allegiance to the new masters by hanging the new German flag out of the window – red, white and black, with the Swastika at the centre. I imagine the skirt was made afterwards from leftover fabric. While it was common practice to appropriate military cloth to clothe the family – army blankets, for example, were dyed and made into winter coats – this was nevertheless an illegal and somewhat dangerous undertaking. The red skirt speaks less of physical need than it does of desire and the thrill of the forbidden, it bears witness to the power of fashion to divert and subvert loyalties. In my cabinet the red skirt is flanked by a black skirt on the left, and by a gold one on the right side. The black skirt was given to me by a friend; it belonged to her mother who passed it on, together with its story to be displayed alongside the artefact in my textile cabinet (Plate 8.2). Mum’s brother was in the resistance, his activities were discovered by the Germans and as a result the whole family was taken to the camps. The family home and all personal objects were lost. The German army lived in the house and a lot was taken or destroyed. Mum’s father had his suits made by a Jewish tailor. He had arranged for the material for the next suit to be stored together with some pieces of furniture in an orphanage as he was worried about everything being in the family home when the bombing started. Mum’s father and brother died in the camps, and Mum and her brother were imprisoned. The suit material was found after the war when Mum returned to her hometown. But because her father had died, the same tailor then made a suit up for my mother. This was the only clothing she had after the war. She also wore it on her trip by boat to New Zealand in the late 1940s. I have brought this skirt back to England. Mum loves the idea of the fabrics and stories being incorporated into the study. The third skirt, the golden skirt, was given to me by a glamorous and charming young neighbour. It was left to her when her mother-in-law died, who had made it from fabric brought back by her husband from a trip to the East. Woven with real gold, the cloth was a very expensive and precious gift. The skirt is untailored – the uncut stiff fabric merely gathered into folds with an elasticated waistband, as if not to waste any of the costly cloth – and as a result, in spite of the glorious material, the garment is somewhat shapeless and unflattering.



Among many neighbourly exchanges across the garden wall, of gossip, wine and all kinds of friendly offerings, the skirt came my way in quite an unsentimental, almost casual manner: it did not appeal to my neighbour’s sense of fashion, but, she thought, as I worked with textiles, I might be able to do something with it, make it into cushion covers or something. When I hang the three skirts out to air in the garden, they sway gently in the breeze. Moving and touching, they turn into bands of colour – black, red, gold – the colours of my country’s flag. Three neatly hemmed skirts, three of many stories pegged up on my washing-line of memory – on the fringe of the air and the imagination they give rise to yet another tale.


In addition to textile memories already in the public domain, I have gathered stories by asking people more specifically about the role of everyday textiles in their life. In response to a questionnaire distributed via family, friends, acquaintances and the internet, to postings on my web log and in personal conversations, many stories were shared with me and have found their way into my writing. Where cited in the text, my respondents’ contributions have been anonymized in accordance with standard practice and ethical guidelines for working with human participants.

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Archives of Cloth Shadows of the Past in Re-visioning Textiles DIANA WOOD CONROY

Archaeology, with its spatial and chronological structures that study the material evidence of past cultures, turns the anonymous, accidental evidence for textiles and their tools into an archive. This ‘archive’ is published both in analogue and digital forms and can be physically found in museums shelved in labelled boxes, drawers and display cases. Because textiles have been made mostly in organic materials from plants, the secretions of insects (silk) or the hair or wool of animals, they do not survive well in moist soils or air: textile’s substance is not ‘archival’. The survival of specific textiles is contingent on their context: many fibres deteriorate over time through damp or heat, wear and abrasion. Notable recoveries of early textiles were due to bog environments (northern Europe) or deserts (Coptic textiles from Egypt) and even deep-frozen soils and ice (Pazyryk in Siberia and central Mongolia). Although fragmentary, textiles fall into clear categories in Mediterranean archaeology that sometimes overlap: those from the houses and streets of settlements, those from burials in built tombs or sarcophagi, and those associated with ritual and architecture. This chapter looks at these three kinds of textiles, each informing a contemporary understanding of ancient society. I want to emphasize the shadowy flickering nature of the evidence for ancient textiles, expressed in the terms used to describe them – ‘pseudomorphs’ and ‘skiamorphs’. The first are shapes (morph) that form an imprint or cast of an original cloth (pseudo); and the second, shapes that shadow (skia) other materials. Research into ancient European textiles is comparatively recent, following the opening up of approaches to the past not only through the ferment of ideas, but also through developments of forensic science in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The American scholar Elizabeth Barber’s important 1991 study on Prehistoric Textiles: The development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze ages, with special reference to the Aegean opened up the field just as scientific methods were becoming more accessible. Research in European textiles began freshly in 2000, with the Centre Hellénique de Recherche et de Restauration des Tissus Archéologiques (ARTEX ) in Athens and with a series of conferences and publications by the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research especially since 2005 (Michel and Nosch 2010: viii). The impetus to work with textiles as keys to unlocking gender, power and ceremonial in older societies has come from my discipline as a tapestry weaver understanding the nuances of material and thread.1 Together with my colleague Dr Adriana Garcia whose 137



main research area encompasses microfossils, we were able to interpret the view through the microscope to combine both our expertise to give a glimpse into the material evidence and social resonance of ancient textile. An Australian archaeological team has excavated the Paphos theatre on the west coast of Cyprus in the Mediterranean from 1995 to 2015, directed by Professor Richard Green of the University of Sydney. The team has worked for a six-week season each year to uncover sections of the seating, the orchestra, the stage structures and the associated road and buildings.2 The theatre, which is situated on the edge of the ancient town of Nea Paphos, was built about 300 BCE and in use from this time until c. 400 CE when it fell into ruins and was used as a quarry. As modern Paphos and its environs developed at the beginning of the twenty-first century, roads were remade and in the process a series of ancient tombs were discovered. These contained some surprising remnants of textiles.

THINKING ABOUT THE ARCHIVE An intriguing aspect of the textile archive is that it is interwoven with language, with the emergence of literacy and with text (texere Latin, to weave), through the etymologies of Greek and Latin, and in many literary references. The concept of an archive returns to the beginning of written records in Athens, and is always associated with a specific location. (Oxford English Dictionary: the archive is ‘a place in which public records or historic documents are kept’.) By contrast with the public records office, the private house becomes the particular location of the textile ‘archive’, stored in chests, cupboards, drawers and shelves. Arche meant ancient or primeval in ancient Greek but also the one who begins or goes first, who leads. The archons are leaders, assembling in the archeion or senate house (Liddell and Scott 1961). An architekton is the chief builder, the architect. Archives (ἀρχεῖά) were associated with memorials and remembering. ‘Record it on the unforgetting tablet of your mind’ wrote Sophocles (Philoctetes, 1325, cited by Liddell and Scott 1961). As becomes apparent, textiles hold the unwritten genealogies of the household and tomb. In their lengthy excavation of the Athenian agora or central business area, the American archaeologists Homer A. Thompson and R.E. Wycherley described the evidence for the first archives in Athens. One of the earliest archeia or public buildings was the Bouleterion used for public assemblies since c. 500 BCE , closely associated with another building, the Metroon, whose name – from meter, mother – indicates that it housed the shrine of the Mother of the gods (Thompson and Wycherley 1972: 29, 35). The Metroon was famous from the fourth to the second century BCE as the repository of the state archives. Orators repeatedly spoke of the ‘text of the laws’ and other documents, which were carefully guarded. ‘The manuscripts deposited in the Metroon could be regarded as the official original texts to which reference could be made.’ Inscriptions on stone slabs (stelae) were like secondary copies set up for all to see in front and inside the Assembly house. The documents kept in the ‘official place’ would include financial accounts, records of lawsuits, lists of young men, lists of weights and measures, lists of offerings to Asklepios and copies of the tragedies of Aischylos, Sophokles and Euripides. They were written on papyrus or parchment and stood in chests or on shelves of wood that have completely vanished. The documents at Athens were protected by the Mother (Aphrodite Pandemos), just as the books of the great library of Pergamon were protected by the goddess Athena (Thompson and Wycherley 1972: 35–38).



Even contemporary concepts of the archive go back to the past. Jacques Derrida began his book Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by defining an archive, citing Greek origins. He particularly emphasized that the word arche, as shown above, was a principle before the law, an actual place, which could be the residence of the authoritative archons who were guardians of the archive. ‘There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory’ wrote Derrida (1996: 4). Democracy is measured by participation in and access to the archive. It had the functions of unification, identification and classification, and was patriarchic in character. At the end of his book Derrida wrote, ‘nothing is less reliable, nothing is less clear today than the word “archive” . . . nothing is more troubled and more troubling.’ He perceived Sigmund Freud’s thought was ‘part of the archive fever or distortion we are experiencing today’ (Derrida 1996: 90). Derrida followed Freudian psychoanalysis in proposing a new theory of the archive that takes into account a death drive, a realization of ‘radical finitude’ without which there would not in effect be any desire or any possibility for the archive (Derrida 1996: 19, 29). (When I am gone, how will I be remembered?) Memorization, repetition and reproduction are associated with the death drive, ‘a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement’ (Derrida 1996: 91). It is interesting to note that Derrida’s insistence on the patriarchal law of the archive is offset by the actual archaeological evidence that shows a persistent maternal ambience through the archives housed in the Metroon. Derrida’s archive, most importantly, is the archive of the substrate of the psyche, even that repressed ‘thing concealed forever’, in tension with the different, material archive of archaeology (Derrida 1996: 95). The writer Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) foreshadowed many current concerns with the fluid meaning of the object. His historical-philosophical approach was directed against the authority of dogmatic systems, taking the marginal and the peculiar as his orientation in his compiling of enigmatic lists and collections, as the art historian and curator Nicola Doll observed in 2012. ‘Benjamin outlines the importance of things, images, architectures and experiences of historical insight using the figure of the rag-picker’ (Doll 2012: 316). A rag-picker or a garbage sifter is a good description of the work of archaeologists. The ‘fever’ of archaeologists concerns the inchoate realm of the earth and involves what the British archaeologist Christopher Tilley called the search for arche; a hunt for ‘primary truths, origins and presences’ while recognizing that the ‘grammatology’ of Derrida suggested that no core of essential meanings exists; there are a thousand archives (Tilley 1991: 64). Developments in archaeological thought in the late twentieth century were aligned to thinking that allowed multiple readings of the past, and an acknowledgement that the past itself changes according to the tenets of the present. The British archaeologist Ian Hodder wrote that the ‘meaning of an object does not lie within that object but within its reading, that is, in the link that is made between that object and other objects, words and concepts. As a result the meaning of an object is never static and its reading is never finished. It is always open to new interpretation’ (Hodder 1989: 64). Within contemporary archaeology, too, the increasing number of women in the field has opened up a plurality of ‘readings’ in the social context of the past and from postcolonial views. Bjornar Olsen, a feminist archaeologist, observed, ‘When I argue for a certain reading of the past I have to realize my own position as historically and culturally situated, that my struggle for an alternative view of the past is related to political and social values in a present academic sphere of western capitalist society and has no automatic relevance outside it’ (Olsen 1991: 202).



In my own experience with the study collection in the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney there has been a constant change in the trajectory of display reflecting changing ideas of the past. Begun with the sculptures, funerary relics and ceramics collected by Sir Charles Nicholson in the 1840s in Egypt and Greece, the Nicholson is one of the earliest museums in the southern hemisphere. In the nineteenth century display textiles played a small role because of their essential transience in the archaeological record. This absence was aided by traditions of classical archaeology that did not regard textiles as significant, reflecting their unconscious relegation as a domestic and feminine activity in the minds of (white, mostly male) archaeologists. The opportunity to look at the previously invisible textile fragments in museums and sites comes from improved field techniques of excavation. The enlarged lenses of microscopes and chemical analysis have revealed ancient cloth, while scholars such as Margareta Gleba sifting through museum holdings in Italy have found a new wealth of knowledge (see Gillis and Nosch 2007; Gleba 2008a, 2008b; Gleba and Mannering 2012). An archive develops as these formerly imperceptible textiles enter the museum storerooms and vitrines, and are recorded through scientific and historical analysis. The tantalizing fragments, almost fallen into dust, dimly understood, retain their power to incite the imagination. With these thoughts of the changing archive I will turn to the archaeological strata of Cyprus.3

A GLIMPSE INTO A TEXTILE ARCHIVE The material evidence of textiles from ancient Cyprus hardly survives in the clammy clay and limestone soils, although the island was famed in historical times for its textile crafts. This section comprises a summary of textiles I have recorded directly in the field since 2000, comprising a personal ‘archive’ of a range of tools and materials. Amongst the large quantity of pottery, glass, bone, and marble fragments recovered from house sites on or near the Paphos Theatre was a group of objects linked to spinning and weaving – three stone spindle whorls (marble, gypsum, and soapstone), a bone pin or spindle, and an oval coarse clay loom weight. It is hard to imagine the labour associated with the fact that all cloth was made of handspun thread, whether linen, silk or wool, and the only means of this production was the spindle with its whorl. Spinning was the work of women, part of their role in the domestic economy as Elizabeth Barber sets out so clearly in her book Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years (Barber 1994). Danish archaeologist Eva Andersson Strand estimated the amount of yarn spun for making cloth, and the time involved. In recent experiments she found that a spinner using a moderate sized spindle whorl (8 grammes) could spin 40 metres of yarn in an hour. One square metre of woven cloth at around 10 threads to the centimetre needed 2 kilometres of yarn. Finer cloth required greater amounts of time and labour (Strand 2010: 12–13). The driving necessity to produce thread explains why, like domestic pottery, spindle whorls and loom weights would be found in the refuse of drains, in houses and streets as well as in graves and shrines as offerings to the dead or to deities. The huge amount of textile activity in antiquity is indiscernible to the present although spinning and weaving do become spectres in ancient poetry, philosophy and literature, appearing as metaphors for structures of human society and the arbitrariness of fate. Spinning must have been a constant activity, so simple and necessary to comfort and economy, when all thread had to be spun by hand for the innumerable textiles of clothing



and bedding, not to mention ropes, sails and awnings. As a young woman travelling in the distant settlements of Crete and the Pindos Mountains I saw in mountain villages the women sitting on doorsteps or grazing goats and cows on the hills with long spindles and distaffs, spinning continuously. Moving through the market, pausing to gossip at the baker’s oven, tending young children, the deft spindles never stopped, the distaffs crooked in the arm holding clouds of teased wool. Sometimes the eyes of the old women were milky white, blind with cataracts, but they still produced thread in movements that were as unconscious as breathing. Talking and spinning always went together, as our language still indicates. The textile tools found in Paphos were not dropped by the theatre audience, but were part of the layers of destruction of buildings around the theatre. Spindle whorls were used to weigh down the spinning rod, or spindle, which formed the principal action of spinning fibre into thread. Most spindles would have been of wood and have not survived. The nature of the yarn spun can be judged by the kind of tool used: smaller and lighter whorls indicated that fine fibres were being spun (Barber 1991: 51). Like the archive under the protection of the Mother of the Gods in the Metroon, implements for spinning and weaving, vital to the function of the economy of the house, could come under the protection of Athena Ergane. On the theatre site, coincidentally, in the same area as the discovery of the whorls, a small bronze figurine of Minerva/Athena was found, the patroness of spinning and weaving. The comparatively coarse woollen thread spun in present day Cypriot villages does not give an indication of the gossamer thinness of thread required in sophisticated GrecoRoman cloth. A truer modern comparison would be hand spun cotton and silk fabrics from India. Such fabrics were called ‘woven wind’ in Roman times (see Jasleen Dhamija – Chapter 12 in this Handbook). From earliest times whorls showed a diversity of material and decoration, which indicated that a spindle whorl could be chosen as a personal object. Even when found in datable contexts, textile tools may have been handed down in the family and be substantially older than the date suggests. Loom weights were given as sets to girls on marriage – about 60 being needed for an average width of warp – and a set of weights were probably transferred from mother to daughter; a weight lost or damaged was easily replaced (Chavane 1975: 78). The forms of spindle whorls and loom weights hardly changed from the Late Bronze Age to the Late Roman period: once the form and function of a tool were well matched, the need for change was slight, and if the technology of making cloth did not change, nor did the tools of spinning and weaving (see Plate 9.1). The stability of weaving technology is particularly notable given the great political and social changes during this time. Paphos was continually subjected to earthquakes, to changing political fortunes and trade allegiances.

CLOTH Near the theatre, the Roman House of Dionysos is now the focus of the Paphos World Heritage site, overlooking the remains of the port. Workshop areas, possibly including weaving workshops may have belonged to the owner of the house as a substantial asset to the family’s wealth (Kondoleon 1994: 9–12; Clarke 1991: 1–2). An earthquake in the second century CE destroyed an earlier building on the site and revealed the skeleton of a man who had died when the wall collapsed on him (Nicolaou 1967: 107–108). Small



fragments of linen cloth were found preserved on the skeleton as a result of being impregnated with copper oxide leached from bronze coins that must have been in his pocket. Because metal salts had replaced the actual textile fibres during burial in the soil, the textile had become a pseudomorph (Greenewalt and Majewski 1980: 138). This tiny piece of cloth (3 cm × 3 cm), even though a cast or imprint of the original cloth, provided invaluable evidence for an everyday fabric of the second century, a linen garment or bag preserved through chance rather than as carefully chosen grave goods or as a dedicatory offering to a deity. The S-spun plain woven linen cloth was set at approximately 14 threads to the centimetre compared to finer Egyptian cloths of the same period that have up to 40 threads per centimetre. A few centuries later Augustine observed that the Roman Empire had been made great by simple things such as ‘the diligence of households’ (Gunjevik 2012: 87). The production of plain weave cloth required unstinting diligence, and was a necessity as basic as food, and equally ephemeral in the material evidence of the past. Like cooking vessels and kitchen implements, the constant forms of spindles, whorls and loom weights signal that the production of textiles was fundamental to daily life, providing continuity in times of uncertainty.

A FUNERARY CLOTH FROM A MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS Luxurious fabrics of gold and silk, dyed in purple from murex shellfish, are at the other end of the spectrum from tabby cloths recovered from an earthquake victim. The next example of an ancient textile from Cyprus is very different: precious, high-ranking and located in a funerary context. Microscopy has opened up a new world of material detail, enabling the accurate identification of the different characters of linen, wool and silk fibre (Wild 2007: 3). In 2001 a distinctive marble sarcophagus, carved with erotes or cherubs, was discovered in Paphos during excavations for a sewerage system. Remarkably, although it had been looted in antiquity the sarcophagus contained traces of a cloth that had covered the head and shoulders of the deceased, whose gender is not certain. Very fine gold thread and reddish fibres were found amongst bone fragments in the ‘pillow’ end of the interior. The tiny textile fragments needed microscopic investigation for accurate description. Small samples of the mixed gold thread, reddish fibre, bone and dust residues were selected for microscopy and were exported to the University of Wollongong in Australia for analysis by Dr Adriana Garcia. The combined samples weighed 2 grammes. The remnants of textile were first observed and photographed using a stereo microscope (Leica MZ 18A) with a maximum magnification of 200×. Samples were then prepared for the scanning electron microscope (SEM ) and dispersal spectroscopy (EDS ). Part of the fabric was identified as silk that had decayed, leaving only occasional threads of a purple-red colour within a maze of gold threads (see Plate 9.2). Up to ten small sections of gold fabric were still intact and formed clumps embedded in bone, each no more than 15 mm × 10 mm. The striations in the red-purple fibre was consistent with rows of weaving, and was identified clearly as silk by the multiple strands of the filaments of the thread (as many as 50), formed by the silk-reeling process. The origin of this silk could have been China, through centres manufacturing costly cloths close to Cyprus. Ancient authors such as Pliny, Martial, Quintilian and Juvenal described how the heavy Chinese silk cloth was



unravelled and rewoven in famous weaving workshops in Tyre, Sidon and Berytus in Syria into a much lighter fabric often combined with gold. The main cities on the trade route from China were Palmyra and Dura Europus, as well as Petra, Antioch, Zeugma and Damascus (Thorley 1971: 71, 76–79). The silk industry was not established in the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt until after the Arab conquest in 641 CE . The sarcophagus textile of gold and purple continues the tradition of the renowned earlier Hellenistic Greek purple and gold cloths from Vergina in Greece. Found in the gold larnax or chest from within a marble sarcophagus excavated in 1977 from ‘Philip’s Tomb’, they have been described in detail by Manolis Andronicos (1993). Unlike organic materials gold does not deteriorate in the entropy of burial but shines out clearly from the dark dust of the textile remains, signalling the reason for its place in the tomb. Each gold thread consisted of a flat ribbon of gold twisted around a silk core, about 0.175–0.2 mm wide and 0.01 mm thick. The level of skill needed to produce the extremely fine threads would be inaccessible today to Western hand weavers. Another microscopic analysis was made by Dr Garcia and myself of a separate but comparable wealthy burial discovered beneath mosaic floor (c. 500 CE ) at the Ayioi Pente site at Yeroskippou, near Paphos excavated by Demetrios Michaelides in 2003. The analysis revealed thick and thin fibres of wool and linen in different weaves, together with twisted gold thread (Michaelides 2004: 194). Although the leno and plain weave structures of the woven fabric seem real, what we have here is a pseudomorph of the original textile, where the mineralization of substances from the environment moulds around the actual fibres, filling the spaces between the strands. The strands of fibre in the SEM image are actually concave empty spaces when very enlarged (see Plate 9.3). Under the electron microscope the presence of other substances within the textile fibres was astonishing. These included cranial bone fragments as well as clay possibly from cosmetics, and amber. An unexpected consequence was the discovery of small unicellular marine organisms in the material collected from the sarcophagus, called microfossils, Foraminifera. The all-consuming veneration for cloth in Christian reliquaries as emblematic of the body of the saint turns out to be comprehensible through the fact that the cloth was mingled with the cells of the (holy) body. The scientific scrutiny upholds the contemporary concept that ‘objects in the material world of creativity and commerce are not simply residues of social interaction but are active agents in shaping identities and communities’ (Lyons and Papadoupoulos 2002: 8).

SKIAMORPH The lost tapestries and rugs of the ancient world are still vivid in surviving frescoes and particularly in mosaics. As mentioned above, archaeology shows us that the echo of one material is often imitated in other materials as a ‘skiamorph’ (skia, Greek for shadow; morph, shape). Here one medium ‘shadows’ another material, which may have become outmoded by quicker industrial processes yet the exact shape of the older form is retained in the newer material. The shadows of textiles stretch across many forms in present day visual culture, echoed in everyday plastic replicas of original woven objects. Textile techniques continue to be emblematic of an archive of human ingenuity, so that the weave signatures of a willow laundry carrier or rush fruit basket used for centuries still persist in the moulded polyester vessels, the plastic strawberry container or onion net found in supermarkets. Weaving cast its shadow into the ‘tapestry’ frescoes painted in many public and private rooms of Roman architecture. Athenaeus described the lavish



interior, with scarlet and white and purple textiles covering walls, floor and furniture in the pavilion of Ptolemy Philadelphus in the fourth century BCE (Athenaeus Bk XIII , Ch 86, cited by Marlowe 1971: 115). Roman wall painting imitated the immersive environment of textiles in such palaces. Painting was the cheaper alternative to textiles, reversing modern hierarchies. The fragmentary frescoes that were discovered in the entrance of the Paphos theatre (c. 185 CE , the period of the emperor Marcus Aurelius) demonstrated the primacy of textile imagery in classical representation. As the painted stones emerged from the earth in 1996, their vivid colours began to fade. Accurate documentation in gouache and watercolour became a vital record (see Plate 9.4). The image illustrated shows a red fillet, from the ceiling of the barrel-vaulted passage into the orchestra of the theatre. The fillet is the filum, the thread, tie, or ribbon that binds or wraps the garland, the wreath, or the crown: an intrinsic motif in classical funerary painting since the fifth century BCE . Fillets and wreaths are part of a group of decorative motifs that often appear together (Conroy and Atkinson 2003; Green and Stennett 2002). Not only wall painting, but also mosaic in substantial houses (such as those of the socalled Houses of Dionysos or Theseus in Paphos) could imitate and evoke the splendour of textiles referred to by Athenaeus, in a less costly setting. ‘A mosaic is a surface compounded of discontinuous pieces and its character reflects first and foremost the nature of the materials from which it is made’ (Dunbabin 2001: 279). Like tapestry it is tied to an architectural setting, with much preliminary work in sorting materials and preparing surfaces. Each room in the vast Roman houses had, instead of a woven carpet, a mosaic carpet set on the floor exactly like a rug with elaborate geometric patterns – diamonds with rosettes, interlacing, triangles in complex and optical designs. Even ‘runners’ appeared in corridor areas, with petalled rosettes on a dark ground. Painting and mosaic translate the touch and texture of lost textiles into powerful representations of a variety of cloths – carpets, canopies, dresses and ribbons.

EARTH AS ARCHIVE All the examples discussed here were excavated out of the earth of Cyprus over the last twenty years. The earth forms high ‘spoil’ heaps as the archaeologists work to uncover a site and this stony clay substance is the container for all the objects held in it. If left for a season it will sprout a carpet of flowers – seeds are held there as well as microfossils. In this sense the site is a chaotic archive; its memory is in the multiple substances of which it is composed. These embedded organisms from the earth attached to ancient textiles recalled the fact that for small-scale societies outside Europe the earth itself is an archive. Aboriginal nomadic ‘archives’ existed only within a living memory, held in the mind through complex mnemonics to be recited at ceremonies – a situation that would have been comprehensible to ancient Greek oral traditions, knowing that memory is the key to epistemology. Because an Aboriginal person’s name cannot be spoken after death his or her individuality becomes subsumed into the country that holds the mythical past, and into the general spoken memory of a time that does not go back longer than the oldest person’s memory. Artefacts of wood and fibre do not survive if there is no fixed building; a few valuable implements could be hidden in caves or the bole of a tree. Stone tools were often left lying at a waterhole or camping place for general use. The whole of country could hold memory, rather than memory being held only in the made cultural object as the anthropologist



Deborah Bird Rose reveals in books such as Report from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonization (Rose 2004). Country itself is an archive in Australia holding a secret record, only open to those with the clues to the inherited truths of myth. ‘The land does not forget,’ wrote the Indigenous poet Romaine Morton in Poems from a Homeland.4

CONCLUSION Facing the great scope of Byzantine textiles Anna Muthesius began by observing ‘To understand textiles to the full a multi-disciplinary research method is required’ (Muthesius 1997: 1). The textile archive is of a different character to that archive once held in the Agora, the ancient ‘Central Business District’ of power. Its threads pervade the earth of the archaeological record in traces and casts of lost cloths. Their materiality is formed around negative spaces, an archive of shadows, a glimpse into a forgotten and hardly imaginable past. In the twentieth century the rediscovery of archives of Coptic or Peruvian fabrics influenced not only the emergence of innovative weaving design at the Bauhaus in 1920s Germany, but also subsequently through Anni Albers, the vibrant craft textile movement in the USA that formed weavers such as Sheila Hicks or Lenore Tawney (Troy 2002). The American artist Mary Kelly took on the concept of a marginal or peripheral archive, in her immense Post-Partum Document 1973–1979, recording the hidden momentum of mother–child relationships, often through textiles. Not only did it contest the patriarchal canon of the art world, but the forms of her archive also mimicked archaeological presentation in its combination of object and text. The Australian artist Narelle Jubelin has consistently referred to obscure or hidden archives of colonialism, re-presenting and translating past documents through the medium of petit-point embroidery (Harper 2013). Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev the curator of the 2012 exhibition of global reach, Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, observed that the ‘turn’ to the archive in contemporary art is a phenomenon of the individualist, materialist democracies in which so many live, ‘a recognition of the precariousness of all bodies including bodies of culture’. The exhibition was ‘an attempt to read historical conditions through art . . . moments of trauma, turning points, accidents, catastrophes, crises – events that mark moments when the world changes, when matter comes to matter’ (Christov-Bakargiev 2012: 31–35). She pointed out in the Letter to a friend: ‘In the digital age the past haunts us like never before, a potentially inexhaustible repository of traces of history, from which memory (and hence subjectivity) might possibly emerge. A different definition of the archive . . . is a tagged storage space, a mediated collection of digitalized materials to be experienced second hand, and from anywhere’ (Christov-Bakargiev 2012: No. 003:79) Although Wikipedia and Youtube might seem to hold the archives to everything, their oceanic vastness is so diffuse that archaeological strategies of ordering (data mining) are still required. Perhaps the documentation of the emerging textile archive in showing the relentless force of disintegration, and the necessity to understand its negative spaces, hits a contemporary nerve. Victoria Lynn, a curator of Restless, the 2012 Adelaide Biennial of Art in South Australia, pointed out that ‘Paradoxically the idea of absence is signalled through the material presence of a trace – in the form of text, gesture, blood. [Archives] . . . are based on an original destruction of evidence and a feverish obsession to find fragments of that loss’ (Lynn 2012: 13). The traces and dust of textiles under the microscope might also fit art historian Charles Merewether’s idea of a counter-archive,



which is ‘a form of re-collection of that which has been silent or buried’ (Merewether 2006: 16). To resuscitate remnants of textile from the earth of forgotten societies is to remember with Derrida, and to repress that knowledge, that the flux of materiality will eventually overcome us, now as well as then. The ancient textile archive is anonymous but is about relationships – family, trade, religion – and provides a kind of sign system which, as the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss observed, is good to think with (cited by Tilley 1991: 30). For a weaver who still crosses warp and weft threads in long repetitions, the textile archive is a mirror that might reveal the future in unexpected ways, especially in its astonishing microscopic forms. As artists and curators demonstrate, not only do archives of textiles anchor the present, they may provide models for staging contemporary fates.


As a graduate in classical archaeology I have attended the Paphos excavation both as artist-in-residence and archaeologist of fresco and textile.


Without the generous expertise of Dr Adriana Garcia, honorary fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, microscopic analysis would not have been possible. I am grateful to The Department of Antiquities in Cyprus for allowing access to archaeological material, provided with much help and goodwill from the staff of the Paphos Museum. Valued advice was given by Professor Richard Green and Dr Craig Barker and many Cypriot colleagues, especially Professor Demetrios Michaelides, Dr Stathis Raptou and Dr Despo Pilides. My presence on the excavation has been assisted by the Australian Research Council, and Study Leave Grants from the University of Wollongong, Australia.


These examples of ancient Cypriot textiles have been published in archaeological detail, in articles, by myself and colleagues listed in the References (Conroy and Garcia 2010; Conroy 2000, 2006; Conroy and Atkinson 2003).


Romaine Morton. ‘Poems for a Homeland’, in Carolyn Christov-Barkargiev, 2012. dOCUMENTA (13) The Book of Books, Catalog1/3. Ostfildern, Germany: Hantje Cantz Verlag, p. 163.

REFERENCES Andronicos, M. 1993. Vergina: The Royal Tombs and the Ancient City. Athens: Ekdotike Athenon, SA . Astrom, Paul. 1965. ‘Remains of Ancient Cloth from Cyprus’. Opuscula Atheniensa V, 111–114. Barber, E.J.W. 1991. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press. Barber, E.J.W. 1994. Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co. Chavane, Marie Jose. 1975. ‘Les Petits Objets’. Salamine de Chypre vol VI. Paris: Diffusion de Boccard. Christov-Bakargiev, Carolyn (curator and writer). 2012. dOCUMENTA (13) The Book of Books, Catalog1/3. Ostfildern, Germany: Hantje Cantz Verlag. Clarke, John. 1991. The Houses of Roman Italy 100 BC–AD 250. Berkeley, CA : University of California Press. Conroy, Diana Wood, and Garcia, Adriana. 2010. ‘A Golden Garment from Ancient Cyprus? A Preliminary Report of Textile Fragments from the Pafos “Erotes” Sarcophagus.’ Appendix to



Eustathios Raptou ‘Sarcophage Attique Trouvé à Paphos’ Report to the Department of Antiquities Cyprus, Nicosia: Department of Antiquities: 237–254. Conroy, Diana Wood. 2006. ‘Wall Paintings in the Icarus Street Tomb, Pafos’. Report to the Department of Antiquities Cyprus Nicosia: Department of Antiquities: 331–343. Conroy, Diana Wood and Atkinson, Josephine. 2003. ‘Roman Wall Paintings in the Pafos Theatre’. The Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 275–300. Conroy, Diana Wood. 2000. ‘Textile Artefacts and a Fragment of Cloth from Paphos, Cyprus.’ Report of the Department of Antiquities Cyprus. Nicosia: Department of Antiquities: 221–231. Derrida, Jacques. 2006. ‘Archive Fever ’, in Charles Merewether (ed), The archive: Documents of Contemporary Art. London: MIT Press: 76–79. Derrida, Jacques. 1996. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (trans. Eric Prenowitz). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Doll, Nicola. 2012. ‘Walter Benjamin Paris Arcades’, in Christov-Bakargiev, Carolyn (curator and writer). dOCUMENTA (13) The Book of Books, Catalog1/3. Ostfildern, Germany: Hantje Cantz Verlag: 316–321. Dunbabin, Katharine. 2001. Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gillis, C. and Nosch, M.B. 2007. Ancient Textiles: Production, Craft and Society. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Gleba, M. 2008a. ‘Auratae Vestes: Gold Textiles in the Ancient Mediterranean’, in Alfaro, C. and Karali, L. (eds), Vestidos, Textiles y Tintes, Universitat de Valencia, Spain. Gleba, M. 2008b. Textile Production in Pre-Roman Italy. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Gleba, Margareta and Mannering, Ulla (eds). 2012. Textiles and Textile Production in Europe from Prehistory to AD 400. Ancient Textiles Series vol.11. Oxford and Oakville: Oxbow Books. Green, J.R. and Stennett, G.H. 2002. Appendix to ‘The Architecture of the Ancient Theatre at Nea Pafos’, Report of the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus, Department of Antiquities, Nicosia, Cyprus: 155–188. Greenewalt, Crawford H. and Majewski, Lawrence J. 1980. ‘Lydian Textiles in from Athens to Gordion’ in The Papers of the Memorial Symposium for Rodney S Young. Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania: 133–147. Gunjevic´, Boris. 2012. ‘Babylonian Virtues: Minority Report’. In Žižek, Slavos and Gunjevic´, Boris (eds), God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse (trans. Ellen Elias-Bursac´). New York: Seven Stories Press. Harper, Catherine. 2013. ‘Narelle Jubelin at Goldsmiths College, London’, Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture, 1(3), November: 210–229. Hodder, I. (ed) 1989. The Meaning of Things: Material Culture and Symbolic Expression, London: Unwin Hyman. Kondoleon, Christine. 1994. Domestic and Divine: Roman Mosaics in the House of Dionysos, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Liddell, Henry George and Scott, Robert. 1961. Greek–English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lynn, Victoria [curator and writer, Catalogue]. 2012. Restless: Adelaide International. Exhibition at Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide. Adelaide: Parallel Collisions:12th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. Lyons, Claire L. and Papadoupoulos, John K. 2002. The Archaeology of Colonialism. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.



Marlowe, John. 1971. The Golden Age of Alexandria. London: Victor Gollancz. Merewether, Charles. 2006. The Archive: Documents of Contemporary Art. London: MIT Press. Michaelides, Demetrios. 2004. ‘ “Ayioi Pente” at Yeroskipou. A New Early Christian Site in Cyprus’. Musiva e Sectilia [An International Journal for the Study of Ancient Pavements and Wall Revetments in their Decorative and Architectural Context], vol. 1: 185–198. Michel, C. and Nosch, M-L. (eds). 2010. Textile Terminologies in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean from the Third to the First Millennia BC . Oxford and Oakville: Oxbow Books. Muthesius, Anna. 1997. Byzantine Silk-weaving AD 400 to AD 1200. Vienna: Verlag Fassbaender. Nicolaou, K. 1967. ‘Excavations at Nea Paphos: The House of Dionysos, Outline of the Campaigns’ 1964–65. Report of the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus, Nicosia: 100–125. Olsen, Bjornar. 1991. ‘Roland Barthes: From Sign to Text’, in Tilley, C. (ed), Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and Post-structuralism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell (first published 1990, reprinted 1991), 163–205. Rose, Deborah Bird. 2004. Report from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonization, Sydney: University of NSW Press. Strand, Eva Andersson. 2010. ‘The Basics of Textile Tools and Textile Technology: From Fibre to Fabric’, in Michel, C. and M.-L. Nosch (eds), Textile Terminologies in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean from the Third to the First Millennia BC . Oxford: Oxbow Books: 10–22. Thompson, Homer A. and Wycherley, R.E. 1972. ‘The History, Shape and Uses of the Ancient City Center ’ in The Athenian Agora: Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens: Vol IV: The Agora of Athens. Princeton, NJ : American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Thorley, J. 1971. ‘The Silk Trade between China and the Roman Empire at its Height, “Circa” A.D. 90–130’, in Greece & Rome, Second Series, Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association, vol. 18, no. 1, 71–80. Tilley, Christopher (ed). 1991. Reading Material Culture. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. Troy, Virginia Gardner. 2002. Anni Albers and Ancient American Textiles: From Bauhaus to Black Mountain. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. Wild, J.P. 2007. ‘Methodological Introduction’, in Gillis, C. and Nosch, M.B. (eds), Ancient Textiles: Production, Craft and Society. Oxford: Oxbow Books: 1–7. Zizek, Slavoj and Gunjevic´, Boris (eds). 2012. God in Pain: Inversions of the Apocalypse. New York: Seven Stories Press.


Lived Lives Materializing Stories of Young Irish Suicide SEAMUS MCGUINNESS

Stains and all because I didn’t get it cleaned or anything . . . the stains are still in it. —Neasa’s mother, Vera, ‘Conversations and Journey Through Loss’, Galway, 2009 These words were spoken by Vera, as she caressed her daughter’s red graduation dress. Neasa, aged seventeen, had taken her own life the previous year. Neasa’s story is one of forty-two that form the fragile warp threads of Lived Lives.1 The weft threads are the stories of the families they left behind. Originating in 2006 this durational, socially engaged art practice emerged from a collaborative research platform between myself and Dr. Kevin M. Malone, clinical psychiatrist, St Vincent’s University Hospital/School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin (SVUH /UCD ) and fortytwo suicide-bereaved families (107 individuals). It continues to unfold. It also involved a team of medical researchers, academics, and art professionals; and with the permission of the families, a wider public. It developed alongside the Suicide in Ireland Survey.2 The project was not informed by asking what artworks are, but rather by the question of what the artworks can do in society. The fact is that ‘art never existed independently of society and historical frames’ (McGonagle 2010: 4). Lived Lives is shaped and formed by the human experiences of a community of suicide-bereaved people in Irish society. This project belongs to them, my voice is the connective thread in this complex collaborative process. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men and women in Ireland, far exceeding road deaths.3 Hidden behind the statistics lie the personal, untold stories of the lived lives of loved ones who have died by suicide. The collaborative process of Lived Lives was started by placing small advertisements in regional papers throughout Ireland calling for any individual who had lost an immediate family member to suicide to tell their story. The age range was 15–25 years and the time framework for the loss was between the years 2003 and 2008. Every respondent was contacted and 104 families told us their story. Lived Lives became a socially engaged art practice around forty-two of these stories. Initially the research process was informed by conversations, mainly held around family kitchen tables all across Ireland. Participating families were invited to donate anything associated with the lived life to the Lived Lives Archive. An unstructured narrative was included as an important method of looking beyond the clinical statistics. Many families chose to donate stories, clothing and – controversially – images and names, which revealed the identity of their deceased loved one, thus challenging the codes of 149



confidentiality and anonymity as laid down by The Ethics and Medical Research Committee and to which Lived Lives had to adhere.4 The donated material became a working or ‘living’ archive, i.e. ‘works, which are open ended, unfinished and unfinishable’ (Schaffner and Winzen 1998: 22). A series of artworks in progress were made from these donations, which were initially presented back to the families for private engagement, reflection and feedback.5 Importantly, as the families were present and active within the emerging artworks, listening became intrinsic and the conversation that flowed through the creative process was valued as much as the making and presentation of physical works. One such event was ‘Conversations and Journey Through Loss’, at which Vera spoke the opening words in this chapter.6 Here, Vera was engaging with cloth’s ability to form immediate human connections, as Peter Stallybrass does in Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning, and the Life of Things (Stallybrass 1993). Neasa’s family was one of forty-two who participated in this event, where each family had the opportunity for individual engagement, which consisted of a private tour of the works in progress made from their donations. Importantly, the families had the option to withdraw anything or everything they had donated, according to the protocols of the project as laid out in the Participant Information Leaflet and Informed Consent documents.7 It was also agreed that all conversations and engagements would be documented in still and moving image. This would enter the Lived Lives Archive (which I hold in trust) and could become material for future works. At these engagements cloth was working silently as it always has done in society, having been embedded in our daily lives since the beginning of humanity. For me, this innate quality of cloth to be communicative addresses a fundamental question in socially engaged art: what forms of language can artists develop to work and communicate with embedded participants and audiences outside the ‘official art world’, whilst still contributing to the discourse of art? (McGonagle 2010). In the hands of artists, cloth, like language, is ‘malleable and possible to manipulate and transform’ (Constantine and Reuter 1997: 10). Cloth is not new to me. I trained in textile design and for over twenty years produced commercially successful large-scale commissions for public buildings.8 But my relationship with cloth goes back further than this to the village of Fahan, which lies on the border between Donegal in the Republic of Ireland and Derry in Northern Ireland. I was born and raised here at a time when the region was the largest centre of textile and clothing manufacture in the island of Ireland. Generations of families, including my own, were employed in the industry, especially in the shirt factories. When production was moved abroad to cheaper manufacturing bases in the late 1990s, entire communities lost their way of life and sense of identity. I became drawn to the subject of suicide when a close friend lost two brothers in quick succession to suicide and I was struck by how the manner of their dying completely overshadowed the traditional Irish death customs of comfort and celebration of lives lived. Their personal stories were not told or remembered, rather what was talked about, in hushed tones, was the manner of their death. Irish society has traditionally viewed suicide as criminal or immoral, cloaked with stigma and shame. Suicide-related stigma carries the burden of blame, sin, and crime, together with the misconception that it is a sign of weakness – especially in men. Such social punishments reside in collective public memory for a long time. Until 1993 suicide was a punishable crime under Irish law. In religious terms it is still considered an offense against God and the sanctity of life. Stigma continues to exist as a result of widespread misunderstandings of the nature of suicide and of mental health problems; it is a mark of shame or discredit, a stain (Arboleda-Florez



2003). Like cloth, humans can be stained. When a cloth is stained it leaves a physical mark, but the stain of stigma regarding suicide is invisible – it is not seen but it is felt. When someone dies by suicide, the deceased quickly becomes defined by the manner of their death, changing from person to object; the person becomes de-humanized and the lived life reduced to a statistic. The reality of their life and the memory of the person they were are eclipsed by the manner of their death. To challenge the prevailing silence of stigma, I sought to re-humanize the suicide deceased by going behind the cold, clinical statistics and making the individual visible. Moving from anonymity to identity, I hoped to challenge the stigma of suicide in Irish society, through collaborative, truthful, sensitive, and safe representation of the lived life lost and the experience of those they left. When I started researching youth suicide in Ireland, I was struck by the high proportion of young men involved. Over 80 per cent of all young suicides were male.9 It was natural for me to call upon the language of cloth to try to work through these questions and this led me to start critically evaluating my own personal practice as a male artist working within the medium of cloth. As a highly gendered medium, the making of textiles is traditionally viewed as the province of the female and this gendered view of it is well documented and embedded in its long histories (Parker 1984; Parker and Pollock 1986; Jefferies 2001). Reflecting on these histories of cloth as a means of addressing complex female issues, I became interested in re-positioning cloth as a tool for research, revisiting the history of textiles to open up a space for a complex male issue: that of young male suicide. These strands of thinking informed 21g, which in turn was the genesis of Lived Lives. 21g is a visual abstract representation in cloth of the most up-to-date official statistics available of young male suicide in Ireland in 2003 (see Plate 10.1). In this year, there were 110 youth deaths (15–25 years old) by suicide in Ireland: ninety-two male, eighteen female. 21g consisted of more than ninety-two white shirt collars, each torn from the main body of a man’s shirt. Each fragment weighs 21 grams, the mythical decline in body weight at the precise moment of death,10 and represents a young Irish male, aged 15–25 years old, lost to suicide. Each is sculpted with wires to suggest the absent human form. Individually moulded, they refused to conform to a uniform shape. The placement of the fragments at different heights suggests an absent wearer, and collectively, the presence of an absent community. Visually seductive, the work calls upon all the senses and invites the viewer into a three-dimensional space, demanding more than a distanced set of eyes or a singular position. Once in the work, the space becomes psychologically absorptive (Bishop 2005) and the viewer can fully experience its multiple layers and become aware of its disturbing content. The aesthetic experience becomes a catalyst for catharsis and consolation. It becomes a site of conversation, where people converse with friends and strangers alike. One conversation in particular was pivotal. Kevin Malone and I gave a joint lecture in Limerick alongside an installation of 21g after which the audience was invited to walk into the installation. One couple lingered long after everyone else had gone. Michael Hayes said in his quiet Limerick accent, ‘My son Patrick is in there somewhere’. Patrick had died from suicide in 2003, the year referenced by 21g. His wife Rose added, ‘My son was not a statistic, he was a human being, and he is not coming back’ (Lived Lives Archive). Michael and Rose’s engagement with the work revealed to me that 21g was no longer an abstract anonymous representation. I realized that it was a conduit to the people that it represented in their absence and that it was cloth, its tactility and ‘memory’ as much as its presentation and form in space that provided the emotional link.



The statistics of death, while informative on a measurable level, are actually incomprehensible because they cannot be emotionally absorbed. Through its materiality, its very physical presence and tangibility, 21g somehow enabled Michael and Rose to speak of something they had long suppressed. The torn fragments of cloth gave them an anchor from which to tell their story. Ron Labonté advocates the telling of stories as an effective tool for public health research: ‘all important social learning is through stories’ and ‘all research can be considered a form of story telling’ and that ‘much of the value of the method derives from the quality of the story’ (Labonté et al. 1999: 9). The art of storytelling is a deeply rooted part of Irish daily life, but the story of young Irish suicide is often untold; stigma perpetuates silence. The initial research platform that Kevin and I had established operated around common research interests and outside any institutional framework.11 This was formalized in 2006 when I was appointed Ad Astra Scholar in Suicide Studies within the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health Research, (UCD /SVUH ), positioning what would become Lived Lives as an art practice PhD within a medical school.12 This meant that the art practice that emerged from this migration, with cloth as material and conceptual form, responded to and pragmatically operated within this site. It is unusual for a medical school rooted in empirical approaches and analysis to host an art-practice-led PhD, which by its very nature is hermeneutical. This is unprecedented in Ireland. However, I believe the tension points between hermeneutical and empirical approaches can produce new sites of knowledge and understanding. One such tension point was my engagement with the Ethics and Medical Research Committee. Like all research projects within the medical school Lived Lives was governed by this body. Research participant confidentiality and anonymity are the default position in medical research. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, one of the first things the families did was to present me with an image and a name of the deceased. Permission to include identity in the research was refused on three occasions, primarily due to concerns over distress to extended or estranged family caused by exposure of identity in a public exhibition. In response, the Lived Lives process adjusted to include private exhibitions and engagements (like ‘Conversations and Journey Through Loss’) with works in progress for extended or estranged family before any public showing. It was enshrined in the working protocols that participating families could withdraw anything or everything at any stage without judgement or censure. An important voice in this navigation of ‘officialdom’ was a member of one the participating families. She argued her right to give permission for the images and objects that she owned to be used in the research, and a pathway was provided for her to address the Ethics and Medical Research Committee personally.13 Permission was then granted to include images and other items which disclosed identity if the families so wished. Working within this medical site I became interested in a social scientific research tool called the Psychological Autopsy Model.14 Briefly, surviving relatives of the suicide deceased are interviewed in the hope of shedding light on the deceased individual and the events leading up to their death. The answers to predetermined questions were documented in a multi-choice format, which allowed no space for anecdotal information about the individual and their life. Recent analyses of the Psychological Autopsy Model have suggested that by maintaining a standard medicalized view of suicide, we may miss considerations other than clinical diagnosis (Gavin and Rogers 2006; Owens et al. 2008). As a result, the lay knowledge of those closest to the deceased is often overlooked. They suggest that narratives and research methods that take lay knowledge into consideration



enrich the possibilities of a deeper understanding of the events and conditions that surround suicidal behaviour (Owens et al. 2008). Lived Lives reflected on, adapted, and recast this traditional scientific model to include these unique human insights or small memories: ‘. . . small memory is all about little things: trivia, jokes, etc. . . . often when someone dies, that memory disappears. Yet that “small memory” is what makes people different from one another, unique. These small memories are very fragile’ (Boltanski, cited in Garb and Semin 1997: 19). Lived Lives focused on the potential of these fragile memories. Building upon the notions of active listening (Barthes 1985) and ecology of conversation (Gadamar 2004), an ‘intersubjective space between listeners’ was created (Barthes 1985: 80). This in turn facilitated the development of ‘an ethical mode of listening’ (Barthes 1993: 28). As such, this action came into its own through dialogue, as open conversation, in which one listens and includes other voices. A reflective process in the listening mode became important. By being a witness and listening without judgement, a mechanism for navigating a ruptured space in Irish society was co-created. Since the project’s conception, Lived Lives created the circumstances for this community to make decisions collaboratively and work through unravelled questions with the artist. As it unfolded, the project was always guided by ethical, moral and human considerations. The families have become co-producers, co-owners, and co-curators of their own experiences. Over a period of seven years, their interaction with the artworks in progress also became a platform for the integration of their experience of loss and for their reconnection with their deceased family members. Both the materiality of cloth and its ability to connect with people are central to this. The characteristics of cloth and its relationship to people have played a central role in the development of everyday language. The words ‘text’ and ‘textile’ come from the same Latin root texere – to weave, to fabricate. Textile terms and metaphors have been assimilated and woven into everyday language: Mary Jane Jacob in her introduction to Material with a Memory, opens with the words ‘the fabric of society’ (Livingstone and Ploof 2007: 299). To elaborate she draws on the writing of Arthur Danto, who states: the metaphor of weaving is itself so woven into our conceptual schemes that it must constitute one of the Ur-Metaphors we acquire with language, and although weaving as such is an activity with which, in its original sense, very few of us have had much direct experience, it is difficult to see how, no matter how modern or post-modern our form of life, we could imagine getting on without the metaphor.15 Cloth is the oldest material known to humankind. It is our silent companion in life, a cradle-to-grave material: at the moment of birth we are wrapped in cloth, it is an integral part of our daily lives, and in death we are buried in it. Cloth is a well-established means of communication; it can mark the passage of life, and as noted by Winnicott (1971), it is the ‘transitional object’ allowing separation and closeness to co-exist. It enters through all our senses, not just sight: we touch it, we smell it, we can hear it. We even taste it – observe a child taking comfort from sucking on a piece of cloth. Cloth assimilates the smells and odours of the body; it silently absorbs this essence of us. The Canadian artist Yan Miller writes, ‘Clothing is like our bodies, it acts like a skin to protect us. Its fragility shows up our own’ (Livingstone and Ploof 2007: 288). The human body and cloth have a shared materiality, both can be marked and will eventually disintegrate. It can be cut and stitched, it is mortal like us (Weiner and Schneider 1989). It is part of us, we carry its knowledge lightly. This innate knowledge is demonstrated in the following two stories from Lived Lives.



Neasa’s Archive Room (2009) was one of forty-two that were presented back to the families at ‘Conversations and Journeys Through Loss’. In the Archive Room series, each family was allocated the same space regardless of the volume of their donations and each Archive Room contained donated objects, written testimonies, and an audio extract from the narrative recorded at the initial interview playing quietly in the background. In contrast to 21g, Neasa’s Archive Room is not concerned with anonymous fragments of shirts but with cloth that has personal meaning (see Plate 10.2). This is the red dress which Neasa wore to her graduation ball. Shortly afterwards she hanged herself in her bedroom at home. She was seventeen. Her parents Pat and Vera donated her dress to the Lived Lives Archive unlaundered. While they were in her archive room, her family stood around the dress looking at it closely. Vera reached out, gently pulling the folds of the material apart and leaning back to look intently at it. She drew the fabric to her face and breathed in the scent. She continued to turn the dress around and spent several silent moments caressing it. Then, sweeping it into her arm, she lifted the hem and inhaled deeply. Finally, she released the dress, turned aside, paused and gave the dress a final farewell stroke before leaving the room. The act of smelling the garment of a loved one and recalling their absence is explored by the cultural theorist Peter Stallybrass (1993): ‘cloth is a kind of memory’. Recalling a personal experience he had when he delivered his friend Allon’s memorial lecture during which he wore Allon’s jacket: ‘If I wore the jacket, Allon wore me. He was there in the wrinkles of the elbow, wrinkles that in the technical jargon of sewing are called “memory”; he was there in the stains at the very bottom of the jacket; he was there in the smell of the armpits – above all he was there in the smell’ (Stallybrass 1993: 36). Like Stallybrass, Vera was not arrested by the physical article but by Neasa’s presence in the smell of the cloth. The magic of cloth ‘is that it receives us: our smells, our sweat, our shape even’ (Stallybrass, 1993: 37). Few objects could be more intimate than an item of clothing worn close to the body; and picking up the scent and use of the wearer is a powerful metaphor for intimacy. A scent can dissolve the years; it has the power to transport us back in time. It can evoke experiences long gone as if they are relived – the smell, the appearance of onetime worn soiled clothing – our familiarity enabling us to remember. The Lost Portrait Gallery consists of thirty-nine jacquard portraits of the young suicides installed in a round room at exactly the height of the individual, in age order, youngest to oldest. The audience had to adjust their ‘normal’ viewing positions in order to encounter the work. The ability of cloth to speak to and move people became visible as they moved through the room and instinctively touched the work. The families became the work’s first audience. Even though Kevin and I were an inherent part of this experience, we were witnesses: we were invested but at a different level. Even at that there is a difficult question as to how I as an artist read this, or how I value it? While being aware that no matter what conjecture I can make in terms of trying to articulate that intimate engagement, I must also acknowledge the presence of moments of twilight within this experience. To me these moments of twilight are ones that cannot be seen or grasped clearly through vision or logic, but must be felt at a deeper level and allowed to describe themselves in their own way. It is here that one needs to resist grasping or possessing knowledge; to resist the temptation to put the experience in a box, fix it down and rationalize it. It is fragile and needs time to materialize. My approach within the process was to allow the possibility of reflection and imagination to materialize within these shared human moments. These twilight moments, illuminated by the interaction of people with cloth and art, cannot be proven in an



empirical sense; they call on your intuitive sense to guide you through them. Within that space of the family engagements with the artworks, something crystallized that is difficult to articulate or define in spoken language: it will always be one step away because it is a reflection of the experience, not the experience itself. Importantly the works crystallize something in the ‘lived thing’ rather than in the reflection upon it. This ‘lived thing’ is impermanent but durational, the moment has been lived, felt and observed, but it has gone, it is passed. I cannot recapture that lived moment even in trying to represent it in cloth, but the presence of cloth recalling these lived moments and encounters within the works can be remediated to various audiences. The works are not solidified like a proof-of-concept, which to me reads as absolute, scientifically proven. They are fluid moments in time, an in-between space where the tensions between the tangible material and crafting and the conceptual and symbolic meaning of cloth come into being. However the families’ personal, and at times visceral, engagement with the works could be described as a sort of needle that pierces through that moment, or what Barthes (1993) would call a punctum, a lived action – or in Levinas’s words ‘the needle touches and pierces life’ (Levinas 1994: 54). It is the point that pricks you. It could be anything and is a detail but once it is pricked, you have opened a channel or duct. Bridget describes her experience over the two occasions when she engaged with her deceased daughter Fiona’s jacquard in The Lost Portrait Gallery: The first time I walked into the Lost Portrait Gallery I felt as if somebody had punched me in the stomach. I felt an ache going from my stomach up to my chest filling every part of me. I was not prepared for the all consuming pain that all this was bringing up for me. I didn’t want to be there. Everybody was being so kind and it was so sensitively done but I wanted to leave – I felt if I left her I was burying her again, and leaving her . . . This is the moment of punctum – it has been opened, it is lived, it hurts. Yet Bridget returned three days later by her own choice and reported a different experience: . . . This time I felt Fiona calling me over. I stood in front of her and I put my hands each side of her face (see Plate 10.3). There was nobody in the world but us. I heard her as I heard her the night before she died. Crying for my help. Pleading with me to help her. I remembered her tears that lonely night running unchecked down her face. I heard her voice. I told Fiona I was sorry and she told me she was sorry too. I fancied I saw tears in her eyes as I stood in front of her beautiful portrait. I wiped them away. She told me she was happy and I have to live. She told me to mind her sister and her son. I nodded that I would. I loathed to leave her. I kissed her and walked out of the circular room and stood outside looking in at her for what seemed an age. Three days later, I feel the best I have felt in five years since my beloved first born child Fiona handed her life back to God. My block of ice in my chest is thawing. —‘Conversations and Journeys Through Loss’, Galway, 2009. Written feedback to artist, June 2009 The above two artworks in cloth created an opening onto one of the darkest corners of Irish society, corners darkened and silenced by the shame and stigma that surround suicide death. They also created an interstice that enabled an audience to enter and engage with the art practice – offering a way into the work by calling on the tactile quality of cloth. It could be argued that these works signify presence, not loss. I believe that they simply evoke the reality of absence.



The second part of ‘Journey and Conversations Through Loss’, held on the final day after the individual family engagements, was a collective discussion around the question of how to make the works public. This was the first time that the families had met. They decided collectively to make the project available to a wider public in a particular way: that it be contained by four curatorial strategies. The works were to be mediated, preferably by me, the artist, to the public, so that they were ‘not just a walk off the street exhibition’. There should be ‘bereavement counsellors on site’ so that ‘people leave no worse than they came in’. Children under sixteen should be accompanied by an adult, ‘children under sixteen don’t need to see this . . . it’s too powerful and sad’. Finally it was decided that every lost life should be included in any future exhibition so as not ‘to privilege one life over another’ (Lived Lives Archive). Interestingly, it was the families themselves, not the artist and/or curators or cultural institutions, who identified, discussed, and decided how and why their private experiences should be extended into the public. These families have been intrinsic to the art practice in terms of model design from its conception as an idea, as co-creators as it took physical form, and now as co-producers articulating ways of bringing their private experience of loss to the wider public audience. Since then the work has extended into the public, always with the informed permission, active involvement, encouragement and support of the participating families.16 Public is a contested word and has many meanings. For the context of Lived Lives, I borrow from the writing of Rosalyn Deutsche. To be public is to appear and also to be exposed to the appearance of others, in Deutsche’s words ‘the experience of being in public’.17 The Lived Lives process allowed those who are invisible to be visible to others in public. As a collective action it forced us all to leave our comfort zones: participating families, artists, scientists, academics and the wider publics. It made it possible for us all to viscerally encounter the aching presence of absence that suicide leaves in its aftermath. We continue to work through this hybrid terrain. Lived Lives has embedded this community of bereaved families within an art process enshrining their voice in the works. It has also placed me within this community of people and has transformed how I look at and think about life and cloth. Together we have co-created a series of site-specific interactive installations, public conversations and mechanisms for audience active involvement. Informed by cross-disciplinary research, donated objects and untold narratives, identity and stigma, these collective actions created new sites of production, and suggested alternative strategies for curating cloth and safely transposing these private experiences of human loss to a wider public domain. Since ‘Conversations and Journeys Through Loss’ in 2009, Lived Lives has been presented sixteen times, in various formats from large-scale exhibitions, conversations and conferences in national and international venues. Below is a selection of quotes from written feedback from audience members: I love the tactile, it’s a wonderful concept: something to touch. As you say the ‘do not touch’ of the gallery, is a metaphor for ‘do not touch the story, don’t even talk about it, just bury it there, we never talk about it again’ . . . it’s gentle; [alluding to the stigma of suicide] using the language of art as a form of expression, the outward expression of something that has been very much internalized, more than internalized, actually suppressed and re-suppressed.18



Lived Lives is a positive example of what can be achieved when we listen to people outside of institutional concerns. It works in terms of its ability to emotionally engage and move people.19 It strikes me as a very honest means of engagement. REAL Discourse and dialogue. The fact that it is so participatory validates the entire process.20 It opens the door to conversations . . . Silence = death . . . I found the conversation and the artworks extremely moving, I believe it is a great way to break the silence about suicide.21 Breaking the silence on a topic that Ireland has been turning a blind eye to for years . . . moved even the most hardened psychiatrist.22 It was also very clear to me that as part of this project, identity was given back to the bereaved person and they were no longer a number. This cannot be stated strongly enough in terms of the importance of this in trying to grapple, understand and find insight into suicide in Ireland.23 In my experience, a lot of research, though of relevance and of interest, is essentially dry and unexciting. It operates purely at an intellectual level. However your work, particularly when presented live, operates at an emotional level. . . . The research has the potential to help society confront the issue of suicide. The research made the person real, not just another statistic. The image of the mother touching her child’s face, woven from fabric, seemed like she was actually touching her child.24 The impact of these engagements is that Lived Lives has now become central to my practice, and this encompasses new ideas about co-production, programming, and dissemination in which the family participation is seminal (see Plate 10.4). These platforms have provided all participants with the durational opportunity to share and reflect on their experiences of being involved within Lived Lives. As such, this has repositioned my practice within the context of socially engaged art practice. Mary Jane Jacob’s seminal exhibition Culture in Action helped to bring this art form into mainstream artistic discourse.25 In such practices the artist looks to the nature of human experience and relations as their source, and the ways in which these are visually formed are central to the way they work. Working within a medical school, I also had to address complex crossdisciplinary questions outside the conventions of a singular art discipline. As a result of these actions Lived Lives has become deeply embedded in Irish society and the impact of that research process has transformed my practice. It is still anchored in cloth, but it is now social in nature, dialogical in process and aesthetically experiential. The collaborative process provided a framework to explore alternative positions around a difficult and stigmatized subject. This created an ‘alternative public space’ where everyone involved, artist, scientist, families, and various institutions were working outside their comfort zones. As a result my practice was shaped and informed by this other site for showing and exploring ideas about cloth. The aesthetic form of my practice has also been transformed. The strategies I employ are now as much concerned with creating and facilitating the circumstances for these sites of conversation as they are with producing objects. The collaborative process is complex, not only aesthetically and socially, but also in its means of presentation and dissemination to a wider public outside the original constituents. It seems to me now that being an artist



is not simply about being a producer of work in isolation. Rather it is about being deeply embedded in society and importantly, having shared responsibility within that society (McGonagle 2010). By doing so I engaged with ‘life’ operating alongside theory. This ‘life’ is not contained within theory and my methods sought to open up closed-down pockets of conversation and tacit knowledge from the lived human experience in an ethically responsible manner. It is an active art intervention in Irish society and is innately democratic in its roots. Lived Lives has created the circumstances for these often silent voices to be heard and validated, and has transposed these private experiences ethically into public discourse, thus challenging the existing culture of silence (and perhaps inaction) around suicide. My practice has also been stretched and articulated, not just through the senses of sight, touch, hearing and smell, but also through active listening and storytelling. Now it demands that I develop the social skills of negotiation and navigation as much as it relies on my ability to create jacquards or other cloth artifacts. Lived Lives has also opened up new possibilities for people to engage with contemporary art, to re-imagine human relationships and loss and to re-examine civil processes and responsibilities within this context. The aesthetic experience of Lived Lives has the quality of ritual or relic, but its primary quality is the manner in which it is communicative. The practice can move people towards an empathic position, creating the circumstance to understand, reflect upon and question the loss of others. For example, this experience is reported differently by participants and audiences alike, e.g. ‘like saying goodbye’ or ‘entering active dialogue . . . changed the way I think about people who kill themselves’ (Lived Lives Archive). It is a collective creative action that involves a journey or performance by many individuals who have come together within an art process, drawn together with a common social concern: young Irish lives lost to suicide. It foregrounds my artistic agency to make private experiences of suicide public and represent them in public, challenging the prevalent culture of inaction and indifference towards suicide that exists in Ireland today. Unique circumstances were created for an aesthetic experience to unfold, subsequently creating a public space in Irish society where these untold stories could sensitively enter public conversation. Lived Lives shuttles between certainty and uncertainty, validity and volatility, clarity and ambiguity, solidity and fluidity. Importantly the practice does not pity, fetishize, or present the participants as victims or statistics; but rather as ordinary people articulating the reality of their loss: ‘this experience was not invited, it was what we got’ (Lived Lives Archive). Since 2006, slow, regular contact developed, and this ongoing relationship with the families based on trust, empathy, and mutual respect evolved and has become central to this creative process. Lived Lives is not based on a one-off conversation with the bereaved – it is more durational and long-term and is still active on many levels within Irish society. Lived Lives started as a conceptual idea and became a concrete experiment and experience, demonstrating how an art practice can intervene in public space and the public domain, transcending cultural and international boundaries. Lived Lives provides substantial evidence of how an art practice rooted in the histories and materiality of cloth can address the ominous presence of young suicide that challenges Irish society today, and do so in a responsible and uncensored manner. This way of working with cloth and people may also be applicable to other areas of research and jurisdictions, where human loss, identity, and validation are overlooked or eclipsed by the silence of stigma. For me it has been both a responsibility and a privilege and also has become part of me and my practice.




This chapter is informed by my PhD Thesis, Materializing Stories of Young Irish Suicide 2003–2008. Available online: Many thanks to my editor Ally Raftery for her support and endless patience with this chapter and to Mary Jane Jacob as a second reader. My heartfelt thanks to you both.


Available online:


Available online:


The Ethics and Medical Research Committee’s main function is to adjudicate the balance between the potential value of new knowledge and understanding pertinent to a research project, and the well-being of participants in that research process.


Private Family Exhibition and conversations, available online:


It was held over six consecutive days in The Centre for Creative Arts and Media, Galway, in 2009 and had two elements: the showing back of work in progress to participating families in private, and second, a collaborative conversation with those families about whether to bring the work into the public realm.


The Participant Information Leaflet sets out the parameters of research projects. The Informed Consent requires that participants have a genuine understanding of the research. They provide full disclosure of information about the research to potential subjects including an adequate understanding of the procedures, risks and benefits of the research, rights of the participants and the voluntary nature of participation. Available online:


Commissioned mainly through the Percent for Art Scheme, clients included Ericsson International, Nortell Ire, and Avonmore Dairies.


Available online:

10. Available online: 11. In 2005/6 we presented three public lectures and exhibitions collaboratively. These were: ‘Portrait of Young Suicide by an Artist – from Ulysses to 21g’, Dublin Castle; 21g at Suicide Awareness Week in Limerick, and Imagine Mental Suffering through Art and Science, Health Medicine and the Burren Law School, Ballyvaughan Co. Clare, Ireland. In their nascent form they were exploratory groundwork for a collaborative and integrated research method between art and science around a highly sensitive subject. 12. In 2006 UCD initiated the Ad Astra scheme of advanced research awards to support further development of fourth level in Irish Education and to underline its commitment to research excellence, and to attract, fund and retain the best scholars from all disciplines. 13. It was the first time in the history of the EMRC that a research participant had been allowed to address them. Families now had input into decisions that would ultimately affect them, thus challenging protocol and tradition. 14. This is the most common research method employed when conducting research into death by suicide and was employed by Malone in the Suicide in Ireland Survey. See Robins et al. (1959); Dorpat and Ripley (1960); and Barraclough et al. (1974). 15. Arthur Danto’s The Tapestry and the Loincloth, see Livingstone and Ploof (2007). 16. Between 2009 and 2013 Lived Lives was presented widely in various forms throughout Europe, China and USA . Available online: 17. The specific phrase ‘an experience of being public’ is used by Rosalyn Deutsch in her public lecture at Tate Modern in 2005. See also Kester (2004). 18. President Mary McAleese at the first public showing of The Lost Portrait Gallery in Dublin, Croke Park, 2009. Transcribed from Video Documentation, Lived Lives Archive, 2009.



19. Public audience written feedback, Lived Lives Archive. 20. Public audience written feedback, Lived Lives Archive. 21. Public audience written feedback, Lived Lives Archive. 22. Psychiatrist at first Annual Meeting of the newly formed College of Psychiatry of Ireland, Croke Park, Dublin, 2009. 23. Danny Cleary, Senior Counsellor, Console. Available online: 24. John D. Sheehan, Consultant in Liaison Psychiatry, Mater Hospital Dublin who was co-Chair at the public lecture series presenting the Lived Lives project at RCPI , 2010. 25. This new direction was concerned with public art and its practices being social process, with relevance to the sites of production and communities. It is widely acknowledged that Jacob’s desire to shift the role of the participating community from passive spectator to active artmaker became one of the central goals in Culture In Action, challenging previous models that attempted to give viewers access to the making process. Jacob maintained that this did not give the public a sense of the potential relevance of art to their lives. See Jacob (1995).

REFERENCES Arboleda-Florez, J. 2003. ‘Considerations on the stigma of mental illness’. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(10): 646–650. Barraclough, B.M. et al. 1974. ‘A hundred cases of suicide: Clinical aspects’. British Journal of Psychiatry, 125: 355–373. Barthes, R. 1985. The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays in Music, Art and Representation. Oxford: Blackwell. Barthes, R. 1993. Mythologies (trans. A. Lavers). London: Vintage. Bishop, C. (ed). 2005. Participation: Documents of Contemporary Art. London: Whitechapel. Constantine, M. and Reuter, L. 1997. Whole Cloth. New York: Monacelli Press. Dorpat, T.L. and Ripley, H.S. 1960. ‘A study of suicide in the Seattle area’. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 1 (December): 349–359. Gadamar, H.G. 2004. Truth and Method (trans. J. Weinsheimer and D.G. Marshall). London: Continuum. Garb, T. and Semin, D. (eds). 1997. Christian Boltanski. London: Phaidon. Gavin, M. and Rogers, A. 2006. ‘Narratives of suicide in psychological autopsy: Bringing lay knowledge back in’. Journal of Mental Health, 15(2): 135–144. Jacob, M.J. 1995. ‘Outside the Loop’. In Culture in Action [exhibition catalogue]. Seattle: Bay Press: 56. Jefferies, J. (ed). 2001. Reinventing Textiles: Gender and Identity Vol. 2. Winchester: Telos Publications. Kester, G. 2004. Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. London: University of California Press Labonté, R. et al. 1999. ‘A story/dialogue method for health promotion knowledge development and evaluation’. Health Education Research, 14(1): 39–50 Levinas, E. 1994. Outside the Subject (trans. M.B. Smith). Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press. Livingstone, J. and Ploof, J. (eds). 2007. The Object of Labour: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production. Chicago: School of the Art Institute of Chicago Press. McGonagle, D. 2010. Passive to Active Citizenship: A Role for the Arts, Bologna in Context Conference Dublin Ireland.



Owens, C., Lambert, H., Lloyd, K. and Donovan, J. (2008). ‘Tales of biographical disintegration: How parents make sense of their sons’ suicides’. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30: 237–254. Parker, R. 1984. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: Women’s Art Press. Parker, R. and Pollock, G. 1986. Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology. London: Women’s Art Press. Robins, E. et al. 1959. ‘The communication of suicidal intent: A study of 134 consecutive cases of successful (completed) suicide’. American Journal of Psychiatry, 115(8): 724–733. Schaffner, I. and Winzen, M. (eds). 1998. Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing and Archiving in Art. Munich: Prestel. Stallybrass, P. 1993. ‘Worn worlds: Clothes, mourning, and the life of things’. The Yale Review, 81: 35–75. Weiner, A.B. and Schneider, J. (eds). 1989. Cloth and Human Experience. Washington, DC : Smithsonian Books. Winnicott, D.W. 1971. Playing and Reality. London: Tavistock.



Textiles and Globalization



Editorial Introduction HAZEL CLARK

Globalization can be considered a product of current times, with all the complexities of moving, making, communicating, and living around the world, a condition enhanced and arguably facilitated by technology. However, for textiles a sense of the global is far from new, fabric being the product of some of the earliest trans-national relationships, some intentional, others fortuitous and even random. Poetically, we might think of textiles wrapping the globe and linking together cultures, peoples and nations, through manufacture, trade, use, and disuse. Yet today and even historically, the realities of these associations have been politically charged, as is evident in different ways in each of the chapters included in this section. Together they cast light on textiles and globalization now, but in doing so they also raise some age-old issues concerning the relationships of textiles to art, craft and industry, labour, agency, identity and human life. In India, hand-woven and hand-spun cotton khadi became an expression of solidarity with the marginalized mass of humanity in the country’s struggle for independence from Britain. Khadi transcended its use value as a simple cloth, to gain a political status, and through its association with Mahatma Gandhi it became a symbol of freedom and served as a challenge to the colonizers. Khadi’s origins as a means for uniting a people and for erasing differences of ethnicity, religion and status are issues that underpin Jasleen Dhamija’s chapter. She considers the evolution of the role of the curator in the international presentation of textiles between India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Australia over the last twenty-five years. Dhamija demonstrates how, for the curator as well as the artist, textiles can serve to decode peoples’ socio-cultural history. In 2006 this led to new curatorial approaches in an exhibition in Australia at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Gallery staged for the Commonwealth Games. ‘Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics’ delved into the symbolic and social significance of fabrics, highlighting the past and also new and sometimes unexpected manifestations of the symbolic and social significance of fabrics. Dhamija points out how in India, in contrast to Western industrial societies, there has been a reversion of the use of technology from mill-made to hand-spun. In fact khadi is being adopted all over the world today by well-known designers and brands as part of a conscious effort towards a more natural world where populations take greater responsibility for the environment. Dhamija contrasts a second exhibition held in Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, ‘Power Cloths of the Commonwealth’, that went further in presenting ideas of power and trade by including Aboriginal artists from Australia and the work of the First Nations people from Canada. The textiles showed the impact of changing geo-climatic conditions, and the continual influences of links through trade, religious practices and beliefs. From another geographical area, June Ngo Siok Kheng presents the history and origins of songket in the Malay Archipelago. She considers its definition and characteristics, which include the use of the traditional songket Kek (loom) processes, popular traditional motifs, design and structure, as well as the standing of the songket weaving cottage 165



industry. While songket weaving continues to be practised in the states of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang in Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sarawak in East Malaysia, the numbers of weavers have dwindled since 1990, not least because songket is highly labour intensive. Younger women, whose predecessors wove for a living, are no longer interested in the time-consuming technique and in work that many consider boring. Urban development and the promise of better-paid jobs in cities threaten songket weaving in Malaysia as they have endangered other craft textile techniques in different parts of the world. The livelihood of the traditional weavers that remain is also being challenged by the mass-production of machine-made songket. But Ngo points to the innovative approaches that are being used to create songket by contemporary producers and brands in Malaysia that demonstrate the possibility of compromise and change. The role of labour in the global production of textiles, and women’s work in particular, is one that has come up elsewhere in this Handbook. It remains a universal issue, highlighting the ongoing exploitation of workers in the global south in the service of consumerism in the global north. Already the subject of academic texts and news editorials, the conditions of textile workers are also a concern for contemporary fibre artists. Lisa Vinebaum explores how issues surrounding labour and the disadvantageous conditions of globalization, including migration and loss, are performed in the work of contemporary fibre artists, in particular Anne Wilson and Mandy Cano Villalobos. In their own particular ways, Wilson and Villalobos each mobilize performance to call attention to the precarious conditions of labour and, by extension, of subjectivity. They focus attention on how today’s global economy is characterized not only by the unfettered movement of goods, but also by the insecurities caused by the requirements of deregulated trade. Vinebaum highlights the concept of ‘Walmartization’ – that is, the search for the cheapest and most expendable sources of production, distribution and labour, which is taking place across the globe in the large-scale manufacture of textiles and apparel. Its reach and scale is vast; it spans Wall Street and Madison Avenue and extends across the globe to Ciudad Juarez, Djakarta, and Shanghai as well as to sweatshops in London and Los Angeles. The responses to these conditions by the artists featured mobilize handicrafts in performance, which reference exploitation in the global garment industry, mourn the loss of industry, and seek to reclaim local knowledge, skill, community, and value. Perhaps no textile activity so automatically evokes an inherent sense of community as traditional quilting. Yet quilting is no passive pursuit, as demonstrated by Kirsty Robertson, who writes of how the power and agency of activist quilts has helped to define the ‘expanded field’ of textiles. With a rich history – the most famous and extensive remains the Names Project AIDS Quilt begun in the 1980s – tens of thousands of activist quilts have been produced for an extensive range of other causes. They include patriotic memorials for those killed in the 9/11 attacks, quilts made to draw attention to various diseases and ailments, quilts for political prisoners, remembrance quilts for those who were victims of Residential Schools in Canada and the United States, quilts as remembrances for abused and murdered women. Quilting has facilitated these powerful projects, which have enabled individuals and communities to address global concerns. Robertson analyses quilts as carriers of political messages, historically and in the present. While seemingly disparate, memorials for 9/11 victims appearing far removed from the impetus behind the AIDS quilt, which in turn appears distinct from attempts to urge police to investigate the murders of Aboriginal women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, they have much in common. In each instance



quilting is used both to convey a message and also to grant legitimacy to a variety of politically diverse standpoints and issues. A technique still closely associated with North America and Britain, we learn how quilting is in fact geographically and politically fluid, and how quilts draw on specific histories and geographies of making and post-creation display and circulation. Many of the examples of textile art, design and production in this Handbook and in this section in particular, highlight textiles in transformation, in their production, in their material form, and as conveyors of meanings and purveyors of social responsibility. They reveal also how nowadays the local is always imbued with the global and vice versa, bringing responsibilities and relationships that require creative strategies to reflect current times. Mathilda Tham takes a metadesign approach to her own activism between fashion design, sustainability and futures studies. She employs creative resilience thinking as a strategic agent as part of the current discourse on how to improve the environmental impact of textiles, especially as used in the global fashion industry. Fashion, by its very nature is involved with waste, of textiles when garments are discarded, but also of human lives when workers are alienated and low paid, typically in the global south where workers do not have the means to purchase what they produce. While the fashion industry is putting strategies into place to achieve cleaner and more efficient processes, and applying the specifications of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR ), the penalty is that the variety and appearance of textiles and fashion is becoming increasingly standardized in Tham’s view. She sees the role and responsibility of designers, makers and users as one of defying streamlined models. The activities of designing, creating, crafting, styling, dressing and creating anew are presented as harbouring a wealth of imagination, stored wisdom, complexity of judgement, connectedness and pure enjoyment. Much of this is tacit knowledge, which easily eludes understanding, but which is intrinsic to all textile work and imperative in the pursuit of truly sustainable textiles and fashion. Tham highlights how many opportunities are missed when little consideration is given to patterns of use. Recently, activities and events have taken place in many different places, from hacking or customizing workshops to knitting circles, from pop-up vintage shops to clothing libraries, which are shifting the relationship people have with textiles and garments as part of a movement away from consuming to one of participating. Such ‘resilience thinking’ recognizes diversity and engages with the material and the symbolic dimensions of textiles and fashion, embracing their broad and deep cultures rather than opposing them, and in doing so reclaiming their real human value across the world. In recent decades the voices of fashion sceptics have come to dominate the rhetoric surrounding the sustainability and ethical production of garments. In tandem, however, organizations have emerged to address these issues, so much so that most fashion weeks, typically held in major world cities, also feature ‘eco’ fairs or events on their itineraries. Self-declared ‘hacktivist’ Otto von Busch notes how, even though sustainability is gaining a place on the agenda of the global fashion industry, nothing really changes. As people consume beyond the resources of the planet, in the pursuit of dressing for status, they are passive to the decrees of fashion – albeit fashion purported to be more accessible or ‘democratic’ via the likes of cheaper clothes and the effects of social media. The paradox is clearly apparent: fashion, a vehicle for social mobility and self-expression and seemingly essential to liberal societies, is at the same time highly dictatorial and uniform. Von Busch presents the work of countercultural activists who are utilizing this situation as a source of energy from which to tap new tactics of resistance. He reflects on how these campaigners in different parts of the world are using fashion’s seasonal changes and the dominant



consumer system as an arena for political intervention, explaining how the fashion system presents one of the biggest challenges of all in the face of a sustainable agenda for textiles. For the contributors to this section, the issue of globalization is not merely abstract; through textiles, it is presented as a concrete part of human lives made manifest in what is produced, consumed, worn, traded and discarded around the world. The authors, artists, curators and activists demonstrate how in different ways textiles provide a key intersection to global issues across cultures.


Performing Globalization in the Textile Industry Anne Wilson and Mandy Cano Villalobos LISA VINEBAUM

This chapter explores the impacts of economic globalization on the textile industry, considered in fibre-based performance works by American artists Anne Wilson and Mandy Cano Villalobos. It locates globalization within a historical trajectory of industrialization and deindustrialization, in an industry that has long been characterized by movement. Globalization is an economic phenomenon, but it is also a social and intersubjective one. The artists under study respond to globalization, Wilson through the deployment of weaving, and Cano Villalobos using hand embroidery. Each artist performs the repetitive motions that textile work requires, to draw attention to the devastating effects of globalization on individuals and communities. Wilson’s projects Local Industry (Knoxville, Tennessee, 2010) and Walking the Warp Manchester (Manchester, UK , 2012) reflect on the demise of the textile industry in the United States and Britain, the result of increasingly deregulated global trade. Cano Villalobos’s ongoing series of sewing performances, Voces (Voices) explores the violent impact of apparel manufacturing in Mexico, where numerous factories were established as a result of global trade deregulation. An analysis of these projects can contribute to a greater understanding of the effects of globalization on the textile industry and on local communities in the North and the South alike.

ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION : KEY UNDERSTANDINGS The term globalization often functions as a synonym for the pursuit of neo-liberal trade policies. However, a distinction should be made between more general understandings of globalization as a type of increased connectedness across national borders, and economic globalization, with which this chapter is centrally concerned. Economic globalization began over a century ago with the creation of the first international organizations and trade agreements (della Porta et al. 2006). It accelerated rapidly during the 1990s as a result of neo-liberal economic policies, the deregulation of cross-border commerce – also known as free trade – and the proliferation of trans- and supra-national trade agencies and institutions. With the elimination of trade barriers, economic globalization accelerated the widespread deindustrialization of the North and spurred 169



the almost constant movement of sites of production within the so-called developing world. Because the trade designations governed by various free trade agreements change over time, bestowing or limiting benefits in specific countries or regions, manufacturing remains almost permanently mobile, moving from region to region, country to country in search of the lowest possible taxes, duties, manufacturing, and labour costs (Collins 2003). And because the key actors in global manufacturing are multinational corporations, they have no long-term commitment to the places where they operate. Production and job creation remain mobile, yet, ‘Locations that, for capital, are a temporary space for profitable production, are for workers and their families places in which to live’ (Benyon and Hudson, cited in Collins 2003: 9). Globalization has led to the mass migration of workers across space in search of jobs and better working conditions, together with the displacement of workers from stable and well-remunerated jobs into increasingly precarious, low waged, and unstable employment. Economic liberalization policies have also been particularly effective in redirecting the flow of capital from the public sector to the private sector, where wealth remains concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority. Globalization is also connected to new types of collaboration and community building, and to modes of artistic production that seek to expose its unsavoury impacts. Perhaps it is no coincidence that growing numbers of artists like Wilson and Cano Villalobos are turning to fibre to critique economic globalization: after all, the rise of the multinational corporation and the deregulation of international trade dramatically reconfigured the textile industry. Yet changes in textile manufacturing are also linked to prior types of movement. Postcolonial scholar Arjun Appadurai asserts that today’s globalization ‘extends the earlier logics of empire, trade, and political domination in many parts of the world’ (Appadurai 2000: 3). Textile production is inscribed with histories of colonization, enslavement, and exploitation that extend across time and space. The closure and relocation of factories in the USA , Britain, and Mexico can be traced back to prior instances of movement.

MANUFACTURING AND MOBILITY IN THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY Textiles were traded between Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East for centuries, travelling between cultures and containing designs and techniques from many different countries (Peck 2013). Trade occurred primarily over land until the fifteenth century, when maritime travel expanded dramatically. Wool and cotton were grown in one place and transported to centres where yarn and cloth were produced, then moved all over the world (Heerma van Voss et al. 2010). Cotton textiles, produced for many centuries in India, China, and Africa, entered European markets in substantial amounts during the seventeenth century, fuelling colonial trade in the eighteenth century and imperialism in the nineteenth (Maynes 2004).1 The modern textile industry was made possible by a combination of technical innovation and colonial domination, spurring new types of movement. The Industrial Revolution began with the mechanization of spinning and weaving; the invention of the cotton gin, spinning jenny, and mechanized looms intersected seamlessly with colonial systems of exploitation. With the construction of industrial textile mills in the north of England, Britain imposed steep protectionist tariffs on textiles produced in its colonies,



deliberately destroying textile production there. Yet their raw materials such as linen and wool and cotton in particular fuelled production in British mills. The British ships that carried raw materials and finished cloth to and from its colonies also transported slaves throughout its empire. The American Industrial Revolution also began in textiles. Britain discouraged the development of competitive industries in its colonies, yet soon after Independence, English immigrant Samuel Slater copied the Arkwright spinning mill, and textile production began at his mill in Rhode Island (Blewett 2010). Textile mills opened in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Cotton began to be planted in the American south at the turn of the nineteenth century, feeding the textile mills in the northeastern United States together with those in the north of England. As the demand for American cotton skyrocketed, so did the demand for labour, and the number of African slaves forced to work on cotton plantations grew exponentially. Cotton ‘changed the dynamics of the southern economy rapidly, with dire consequences for people of African origin’ (West, 2011: 5). Following the Civil War, textile manufacturing began to migrate from the northeastern United States to the south and southeastern parts of the country, to the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and other states, and ‘Between 1875 and 1905, cotton mills industrialized an agrarian South’ (Blewett 2010: 550). As textile workers in the New England states began to unionize and obtain better wages and working conditions, factory owners looked south in their quest for lower labour costs. Mill closures in New England began in the late 1880s, became common by the end of the 1920s, and continued for two decades; by mid-century, the south had replaced New England as the nation’s leading centre for textile production.2 Historian Beth English (2006) observes that these shifts marked an early step in the globalization of the textile industry, which began as a series of region-to-region relocations that continue today across national borders. Beginning in the 1970s and accelerating in the 1990s, American textile manufacturing started migrating offshore. Meat processing plants relocated to the southeastern United States from other parts of the country, drawn by low wages and unionization rates, and high levels of unemployment. This reflects a larger trend, as manufacturing jobs are replaced by jobs with lower pay and no healthcare benefits (Minchin 2009). In Britain, call centres are now clustered in the areas where the English textile industry once thrived, paying low wages to mostly immigrant workers – and prompting comparisons about exploitative working conditions across time and industry (The Economist 2001). The textile industry in the southern United States has been in stark decline since 1972. The causes are complex, and include factors such as the industry’s growing concentration in the hands of large retailers and multinational corporations; restructuring and downsizing; increased outsourcing and subcontracting; automation and the shift to retaildriven supply chains; the decline of long-distance transportation costs; and foreign competition.3 Some companies responded by cutting wages or moving production to more remote rural areas, hiring primarily African-American and immigrant workers (Blewett 2010). Numerous mills moved offshore; many others declared bankruptcy.4 Between 1994 and 2002 the industry lost 700,000 jobs, most of them in the American south; in 2002 alone, 116 mills closed their doors (Minchin 2009). Trade deregulation also took a toll on the industry. Following the Second World War, new trade agreements and regulatory bodies began to relax international restrictions on imports. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT ) was adopted in 1947 to promote unrestricted trade; however, exemptions were made for the textile industry to



ensure strong domestic production. The Multi Fiber Arrangement (MFA ), implemented in 1974, established specific quotas for textile manufacturing in an effort to strategically create or expand production in countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia. However, the MFA failed to promote the orderly growth of textile sectors in developing nations, and its main beneficiaries were multinational corporations with multiple sites of production (Collins 2003). The MFA was phased out in 2005, and today there are no international quotas governing the industry. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA ) in 1994, and China’s admission to the World Trade Organization in 2001, also helped open the doors to a flood of competition from cheap foreign imports (Minchin 2009). Projects by Wilson and Cano Villalobos explore the complex relationships between movement and migration, and the effects of globalization, industrialization, and deindustrialization on contemporary textile production.

ANNE WILSON : LOCAL INDUSTRY Chicago-based artist Anne Wilson works across weaving, sculpture, drawing, sewing, installation, video, and performance. Her expanded fibre practice is rooted in the complex histories and meanings of materials in contemporary culture. Her work has been exhibited extensively, including at the Hangzhou Fiber Triennial, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and as part of the 2002 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Wilson’s weaving performances Local Industry and Walking the Warp Manchester pay tribute to local textile histories, while examining the impacts of globalization on production, labour, and social relationships. Local Industry was created as part of Wilson’s larger exhibition Anne Wilson: Wind/ Rewind/Weave, curated by Chris Molinski at the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee in 2010. Also included were Rewinds, a sculptural glass work, and video documentation of Wind Up: Walking the Warp, performed in Chicago in 2008.5 Local Industry ‘took the form of an active weaving factory set up in a large museum space’.6 A floor loom was set up in the exhibition space, and 79 experienced weavers – most of them from Tennessee and surrounding states – wove a continuous length of striped cloth over the duration of the exhibition (see Plate 11.1). Viewers were invited to wind yarn around bobbins for the weavers to use. The yarn used to produce the cloth was donated to the Museum by individuals and by textile mills and factories, some of them facing bankruptcy. Conceived through a rigorous process of site visits, historical and academic research, and interactions with local hand weavers, Local Industry was created specifically for the Knoxville Museum of Art, located in ‘the historical heartland of hand-weaving traditions and industrial textile production’ (Molinski 2011: 1). Hand weaving in the southern Appalachian region declined sharply after the Civil War with the availability of massproduced fabrics, but it was reinvigorated at the turn of the twentieth century, when settlement schools were established to improve education and socio-economic conditions.7 The schools turned to weaving in an effort to promote women’s economic development, while also reviving local craft skills. Weaving ‘possessed some cultural and traditional ties to the area’ (Alvic 2003: 152); materials were readily available; and work could be done in the home without disturbing rural lifestyles. Weaving centres and schools offered instruction and coordinated the production, marketing, and sales of consumer goods woven by women in their homes. Working on four harness looms, women wove coverlets,



towels, runners, tablecloths, napkins, potholders, pillow tops, scarves, and curtains. Over the years, weavers in the region developed excellent technical skills. The Depression hit the region hard; most weaving centres survived but never regained their former size. Cutbacks to production, the failure to introduce new designs, and a lack of knowledge of business practices led to lower sales, and many centres closed. Today, centres such as Churchill Weavers, Fireside Industries at Berea College, and Allanstand continue to supply hand-woven consumer products, while schools like Penland School of Crafts and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts continue to fulfil craft educational missions. Hand weaving remains strong in the region. Yet the demise of textile manufacturing took its toll. The downsizing and closure of mills was accompanied by the loss of jobs, wages, pensions, and health benefits, increasing economic precariousness in a region with a history of poverty and inequality. In addition to economic impacts, Anderson (2000) notes that automation and the closure of mills profoundly affected family and community relations, citing for example, increased tensions resulting from racism toward migrant and immigrant workers; and substantial reductions in time spent with family and friends as a result of longer shifts, travelling greater distances to work, and the need to work multiple part-time jobs.8 In the southeastern United States, a region imbued with histories of slavery and suffering and poverty, it is almost impossible to compartmentalize the various modes of production that bump up against each other. Local Industry straddles the uneasy ground that connects hand and industrial modes of textile production in the region, while acknowledging the often invisible, gendered forms of labour that help sustain entire communities. In so doing, Local Industry may also be linked to a lineage of performance works that demand that we value unrecognized, hidden, and abject aspects of labour, work often relegated to women and immigrants and people of colour: Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Touch Sanitation project; Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance: Time Piece; Hi Red Center’s Cleaning Events, Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen, Minerva Cuevas’ Mejor Vida Corporation; and more recent, durational performance-meditations on labour by artists Aram Han Sifuentes, John Paul Morabito, and Anne Elizabeth Moore. Weaving is a corporeal process. The throw of the shuttle, the lifting of pedals, the counting of threads, require the body. In some types of weaving, the loom is attached to the body: it becomes a type of prosthetic, a physical extension of the body. Weaving requires the physical winding of the warp – a process explored by Wilson in collaborative weaving performances staged in Chicago (2008) and Houston (2010). Even today’s most technologically sophisticated, automated plants require the body of the worker: Anderson (2000) observes that workers walk the equivalent of several miles during their shifts, as they monitor the looms on which fabric is woven. Art historian Jenni Sorkin uses the term ‘live form’ to describe ‘the simultaneity of the craft-based performance and its produced object’ (Sorkin 2011: 37).9 She observes that, ‘a form is “live” in that the actions of the artist are permanently registered within the very form of the fabric’ (Sorkin 2011: 37). On the one hand, the notion of ‘live’ art – a term used in the UK to describe what we in the United States call ‘performance’ – is an apt framework within which to consider the making of art objects, a process that generally still requires the presence and attention of the artist. On the other hand, performance scholars such as Peggy Phelan and Erika Fischer-Lichte insist on the bodily co-presence of the performer and spectators as a condition for performance. Both these theoretical frameworks can help to situate the act of weaving in the space of the Knoxville Museum of Art as performance.



Enacted in the museum space, co-presence can transform weaving into a shared act that unfolds between the weaver and the viewer. The live performance of weaving in the context of the museum produces expanded forms of spectatorship and viewer interaction. The winding of bobbins and the active participation of viewers in the weaving process transform them into co-performers, their actions and gestures forming an integral part of the weaving process and by extension, the woven cloth. Fischer-Lichte (2008) further observes that performance wields transformative potential: it can produce physical or psychic transformations for the performer or the viewer or both; it can transform viewers into performers; and it can create community. Co-presence also allows for the transformation of space. By acting together, bodies bring the space of politics into being (Hannah Arendt, in Butler 2011). The accumulation of bodies in the act of weaving in the Knoxville Museum of Art transforms the space into a site of shared labour.10 Anne Wilson has described the act of viewers working together for Local Industry as being connected to the collective labour that unfolds in the textile mills (Wilson 2011). What’s more, because this space is constituted through collaborative co-presence rather than hierarchical relations, the space that emerges provides an alternative to the actual conditions of factory labour, conditions that have long been associated with the textile industry, and that have expanded and intensified with globalization. Sociologist Richard Sennett (2012) observes that the process of de-skilling brought about by industrialization also precipitated a loss of cooperation skills among workers, while eroding the skills required for dialogue, mutual understanding, and collaboration in society at large. He identifies cooperation as a skill that must be strengthened if our society is to truly be inclusive (Sennett 2012). By promoting participation and collaboration, Local Industry transforms the Museum space into shared social space. The act of weaving becomes a means of enacting the social, of fostering exchanges, and creating temporary forms of community within institutional space. The types of collaboration that produce woven cloth also serve to strengthen social bonds. Anne Wilson notes that weaving is a metaphor for ideas about coming together and for community (Wilson 2011: 45); in the context of Local Industry, fostering cooperation through the act of weaving may also be considered a type of re-skilling. The completed Local Industry cloth measures 24 inches (30 centimetres) wide and 75 feet, 9 inches (about 23 metres) long. It could not have been realized without the active involvement of the local community. The completed Local Industry cloth was exhibited at the Knoxville Museum of Art in 2011. Over 2,100 people worked on the cloth, which was donated to the Museum collection. It must always be exhibited accompanied by the archive of names of all those who helped to produce it. The cloth is durational and inscribed with the time and labour of its making. It is part of the fabric of the region’s complex histories of textile production – of a decimated industry and a persistent hand-making tradition.

WALKING THE WARP MANCHESTER Whereas Local Industry mobilizes co-presence, Anne Wilson’s performance Walking the Warp Manchester is anchored in material absence. It was staged on 25 February 2012, as part of Wilson’s larger contribution to the exhibition Cotton: Global Threads at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.11 The performance was a collaboration with composer Shawn Decker, choreographer Bridget Fiske, textile students from Manchester Metropolitan University, and dancers from The Lowry Centre for Advanced Training in



Dance. Twenty-one dancers performed Walking the Warp Manchester, a five-hour durational performance inspired by the histories of textile production in the northwest of England.12 Like Local Industry, Walking the Warp Manchester privileges the body and in so doing, highlights the collaborative nature of textile making. Whereas Local Industry performs that very making and attests to the survival of hand-weaving traditions within a larger historical trajectory of the demise of industry, Walking the Warp Manchester is a performed meditation on the loss of the local textile industry. Unlike Wilson’s previous weaving performances, Walking the Warp Manchester was performed without any physical warping structure or thread. The performers wind invisible bobbins, walk an invisible warp, and count and measure invisible threads (see Plate 11.2). As such, Walking the Warp Manchester seeks to materialize the absence of Lancashire’s once booming textile mills. While textiles often serve as a metonym for the absent body in contemporary art, here the body enacts the very absence of the textile and by extension, of the industry itself. The decline of Britain’s textile industry began following the Second World War. The international demand for textiles created a seller’s market, but there was little investment in new technologies needed to modernize the industry (Fowler 2010). GATT accelerated the decline of Britain’s cotton industry, and protective tariffs could not defend it from the growing flow of cheaper imported textiles from Italy, Japan, and India. The Cotton Industry Act of 1959 attempted to modernize the industry, but was ultimately unsuccessful in increasing efficiency or staving off foreign competition. What’s more, under the Act countless mills across Lancashire were closed rather than upgraded.13 The decline of the British textile industry is also linked to more recent domestic policies favouring downsizing, privatization, and the utopian transition to a knowledge economy: the replacement of manufacturing with high-tech industry, and by extension, of traditional manufacturing skills with the skills required to operate technology. The Guardian’s economics writer Aditya Chakrabortty notes that over the past 30 years, ‘the UK ’s manufacturing sector has shrunk by two-thirds, the greatest de-industrialisation of any major nation’ (Chakrabortty 2011: unpag.). Yet this decline has not been accompanied by a matching rise in the high-tech sector. Instead, the service industry has largely filled the void left by manufacturing. Wilson’s performance mirrors what Chakrabortty calls Britain’s ‘de-industrial revolution’ (Chakrabortty 2011: unpag.) or ‘the gradual shift from a mostly regional industrial economy to an internationally networked service economy’ (Gutelius 2010). Here it is also useful to cite cultural theorist Tiziana Terranova who uses the term ‘post-material’ economy in her analysis of the knowledge economy (Terranova 2006: 30). Walking the Warp Manchester is a meditation on the de-industrialized, post-material economy, and by extension, on Lancashire’s supposed transition to a knowledge economy. Gone are the textile factories, the jobs, the industry that came to sustain and define a region. Factories may close or relocate, yet the body of the worker remains. Walking the Warp: Manchester, with its insistence on the body, calls attention to the precarious position of labour, and by extension, the precarious position of the subject under late capitalism.

MANDY CANO VILLALOBOS : VOCES Mandy Cano Villalobos works across painting, fibre, performance and object making. She explores the impact of the past upon the present, choosing materials imbued with cultural meaning and symbolism – textiles, dirt, hair, and blood – to explore personal and



collective memory and history. Her work is often exhibited and performed in spaces that allow for dialogue and the sharing of experiences with members of the public, providing an opportunity for reflection and exchange. Initiated in 2008, Cano Villalobos’s ongoing series of sewing performances, Voces (Voices) memorializes the hundreds of feminicidios, or murdered women in Ciudad Juárez, located in the border state of Chihuahua, Mexico, just south of El Paso, Texas. Many of the victims are garment workers who labour in northern Mexico’s free trade zones, and Voces seeks to raise awareness about the violent impact of export and apparel manufacturing on those living in Mexico’s border region. To date, the project has been exhibited and performed in cities including Long Beach, Madison (Wisconsin), Grand Rapids (Michigan), Washington DC , and Chicago. Cano Villalobos spent part of her childhood living in El Paso, Texas, where her parents were stationed as part of their military service. She would often cross the border into Ciudad Juárez with her mother. Juárez was a magical place for her as a child, with women selling huge red paper flowers, and cab drivers with moustaches; it was only as an adult that she became aware of the economic inequality, violence and murders there.14 The Mexican NGO Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice For Our Daughters), a group that advocates for justice on behalf of the victims and their families, estimates that there have been at least 2,200 feminicidios in the state of Chihuahua since 1993 (Martinez 2014). For Voces, Cano Villalobos hand embroiders the names of individual victims onto second-hand white blouses and shirts. Each name is comprised of hundreds of individual stitches, carefully and caringly sewn by hand by the artist. The names are embroidered in pink thread, the colour used by organizations seeking justice for their murders. Some of the shirts are embroidered with ‘desoconocido’ or unknown, representing the women whose names remain unknown, or whose bodies were so mutilated or decomposed that they could not be identified. The laborious act of hand embroidery provides a site for personal reflection, while materializing the labour of the feminicidios, many of whom were garment workers. Cano Villalobos explains, ‘As the needle pierces each shirt, the suffering of each woman is lamented and recorded in thread. . . . The time taken to handstitch one name is a time taken to remember one person; it is to lovingly declare, “No, you are not forgotten. I remember you. I value you” ’ (in Lautenbach 2010: unpag.). She spends part of each exhibition sewing names onto shirts in the gallery space. Sewing in public creates space for dialogue and discussion with viewers, and provides an opportunity for education and exchange. Hundreds of shirts fill the spaces in which they are exhibited, sometimes stacked in piles, sometimes hung neatly on threads that crisscross the gallery, and sometimes installed on wood crosses. On the one hand, naming each individual woman is a humanizing gesture in a context where the feminicidios’ deaths remain unprosecuted, the lives of the women thereby rendered disposable (see Plate 11.3). On the other hand, the imposing presence of so many shirts drives home the monumental nature of the killings. Posters of the missing women line the walls of the exhibition space. Each poster is comprised of a photo of an individual missing woman, along with her name, biographical details, and the date on which she was last seen. They plead for information about her whereabouts, and attest to the fact that each missing woman belongs to a family and a larger community that wishes for her return. While the stitched shirts name individual feminicidios and memorialize them after their deaths, the posters provide the viewer with visual images of the women while they were still alive – smiling, vibrant, their faces looking back at us. For each iteration of Voces, Cano Villalobos erects memorial altars in



honour of the women, with photographs, incense, candles, paper flowers, and statues of saints – recalling those created by activists fighting for justice for the feminicidios (Staudt 2008). The combination of shirts, posters, and altars helps to keep the memory of the women alive, while calling attention to the violence that contributed to their untimely deaths – violence that can in turn be connected to globalization in the apparel industry.

THE GLOBAL APPAREL INDUSTRY Management Professor Andrew Godley observes that the ready-to wear-clothing industry is ‘perhaps the single most important industry in the economic history of the western world’ (Godley 1997: 3). Historian Beverly Lemire (1997) traces its origins to the mid-seventeenth century, when apparel became a necessity rather than a luxury, and increased periods of war prompted higher demand for clothing for members of the military. The ready-to-wear industry was made possible by the development of standardized garment sizes, introduced into the consumer market in the mid 1800s in London, and soon after in Paris (Godley 1997). With the emergence of the modern apparel industry, clothing went ‘from being “made for somebody” to being “made for anybody” ’ (Collins 2003: 30). Labour – most often performed by women – constitutes the most significant production cost associated with apparel manufacturing, and producers have consistently attempted to drive down wages.15 By the turn of the twentieth century, almost all apparel was manufactured in an assembly line or piecework system in which each individual item is assembled by a multitude of workers. Collins (2003) estimates that it took 25 to 30 pairs of hands to produce a single white shirt. The division of labour lowers costs by ensuring that each part of the process can be purchased more cheaply (Braverman 1998). The apparel industry has historically been associated with low wages and poor working conditions, and with the sweatshop in particular (Hapke 2004). The term sweatshop derives from the terms ‘sweating’ or ‘sweated labour’, originally used to describe a subcontracting system of farming work out to competing contractors (Howard 2007; Hapke 2004; Collins 2003; Ross 1997). For sociologist Andrew Ross, ‘Sweating was indigenous to garment production because of its division of labor’ (Ross 1997: 13). Historically, garment production involved relatively low investment costs limited mainly to buying or renting sewing machines, and so almost anyone could set up shop and produce clothing. At the turn of the twentieth century, sweatshops could just as easily be found in tenement homes as they could in factories in urban centres like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, cities where thousands of immigrants found employment in the needle trades. Today the US Department of Labor defines a sweatshop as ‘a place of employment that violate[s] two or more federal or state labor laws governing minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, or industry regulation’ (in Hapke 2004: 2). Sweatshops come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from suburban compounds and dwellings in cities like Los Angeles, to new, modern factories policed by armed guards in Central America’s free trade zones (Ross 1997). While it continues to be associated most closely with the apparel industry, workers in other sectors such as food and data processing are also subject to sweatshop conditions (Hapke 2004). For writer and union organizer Alan Howard, the function of the sweatshop is ‘to minimize the cost of labor by whatever means necessary’ (Howard 2007: 38). Despite substantial technological developments in the garment industry over the past



hundred years – in design, warehouse management, inventory, and distribution – sewing itself has not changed very much. Sweatshop conditions today remain more or less the same as 100 years ago.16 Yet the sweatshop has expanded exponentially and internationally.

MAQUILADORAS AND MURDER Sweatshop conditions prevail in the dozens of maquiladoras – facilities for the assembly, processing, or manufacturing of goods for export – located in Ciudad Juárez. While textiles and apparel represent the largest share of production, maquiladoras also produce electronics, furniture, chemical and food products, toys, and sporting goods (Pantaleo 2006). They employ over a million workers, most of them women. The maquiladoras are associated not only with abusive working conditions, but with hundreds of feminicidios, or femicides, the violent murders of women based on their gender.17 What distinguishes the feminicidios from other types of female homicide in Mexico is the extreme degree of brutality directed against women’s bodies, notably sexual violence (Romero et al. 2012; Schmidt Camacho 2005). Numerous women are raped and subjected to horrific sexual violence and torture before being killed, their bodies dumped on the outskirts of the city. Many victims have been beaten or found with their nipples and breasts bitten or cut off, and some were burned or poisoned. The women tend to be young, poor migrants who came to the area seeking employment from other parts of the country. Many of them have to walk long distances through isolated areas to get from their places of employment to their homes in the colonias (shantytowns) that surround the city. Waitresses, students, and women in the informal economy have all been targeted. So too, have numerous women working in the maquiladoras. Scholars and human rights advocates attribute the feminicidios to a complex web of interconnected factors including misogyny, gender discrimination, and a backlash against changing socio-economic roles for Mexican women; drug trafficking and high crime rates in the border region; and American immigration policy and the militarization of the border zone.18 Importantly for the purposes of this writing and its focus on globalization in the textile and apparel industries, numerous authors assert that the murders are inextricably connected to trade deregulation, and specifically, to the maquiladora industry in the free trade zones of Ciudad Juárez (Romero et al. 2012; Staudt 2008; Pantaleo 2006; Olivera and Furio 2006; Schmidt Camacho 2005; Livingston 2004; Amnesty International 2003).19 The maquiladora industry emerged in 1963 with changes to US tax regulations that permitted the offshore assembly and re-importation of domestically manufactured and cut fabric. The Border Industrialization Program was implemented two years later by the Mexican government in an effort to attract foreign production to the border area. The implementation of NAFTA in 1994 abolished all quotas and duties on apparel assembled in Mexico and imported to the USA , and created additional incentives for American companies to produce goods in Mexico, ultimately destroying Mexico’s domestic textile industry. Since NAFTA went into effect, Mexican wages dropped dramatically (Rosen 2002).20 Widespread poverty and the predominance of poorly paid jobs have ‘forced women to join the labor market under conditions of great inequality and vulnerability’ (Olivera and Furio 2006: 108), a view also shared by Staudt (2008), Pantaleo (2006) and Livingston (2004). Juárez is the largest export-processing zone in the country. Political scientist Kathleen Staudt observes that, ‘Under the economic model of export-processing industrial



production, conditions foment rampant violence against women’ (Staudt 2008: 144), while Professor Alicia Schmidt Camacho asserts that, ‘The peculiar features of the Juárez killings correspond to the physical and political geography of the northern city, its shared boundary with the United States, and its importance as a site of Mexican partnership with global capitalist institutions’ (Schmidt Camacho 2005: 259). Yet the signatory countries to NAFTA have yet to develop any kind of human rights agreement (Staudt 2008). In response to the murders, families organized and formed coalitions with women’s and human rights organizations throughout Mexico and the USA . Artists have also been working to raise attention nationally and internationally. Mexican artist Teresa Margolles’s La búsqueda (The Search; 2014) combines freestanding glass panels from Ciudad Juárez affixed with posters of the missing women and a sound installation. Norwegian artist Lise Bjørne Linnert’s project Desconocida Unknown Ukjent asks viewers to hand embroider names of the victims. NI UNA MAS (Not One More): The Juarez Murders, exhibited at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University in 2010, featured over sixty works by twenty international artists.

SEWING , MEMORY, AND HISTORIES OF VIOLENCE IN LATIN AMERICA Cano Villalobos chose embroidery in an effort to respond to the murders and injustices associated with the maquiladoras and free trade zones in Ciudad Juárez and the state of Chihuahua ‘through a medium I was familiar with . . . I turned to a silent, sort of meditative activism through an artistic process.’21 In so doing, she joins other contemporary artists like Carole Frances Lung, Margarita Cabrera, and Celia Álvarez Muñoz, who use sewing to raise awareness about globalization and the abuses of the global garment industry. Voces is also linked to other initiatives in which sewing has served a memorial function, bringing people together to remember their lost loved ones; to memorialize those who passed away due to illness or violence; to help transform their grief and loss; and as part of collective healing efforts in the wake of political violence. These projects include, for example, The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the Amazwi Abesifazane (Voices of Women) project initiated in South Africa in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Walking With Our Sisters project demanding justice for the hundreds of disappeared and murdered Native women in Canada, and the Hmong story cloths that depict scenes of ethnic persecution and forced exile. Importantly, Voces connects to a contemporary history of textiles mobilized in political protests and human rights campaigns in Latin America, and in particular, those demanding justice for people murdered and disappeared under military and dictatorial regimes during the 1970s through 1990s. In countries such as Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Uruguay, regimes installed to maintain American corporate interests facilitated the implementation of neo-liberal economic policies, the eradication of unions, and the privatization of state-run industries. With the backing of successive American governments, these regimes were responsible for the murders of tens of thousands of their citizens – many of them labour activists, union organizers, and workers. The neo-liberal policies implemented by these governments were precursors to the free trade agreements and free trade zones that proliferate in the region today. In countries like Chile, Peru, and Argentina, textiles and sewing in particular have been deployed in efforts to call national and international attention to the atrocities of the



region’s Dirty Wars, and to demand justice for tens of thousands of victims who were disappeared and murdered under military rule. In Peru, the Chalina de Esperanza (Scarf of Hope) is a half-mile-long collection of hand-knit panels memorializing the 15,000 victims of the country’s internal wars. Knit collectively in public spaces, the scarf is part of larger efforts to obtain justice for the families and victims of those murdered and disappeared. Chilean arpilleras – named for the canvas bags on which they are sewn – combine colourful thread and cloth appliqué to depict scenes of harsh brutality unleashed on the population under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and demanding an end to the violence suffered by Chileans under his rule between 1973 and 1990. In conjunction with Catholic Church groups, the arpilleras were smuggled out of the country to alert the world to human rights abuses, telling the stories of individual children, husbands, and siblings who were detained and disappeared (Caldwell 2012). In Argentina, The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) came together in 1977 to protest the disappearances of their sons and daughters under military rule. It is estimated that 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured, and murdered between 1976 and 1983. Every Thursday, the mothers would walk around the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires carrying banners and placards of their children. They wore white fabric head coverings – often cloth diapers – to signify their motherhood. They hand embroidered the names of their disappeared children into the cloth, together with the phrase Aparición con Vida, a plea for them to come back alive.22 They continue to march every Thursday demanding justice, their stitched inscriptions helping to keep the memory of their children alive while naming individual victims of horrific crimes. As part of Voces, Cano Villalobos holds sewing workshops and invites others to sew with her. She has organized sewing circles with students at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she is an Assistant Professor, and created sewing workshops with Pailalen, a family empowerment group serving the Spanish-speaking community of West Michigan. Here too, Voces connects to prior instances of collective political sewing: the British suffragettes organized skills sharing and banner-making workshops, while Chilean arpilleristas organized talleres or workshops where they taught and shared traditional arpillera sewing and appliqué skills (Pérez Hernandez and Viñolo Berenguel 2010). Using participatory sewing, Voces helps raise awareness about the plight of the feminicidios, while bringing members of diverse communities together. As such, the project is connected to the notion of performing with – rather than performing for – a concept explored in critical ethnography and implemented in community based, intercultural and socially engaged performance by scholar-practitioners such as D. Soyini Madison and the late Dwight Conquergood. Voces is one of several projects initiated by Cano Villalobos and grouped under the title Recuerdos (Memories), which use sewing in public performance to keep alive the memory of those who were brutally murdered under American-sponsored military dictatorships and regimes in South America. For the project N.N. (Ningún Nombre or No Name), Cano Villalobos sews a piece of white cloth over photographs of victims of military violence from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. The initials ‘NN ’ are used to mark the graves into which thousands of mutilated, unknown bodies were dumped, and the project attests to the fact that even today, some governments are attempting to obscure the atrocities of the past. Identity/Identification is a gridded quilt, sewn by hand using human hair, of identification numbers assigned by the Chilean government to its citizens. The artist is in the process of embroidering the numbers of all 27,153 political prisoners tortured, disappeared or executed under the Pinochet dictatorship.



The various projects that comprise Recuerdos draw inspiration from a contemporary history of sewing used to commemorate and demand justice for victims of violence in Latin America, a region that has undergone substantial political and economic upheaval over the past fifty years. Cano Villalobos reminds us that direct, state sanctioned violence and indirect, economic violence, while not equivalent, are most certainly connected. Mandy Cano Villalobos harnesses the cultural histories and politics of sewing to make traces of the past visible today, and to at least symbolically undo the violent erasure of peoples’ lives. Cultural theorist Andreas Huyssen calls for a ‘productive remembering’ (Huyssen 2003: 27), noting that memory is ‘a mode of re-presentation’ that belongs ever more to the present than the past (Huyssen 2003: 3). He observes that in the context of globalization and the weakening of national structures, ‘We need both past and future to articulate our political, social, and cultural dissatisfaction with the present state of the world’ (Huyssen 2003: 6). For Huyssen, the future of memory remains a social process, and artists have an important role to play in the re-presentation of the past. For performance studies scholar Diana Taylor, the memory of violent and traumatic pasts also demands new types of spectatorship. She asks, ‘How can we, as spectators in a global, scopic economy, look across national borders?’ (Taylor 1997: 264). ‘Are we complicit? Can we work to end violence, or will we go on “just looking”?’ (Taylor 1997: xii). With its emphasis on memory and mourning for the murdered women, Voces also demands more empathic forms of spectatorship. The project sheds light on the exploitation and violence associated with apparel production, but perhaps even more importantly, asks us to reflect on our own roles as consumers of goods produced in Mexico’s border region, and by extension, our own (perhaps unwilling) complicity and participation in an economic system that has led to the deaths of thousands of women.

CONCLUSION Economic globalization is an uneven and durational process, and one characterized by movement. Textile manufacturing is inextricably linked to histories of movement and migration. Through the performance of the repetitive movements of textile work, Anne Wilson and Mandy Cano Villalobos examine the impacts of globalization on local sites of production, Wilson in the North, and Cano Villalobos in the South. These performed movements link the emergence of the modern textile industry, its demise in the West, and its movement offshore; and they connect histories of textile production in the southeastern United States, the northwest of England, and Mexico. They are connected to the ongoing survival of traditional skills and local knowledge, and to histories of resistance and empowerment. Finally, these movements connect us to history, and to each other, and they locate our historical past within a precarious present, and an increasingly uncertain future.


A comprehensive account of textile trade and movement in the early modern period can be found in Peck (2013).


Southern mills also started producing synthetic fabrics like rayon, nylon, acrylics and polyesters (Blewett 2010). For a case study of the relocation of the Dwight Manufacturing Company’s mills from Massachusetts to Alabama, see English (2006).


For details see in particular Mosley (2011); Minchin (2009); Collins (2003); and Anderson (2000).




For a case study of the rise and fall of Cannon Mills, see Anderson (2000); on its sale and subsequent bankruptcy as Pillowtex Mills, see Minchin (2009); on the relocation of Tultex from Virginia to Mexico, see Collins (2003).


See in particular the excellent exhibition catalogue Anne Wilson: Wind/Rewind/Weave. Knoxville, TN : Knoxville Museum of Art and WhiteWalls (2011).


Art:21 interview with Anne Wilson, (accessed 15 May 2012).


The writing on hand weaving in the southern Appalachians is compiled from Alvic’s extensive study (2003).


On a positive note, she also cites instances of increased collaboration, for example, sharing childcare duties, pooling resources, and community organizing (Anderson 2000).


See also, Interview with Jenni Sorkin, Bad at Sports Episode 353, 2012, available from (accessed 23 May 2012).

10. On institutional space and artistic labour, see Bryan-Wilson (2011: 53–60). 11. The performance was accompanied by projections of earlier walking performances (Chicago – 2008 and Houston – 2010); the display of the Local Industry cloth; and Egyptian first millennium cloth fragments from the Whitworth’s textile collection, curated by Wilson. COTTON: Global Threads was curated by Jennifer Harris, see www. (accessed 5 May 2012). 12. See (accessed 24 March 2012). 13. On the demise of British textile manufacturing, see Sandberg (1974). Today there remains a very small amount of textile manufacturing in the UK , specializing primarily in textiles for medical, automotive, aerospace, and architectural applications. 14. Discussion with the artist, Chicago, 6 June 2013. 15. On gender in the industry see MacNaughtan and Hunter (2010: 707–724); Hapke (2004); Collins (2003); Rosen (2002, and in particular Chapter 2, pp. 13–26). 16. In the United States, union organizing and government regulations succeeded in substantially restricting sweatshop conditions between the 1930s and the 1960s; see Howard (2007); Rosen (2002); and Ross (1997). 17. For a detailed study of femicide worldwide, see Strengthening Understanding of Femicide, Conference Proceedings, Washington, DC , 2009. 18. For details see Olivera and Furio (2006); Pantaleo (2006); Schmidt Camacho (2005); Livingston (2004); and Amnesty International (2003). Ciudad Juárez has the highest rate of domestic violence in the country (Livingston (2004)). Staudt (2008) observes that the feminicidios occur within a larger global context in which violence against women is normalized and accepted. 19. Since 2008, feminicidios in Ciudad Juárez have increased dramatically while spreading to other parts of Mexico; see (accessed 7 June 2014). 20. On the impacts of NAFTA on Mexico see Chapter 9 in Rosen (2002: 153–176). Olivera and Furio (2006) further observe that globalization and neoliberalism have deepened historical inequality and led to greater unemployment, the privatization of communal lands, the disintegration of the peasant economy, and social polarization. They also cite an increase in violence in Mexico more generally as a result of neo-liberalism. 21. Email correspondence with the artist, 23 June 2014. 22. On the Madres, see Taylor (1997).



REFERENCES Alvic, Philis. 2003. Weavers of the Southern Highlands. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. Amnesty International. 2003. Mexico: Intolerable Killings: Ten Years of Abductions and Murders in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. Anderson, Cynthia. 2000. The Social Consequences of Economic Restructuring in the Textile Industry: Change in a Southern Mill Village. New York: Garland Publishing. Appadurai, Arjun. 2000. ‘Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination’. Public Culture Vol. 12(1): 1–19. Blewett, Mary H. 2010. ‘USA : Shifting Landscapes of Class, Culture, Gender, Race and Protest in the American Northeast and South’. In Heerma van Voss, Lex, Hiemstra-Kuperus, Els, and Van Nederveen Meerkerk, Elise (eds), The Ashgate Companion to the History of Textile Workers, 1650–2000. Farnham, UK : Ashgate: 531–560. Braverman, Henry. 1998. ‘The Division of Labor ’. In Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, 25th Anniversary Edition. New York: Monthly Review Press: 49–58. Bryan Wilson, Julia. 2011. ‘Sites of Material Production’ in Anne Wilson Wind/Rewind/Weave. Knoxville, TN : Knoxville Museum of Art. Butler, Judith. 2011. ‘Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street’, eipcp. Available from (accessed 6 October 2011). Caldwell, Dayna L. 2012. ‘The Chilean Arpilleristas: Changing National Politics Through Tapestry Work’, Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. Paper 665. Chakrabortty, Aditya. 2011. Why Doesn’t Britain Make Things Any More? The Guardian, 16 November 2011, unpag., (accessed 21 May 2012). Collins, Jane L. 2003. Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Della Porta, Donatella, Andretta, Massimiliano, Mosca, Lorenzo, and Reiter, Herbert (eds). 2006. Globalization From Below: Transnational Activists and Protest Networks (Social Movements, Protest, and Contention, Vol. 26). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. English, Beth. 2006. A Common Thread: Labor, Politics, and Capital Mobility in the Textile Industry. Athens, GA : University of Georgia Press. Fischer-Lichte, Erika. 2008. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics (trans. S.I. Jain). London: Routledge. Fowler, Alan. 2010. ‘Great Britain: Textile Workers in the Lancashire Cotton and Yorkshire Wool Industries’. In Heerma van Voss, Lex, Hiemstra-Kuperus, Els, and Van Nederveen Meerkerk, Elise (eds), The Ashgate Companion to the History of Textile Workers, 1650– 2000. Farnham, UK : Ashgate: 231–252. Godley, Andrew. 1997. ‘The Development of the Clothing Industry: Technology and Fashion’. Textile History Vol. 28(1): 3–10. Gutelius, Beth. 2010. ‘Introduction to Chicago’s Goods Movement Infrastructure’ Notes for a Peoples’ Atlas of Goods Movement. Chicago: WWJ and Area: unpag. Available from http:// Hapke, Laura. 2004. Sweatshop: The History of an American Idea. New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers University Press. Heerma van Voss, Lex, Hiemstra-Kuperus, Els, and Van Nederveen Meerkerk, Elise (eds). 2010. ‘Textile Workers Around the World, 1650–2000: Introduction to a Collective Work



Project’. The Ashgate Companion to the History of Textile Workers, 1650–2000. Farnham, UK : Ashgate: 1–16. Howard, Alan. 2007. ‘Labor, History, and Sweatshops in the New Global Economy ’, in Livingstone, Joan and Ploof, John (eds), The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth and Cultural Production. Chicago: School of the Art Institute of Chicago Press, and Cambridge MA : MIT Press: 31–50. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press. Lautenbach, Nancy. 2010. ‘Voces Exhibition Honors the Dead and Challenges Views’. The Rapidian, Wednesday, 24 November 2010, unpag., available from voces-exhibition-honors-dead-and-challenges-viewers. Lemire, Beverly. 1997. Dress, Culture and Commerce: The English Clothing Trade before the Factory, 1660–1800. Basingstoke, UK : Macmillan/Palgrave. Livingston, Jessica. 2004. ‘Murder in Juárez: Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Global Assembly Line’. Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol. 25(1): 59–76. MacNaughtan, Helen, and Hunter, Janet. 2010. ‘Gender and the Global Textile Industry ’. In Heerma van Voss, Lex, Hiemstra-Kuperus, Els, and Van Nederveen Meerkerk, Elise (eds), The Ashgate Companion to the History of Textile Workers, 1650–2000. Farnham, UK : Ashgate: 707–724. Martinez, Paris. 2014.‘Las desapariciones de mujeres en Chihuahua aumentaron 130% con el gobierno de EPN ’. AnimalPolitico, 24 March 2014. Available from http://www. p4 (accessed 7 June 2014). Maynes, Mary Jo. 2004. ‘Gender, Labor, and Globalization in Historical Perspective: European Spinsters in the International Textile Industry, 1750–1900’. Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 15(4): 47–66. Minchin, Timothy J. 2009. ‘ “It Knocked This City to Its Knees”: The Closure of Pillowtex Mills in Kannapolis, North Carolina and the Decline of the US Textile Industry ’. Labor History Vol. 50(3): 287–311. Molinski, Chris. 2011. ‘Notes on the Exhibition’, in Anne Wilson: Wind/Rewind/Weave. Knoxville, TN : Knoxville Museum of Art and WhiteWalls: 1–10. Mosley, Layna. 2011. Labor Rights and Multinational Production. New York: Cambridge University Press. Olivera, Mercedes and Furio, Victoria J. 2006. ‘Violencia Femicida: Violence Against Women and Mexico’s Structural Crisis’. Latin American Perspectives Vol. 33(4): 104–114. Pantaleo, Katie. 2006. ‘Gendered Violence: Murder in the Maquiladoras’. Sociological Viewpoints, Fall: 13–23. Peck, Amelia. 2013. ‘Trade Textiles at the Metropolitan Museum: A History ’. In Peck, Amelia (ed), Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500–1800. London: Thames and Hudson: 2–11. Pérez Hernández, Alba, and Viñolo Berenguel, Maria. 2010. ‘Las arpilleras, una alternativa textil feminina de participación y resistencia social’. In Gil C. Gregorio (ed), ¿Por qué tienen que decir que somos diferentes? Mujeres inmigrantes, sujetos de acción politica. Granada: Otras: 41–54. Romero, Teresa Incháustegui et al. 2012. Violencia feminicida en México. Características, tendencias y nuevas expresiones en las entidades federativas: 1985–2010. Mexico City: United Nations. Ross, Andrew. 1997. ‘Introduction’. In Ross, Andrew (ed), No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade and the Rights of Garment Workers. New York: Verso: 9–38.



Rosen, Ellen Israel. 2002. Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry. Berkeley, CA : University of California Press. Sandberg, Lars G. 1974. Lancashire in Decline: A Study in Entrepreneurship, Technology, and International Trade. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Schmidt Camacho, Alicia. 2005. ‘Ciudadana X: Gender Violence and the Denationalization of Women’s Rights in Ciudad Juárez’. CR: The New Continental Review, Vol. 5(1), Terror wars: 255–292. Sennett, Richard. 2012. Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Sorkin, Jenni. 2011. ‘Constructing Community ’. In Anne Wilson: Wind/Rewind/Weave. Knoxville, TN : Knoxville Museum of Art and WhiteWalls: 33–37. Staudt, Kathleen. 2008. Violence and Activism at the Border: Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juárez. Austin, TX : University of Texas Press. Taylor, Diana. 1997. Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’. Durham, NC : Duke University Press. Terranova, Tiziana. 2006. ‘Of Sense and Sensibility: Immaterial Labour in Open Systems’, in Krysa, Joasia (ed), Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems, Data Browser 03. New York: Autonomedia: 27–37. The Economist. 2001. ‘The Asians Are Coming, Again’. April 26, 2001. Available from: http:// (accessed 21 May 2012). West, Jean, M. 2011. King Cotton: The Fiber of Slavery. PBS Slavery in America: 1–12. Wilson, Anne. 2011. ‘Notes on Wind Up: Walking the Warp’. In Anne Wilson: Wind/Rewind/ Weave. Knoxville, TN : Knoxville Museum of Art and WhiteWalls: 44–45.



Changing Perceptions of Curatorial Practice in South Asian and Commonwealth Textiles JASLEEN DHAMIJA

INTRODUCTION The period from 1980 to 2014 has seen a remarkable evolution of the role of the curator in the international presentation of textiles between India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Australia. These countries share a common heritage of European (Dutch and British) colonization. The ‘Commonwealth’ of former British colonies, formed after Independence movements in the 1950s still exists as a loosely aligned group of countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific which have ties to English language and law. The Commonwealth Games is held every two years with opportunities for collaborations and exhibitions between a wide range of countries connected through colonial histories. Two exhibitions in Melbourne and Delhi in 2006 and 2010, curated by Suzanne Davies and Jasleen Dhamija, presented the emotional force and cultural nuance of textiles as power cloths in the Commonwealth context. The exhibition held in Delhi, Power Cloths of the Commonwealth for the 2010 Commonwealth Games demonstrated ideas of power and trade by including Aboriginal artists from Australia and the work of the First Nations people from Canada. Their textiles showed the impact of changing geo-climatic conditions, and the continual influences of links through trade, migrations and the impact of religious practices and beliefs.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND South Asian textiles, and particularly those of India, are the richest expression of the people, and are one of the most powerful and exciting art forms. The earliest records suggest that the quality and abundance of form, technique and colour in Indian textiles have attracted traders from classical Europe, the Levant, China and south-east Asia. This chapter explores how these textiles are closely linked not only with power but also with the rituals and spirituality of the diverse peoples across the sub-continent and beyond, playing an important role in the ceremonies of each region. In an overview of Indian 187



textiles, John Gillow observed, ‘From the Rann of Kutch to the Coromandel Coast, and from the deserts of Sind and Baluchistan to the North-West Frontier, and in the padibounded villages of Bangladesh the hand-loom weavers, block printers, textile painters, dyers and embroiderers work to continue the developing traditions of textile craft in the sub-continent’ (Gillow and Barnard 2014: 11). A range of materials – bark, plant, fibres, cotton, silk, beads, shells, gold and silver – are used with consummate skill to create myriad patterns and motifs distinct to each district. These motifs, often developed over long histories of culture, are of great significance as they are an expression of the creator’s beliefs, of their spiritual and magical world in which each individual society carves out its life of the benign and the threatening. In South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – the majority of textile production was the work of professional master weavers, involving the work of the family group across generations. By contrast in Southeast Asia, it was exclusively the women who created the textiles, which they wove for the ceremonies of the court, as well as for family. ‘Textiles are able to show history from a different perspective by reflecting a female view of the contact between different cultures and are an alternative to the princely epics of war, succession and dominance’, wrote Robyn Maxwell (1990: 24). Textiles, then, in the kingdoms that existed in what are now Indonesia and Malaysia, were an expression of women’s understanding of culture, their traditions and their beliefs. They wove for special occasions such as birth, marriage and funeral ceremonies, they wove to express themselves and they presented their view of society, quite distinct from the commercial production, which was dominated by the male weavers.

TEXTILES FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA : SARI TO SARONG A major exhibition that illuminated the wealth of textile knowledge in these regions early in the twenty-first century was Sari to Sarong: 500 years of Indian and Indonesian textile exchange curated by Robyn Maxwell at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in 2003 which presented the vast canvas of South Asian and Southeast Asian Textiles, all from the National Gallery of Australia collection. Maxwell had begun working in Indonesia as a volunteer lecturer in Bandung for two years in 1972 with her husband John Maxwell. She immersed herself in the Indonesian world of textiles, which resulted in an early exhibition of textiles at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1976. Her knowledge of the Indonesian language bahasa opened many doors for her and she absorbed the diverse range of variations of textiles and their techniques woven in the isolated islands. A grant-in-aid from the Myer Foundation Asian Pacific in 1975 enabled her to research in Indonesia not only on the techniques for the creation of a range of textiles, but also on the way in which they were used and the significance they had for the different communities of the vast Indonesian archipelago (Maxwell 1990: 1–2). Beginning in 1983 she spent over a year carrying out archival research on Southeast Asian textiles in the ethnographic museums in the Netherlands, which had an extensive collection and data. She also researched in the UK , France, Germany and Switzerland. This honed Maxwell’s knowledge of the Indonesian traditions, as well as her knowledge of its interconnections with a range of Indian, Chinese and Western influences, resulting in the publication of a comprehensive volume in 1990 entitled Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation. (A new edition appeared in paperback in August 2014.)



Robyn Maxwell’s curation of Sari to Sarong: 500 years of Indian and Indonesian textile exchange was based on her in-depth research into the multifaceted exchanges between India and Indonesia (Maxwell 2004: 1). The continuing momentum of the international spice trade contributed to textile interchanges. The exhibits showed the finest collection of Indian and Indonesian textiles surviving from the great volume of trade between the two, which ranged from the fourteenth century to the present. The Indian textiles displayed demonstrated the great scope of techniques and designs, ‘from monochrome bales of sturdy weaves to exquisitely painted cottons and intricately tie-dyed silks’ as Maxwell described them (Maxwell 2004: 2). The capacity of Indian artists to adapt age-old techniques to meet new market demands was renowned. Maxwell’s exhibition was greatly enriched by having the unparalleled collection of Indonesian textiles especially from Sumatra and Sulawesi, acquired by the National Gallery of Australia through purchase and gift from Robert J. Holmgren and Anita E. Spertus (Kennedy 2004: vii). Meticulous fieldwork and research over the years analysed the importance of each piece in the life of the different inhabitants of dispersed islands. It is the Indonesian textiles that dominated the exhibition for their extraordinary quality and the richness of their weaves and designs. It is true that the Indian textiles were also of finest quality, but they were essentially trade cloths. Such imported textiles were used to enhance the ritual and identity of different communities. The islands of Indonesia had embraced the religions and philosophies of India, both Buddhism and Hinduism since the founding of the great Borobodur stupa in Java in the late eighth century (Maxwell 2004: 25). For example, the imagery of Kalamkari scenes of the battle of good versus evil in its depiction of the Hindu Ramayana epic were painted on sized cotton cloth and hung in some of the local temples of Bali, as well as presented in the village displays. In central Sulawesi, the life-size painted images of a battle scene were treated as a magical cloth created by the gods and were called ma’a. Large mordant-painted and dyed cotton hangings display Hindu and Jain images. Persian, European, Islamic, even Chinese mythical beasts appear on the Indian cloth. These precious heirlooms and hangings functioned as apotropaic or protective cloths that drew on invisible worlds to guard the living. Silk textiles, patterned with intricate tie-dye techniques, have also survived as treasured heirlooms in the courts and remote villages of Indonesia. ‘Whether local or imported, whether made by highly esteemed local experts or created by deified ancestors, the ownership and control of fine textiles adds to the prestige and power of clan leaders, aristocratic families and royal households’ (Maxwell 2004: 115). They were the wealth of the women of the household, as power cloths that enhanced her importance. The double ikat (tie-dyed) patola was an extraordinary silk textile five metres long imported from Patan in Gujarat, India. Maxwell commented, ‘Patterned by separately tying and dyeing the weft and warp threads into intricate designs before weaving, the textiles are amongst the most admired, most prestigious and most expensive both within India and Indonesia’ (Maxwell 2004: 112). The village or clan patola often represented the soul of the village in parts of Flores and was used by the priest as the oracle to foretell the future of the village. If it was discovered in a torn or fragile condition it indicated human or natural tragedy. If its condition was intact it foretold prosperity (Maxwell 2004: 116). Because of its power, the patola motifs of stripes and triangles would inspire myriads of imitations and adaptations across the Indonesian islands using varying materials, cotton, silk or gold thread and techniques from ikat, embroidery or elaborate and distinctive batik. The patolas were in great demand throughout Southeast Asia and were seen as



power cloths. Indian prototypes gradually evolved into the sacred double ikat cotton gringsing wayang textiles of Tenganan in Bali. The shadowy figures in the double ikat patterns (gringsing) are represented in the style of powerful shadow puppets (wayang), which have long played an important spiritual role in Java and Bali (Maxwell 2004: 27–28). The gringsing or double ikat combined with the powerful mandala design creates a rich magical space used for performing crucial rituals to protect, to heal and create a magical area. The historical impact of Indian religious ideas and imagery introduced to Indonesia with Hinduism and Buddhism in the first millennium of the present era continued to be evident in Indonesian textiles but the core Hindu ideas evolved and changed. These ideas were more pronounced in Bali and Java. The significance and meaning of the Garuda, the sacred eagle, the carrier of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology was very different in Hindu Bali, compared to Islamic Java. In Bali the Garuda, the sacred eagle, was the vehicle of the Hindu deity Vishnu, whereas in Java – as in many Southeast Asian courts despite their religious orientation – the Garuda became a popular symbol of royalty and was represented by the stylized wings created on the batik and worn by the male and female courtiers in the palaces. In some cases, the symbolic meaning of some highly esoteric Indian imagery has been lost by the average weaver, whereas the shamans, who carried out ritual ceremonies were familiar with its deep significance. The mandala-like arrangement of designs on many head cloths and coverings across the Malay coastal cultures and extending to some of the remote islands of the Philippines, related to Indian inspired architectural forms and visualized mantra. Based on Maxwell’s in-depth knowledge and with a desire to convey the significance of the symbolic language to the viewer, Sari to Sarong: 500 years of Indian and Indonesian textile exchange explored these interactions using related thematic displays. The display began with the pervasive symbol of the ship, which appears frequently in supplementary weft weave cotton Indonesian textiles as representing not only ancestral trade and voyages but also the journey of the mysterious inner-world. The ship is a mortuary image of the world beyond in textiles from Borneo and South Sumatra. Maxwell related how these places were at the crossroads of a millennium of trade between the islands, India and the West. The enigmatic ship motif is linked to cosmological concepts and is absorbed into ritual and ceremonial observations in villages, revealing the interconnections between the significance of the symbols of different cultures (Maxwell 2004: 4–5). In the exhibition, the central gallery space was devoted entirely to historical Indian textiles collected in Indonesia. This space demonstrated the diversity of sources that inspired Indonesian textile craftswomen over the centuries. It contained elaborately woven fabrics, embroidered royal umbrellas, as well as the protective and sacred Indian patolas, discussed above, which were used as protective magic by traditional healers. Robyn Maxwell with her in-depth knowledge of the textiles of Indonesia is a notable curator of Anglo-Saxon background, who brought out the relevance of the fabrics as a deeply significant non-verbal language that traced the ancient history of the people.

EXHIBITION : THREADING THE COMMONWEALTH The next important exhibition was organized by Suzanne Davies, Director and Curator of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT ) Gallery in Melbourne. The RMIT Gallery won the tender to organize an exhibition of textiles for the Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne in 2006. In September 2004, Suzanne Davies presented the



concept proposal to the office of the Cultural Producer, Cultural Festival, Commonwealth Games, Melbourne, 2006 (see Plate 12.1). The exhibition was entitled Threading the Commonwealth: textile tradition, culture, trade and politics. Suzanne Davies, an experienced Australian academic, arts writer and curator, who has programmed and managed over 257 exhibitions of fine arts, design, fashion, architecture and new media exhibitions was closely linked to emerging art trends, and built an eminent reputation for the RMIT Gallery. The exhibition for the Commonwealth Games was a challenge as it presented a strong case for organizing an exhibition of textiles as cultural artifacts created by hand, based on the local materials and expressing the creative genius of the people and their cultural history. The exhibition also explored the complex relationship of the different Commonwealth countries that had evolved over time and how the changing balances affected historical and post-colonial situations. Suzanne Davies, who is open to new challenges, wanted to create a presentation of the in-depth work done by scholars, art historians, anthropologists and musicologists on the significance of textiles as a powerful cultural and political expression, which shaped the study of the post-colonial situation. Besides this, for Davies, textiles were a long-standing passion and this coincided with the fact that RMIT University had taught textile handling since 1918 and textile design since 1950. To this day, RMIT University offers Victoria’s only textile design degree and this has led to a sensitive faculty as well as students exposed to textiles. Here was an opportunity, perhaps for the first time, that the cultural range of a vast area, coupled with a changing concept of time was brought together under one roof to illustrate the diversity and commonalities between the constituent nations of the Commonwealth. The focus countries were India, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand and Malaysia, with a long list of lending institutions from Australia, Canada, India, Austria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. In addition, Commonwealth artists, such as Yinka Shonibare from Great Britain and Bani Abidi from Pakistan exhibited works based on textiles at National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre. The exhibition reached out to 36 countries by presenting ‘power’ as two broad themes: ‘Cloths of Power’ and an important aspect of social interaction through ‘Rites of Passage’ (Davies, 2006: 43). Suzanne Davies realized that a project of this breadth would require wide-ranging specialist knowledge, and she approached Indian textile scholar Jasleen Dhamija, based in New Delhi, whose expertise included decades of experience in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The logistics of curating and organizing an exhibition of such complexity was handled jointly. Their knowledge and insight into historical parameters enabled a reinterpretation of the significance of the textiles and of the entanglements of cross-cultural exchange. Suzanne Davies was able to draw on Australian scholars with specialized knowledge in shaping the exhibition. Islamic scholar Dr Susan Scollay was engaged from the outset, and along with Dr. Joanne Barrkmann with Aboriginal Australian expertise, contributed catalogue texts. Robyn Maxwell provided invaluable support through professional example and the facilitation of superb loans, from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. The contributions of distinguished Yoruba scholar Ulli Beier and artist Georgina Beier gave an extraordinary quality to the exhibition by loans from their private collection and by allowing access to their archival photographs coupled with their expert advice on matters relating to Yoruba textiles and cultural practices. A catalogue essay by Ulli Beier documented Yoruba culture and the dance of the cloths (Beier 2006:



60–61). It was through their support that the RMIT Gallery was able to present the Yoruba Egungun ancestral masquerade cloths, to a wide audience, first in Melbourne and later in New Delhi. The first theme, ‘Cloths of Power’, had two dimensions; the first one was socio-political and showed how specific textiles had come to carry potent meaning linked to the actions and status of the wearer. The second dimension was to recognize the distinct power vested in each textile itself, either at a symbolic level, in its transformative capacity by the nature of the information it imparts, or by virtue of its intrinsic qualities, which are reflected in its value in the manifestations of the skill of the creator and in their use as items of trade, as well as of societal value (Davies 2006: 43). ‘Rites of Passage’ addressed practices that ranged from pre-birth to death and beyond, in which textiles played a significant part, the woven decorated fabrics became meaningful in themselves because of their association with the authoritative rituals of rites of passage. The main area of display, in the high-ceilinged gallery hung with black, was crowded with textiles of an extraordinary range of texture, colour and form. In the centre were the actual ‘robes of power’, a presentation of the power cloths from leaders of Commonwealth countries. The dominant display was of the kente cloth of Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972), the great Ghanaian leader. Kente cloth, woven for kings, originated in the Ashanti kingdom and has brilliant strips of multi-coloured weft faced designs. Nkrumah was the symbol of the Pan African movement and was called Osagyefo, the great redeemer. He not only initiated the Organization of African Unity, but was also an international symbol of freedom and was one of the spokespersons of the 1955 Bandung conference of non-aligned nations, which initiated an active movement of the newly liberated countries to regain economic, political and intellectual culture of their own countries (Dhamija 2006: 47). The powerful kente cloth created the rich canvas for the representation of the great leader of the Commonwealth, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, or Mahatma (‘GreatSouled’) Gandhi (1869–1948). Gandhi, who introduced the remarkable political weapon of non-violence, which led to the freedom of India, was represented by the minimal cotton loincloth and a twill woven shawl and cap in hand-spun cotton (khadi). He spun his own thread, an action that identified him with grassroots India, cutting across regional and class distinctions (Dhamija 2006: 46–47). Nearby was Jawaharlal Nehru’s jacket in quite coarse heavy grey wool. Nehru (1889–1964) became India’s first Prime Minister in 1947 and his elegantly cut jacket, with its closed neck or mandarin collar was originally formal attire corresponding to the suit jacket. By 2014 the ‘Nehru jacket’ had become an international informal fashion for both men and women. Queen Victoria, doyenne of Empire and colonial domination, lived from 1819 to 1901. Her ‘robe of power’, a silk dress with black lace from the 1880s, was astonishing not only for its shortness and stoutness but also for the intricacy of its surface texture of fine diagonal pleats, which compensated for its unrelieved blackness (Dhamija 2006: fig. 9, p. 51). To the left of the main gallery a range of fabrics represented the rituals associated with rites of passage. Both simple and complex fabrics were connected to the birth of the child, such as the exquisitely embroidered swaddling cloth, the kantha from Bangladesh made from recycled worn out dhotis, lower garments of men. In kantha, the puckered running stitch of Bengal creates a flowing lively effect. Embellished with birds, animals, gods and goddesses, as symbols of protection, blessing and fulfilment, it is an auspicious cloth. The exquisite Ayrshire lace Christening robe represented generations of babies, and



the Kirking Shawl from Paisley in Scotland imitating Kashmiri shawls, was worn at christenings. The RMHK (Real Madras Handkerchief), a woven checked cloth from Southern India, became an important ritual cloth for the rites of passage in Nigeria, West Africa, emphasizing the volume of trade across colonized countries (Dhamija 2006: figs. 2–3, p. 47). The most extraordinary presentation in Threading the Commonwealth involved a film by Ulli Beier of the Egungun ancestral masquerades of the Yoruba people in Africa, mentioned above. Built out of multiple layers of fabrics, the elaborate performances represented social power and prestige. The ceremony represented the ancient ancestors of the family and thus the finest pieces of cloth with elaborate decoration reflected the prestige, wealth and status of the family. The complex performance costumes had a number of lappets decorated with gold work, sequins, lace, velvet pieces, and braids (Beier 2006: fig. 1, p. 60). As the masquerader danced and whirled around, the lappets created a breeze, which was seen as a ‘breeze of blessing’ and was associated with Oya, the wife of Shango, the God of Thunder. The video projecting the image of the rotating figures in the masquerade was an added attraction, and created a dynamic background sound in the exhibition projecting a sense of mystery to the overall atmosphere. Threading the Commonwealth had two further components initiated by Dhamija. The first, entitled Nebula Venti (woven clouds with winds) was woven by the master weavers of the fine cotton jamdani. This gossamer thin fabric woven in silver and gold, famous in classical Mediterranean antiquity (see Chapter 9), formed a veil across the façade of Storey Hall in which the gallery is located. The second was the ‘Canopy of the Commonwealth’. Here, Victorian multi-cultural groups, whether originally from countries that are part of the Commonwealth or not, were invited to contribute to the celebration of diverse textile traditions by sewing, embroidering, appliquéing, beading, painting or in any other way embellishing segments of fabric, which together made up a vibrant canopy designed by renowned Sri Lankan born Australian textile artist Cresside Collette. The success of the exhibition in Melbourne in 2006 resulted in an invitation from the Chief Minister of Delhi, where the next Commonwealth Games was to take place to bring the exhibition to India.

EXHIBITIONS : POWERCLOTHS OF THE COMMONWEALTH In 2010, RMIT and the two curators, Suzanne Davies and Jasleen Dhamija, worked in close collaboration to redesign the exhibition. The Handicrafts and Handloom National Crafts Museum, New Delhi was the venue for the exhibition. The Chairman of the Museum, Dr. Ruchira Ghose, provided full support for the setting up of the exhibition. The nomenclature was changed to Powercloths of the Commonwealth and the presentation made a selective display from examples of garments of power (see Plate 12.2). Here power is at play at different levels representing political, social, historical and cultural figures. The distinctive choice of legendary political figures such as Karamchand Gandhi was again a focus of the exhibition. Gandhi adopted the apparel of ordinary people, rejecting both his traditional dress and his tailored suit as a lawyer of the British Empire, becoming an advocate for the simple dhoti/loincloth. The simple lungi or sarong carried the image of the millions of people that it represented. His introduction of hand-spun khadi as the livery of freedom was a means of fighting the industrial power of the colonizers. The adoption of the simple khadi Gandhi topi (cap) created by stitching and folding a piece of cloth, united the vast population. The administration of the colonizers



recognized this and punished the users of Gandhi topi severely. Nkruma’s kente cloth was shown again in the very different environment of Delhi. The exhibition also displayed the khadi blanket of Reginald Reynolds, woven in Gandhi’s Ashram in 1929 which had been gifted to him by Mahatma Gandhi, for it was Reynolds who had been chosen to present the India ultimatum to the British Viceroy (Davies and Dhamija 2010: 47). The Makashi mask from Zambia, which was specially obtained for the exhibition, had to be ritually purified before being shipped to India. The Egungun collection of costumes, described above, was composed of layers of fabrics collected by the family over generations and put together in an elaborate recreation of the spirit of the masquerade, which really caught the imagination of the visitors to the Delhi exhibition. Besides these, there was another range of fabrics as emblematic of authority – a Maori chief ’s feather cloak from New Zealand (this was not included in the New Delhi exhibition), the tapa bark cloth blanket from Papua New Guinea and an elaborate Ndebele African ruler’s crown. A Nigerian Hausa Chieftain’s robe (riga), had elaborate calligraphic patterns created by the Islamic scholars embroidered on indigo cloth. As well, there was the unusual selection of the elaborately woven brocaded khilat, the Robe of honour from Pakistan as well as from Kashmir, with intricate gold embroidery from the late Mughal period. There were also wonderfully patterned Kashmir shawls, which were part of the tribute paid by the Maharaja of Kashmir to the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The display of intricate rare painted hangings attracted a great deal of attention. These had been created in Gujarat in Western India and had reflected the style of Jain paintings, preserved over centuries in Toraja, some of which had been dated to the thirteenth century. These painted hangings were loaned by Shilpa and Praful Shah from their collection, the Textile and Art of People of India. What impressed the viewers was the vast variety of cultures in this distinctive Commonwealth exhibition. Sohini Chattopadhyay’s admiring review observed that ‘like the Games itself, the show too is an exercise in complex logistical organisation and international co-operation’ (Chattopadhyay 2010). Visitors commented: ‘This was a great learning experience, which carried us across a range of cultures’. The ability of the viewing public to see exhibitions internationally means that textiles are beginning to be understood not only as a decorative art, but as compelling creative expressions of the people. For example, the Grey Art Gallery New York mounted an exhibition Poetics of Cloth: African Textiles in 2008 presenting the extraordinarily vital textile traditions of Africa ( – accessed 1 April 2014). In 2013 a well-known venue, the New Delhi Gallery of Art, which had been presenting abstract work for the last ten years, approached Jasleen Dhamija to organize an exhibition of textiles. She chose to focus on the embroidery of women of Punjab, which she presented as The Sacred Grid: Bagh and Phulkari: The Creativity of Women of Punjab. Phulkari means flowerwork, and when all of the cloth has been embroidered it is known as a bagh or garden (Gillow and Barnard 2014:133). The traditional dyer dyed it with the vegetable dyes and the weaver’s skill in the crossing of the warp and weft created the sacred grid. This was the chowk, the multiple squares, that created the powerful base for the altar, the temple, the church, and the mosque (see Plate 12.3). It was also the base for the nakshatras, the chart of the nine planets, which were perceived to govern lives and which was used for casting the horoscope. The women created multiple squares within squares. Each square was an abstraction of the environment of their everyday lives. The brides used to wear Wari da Bagh which was embroidered in glowing golden yellow silk, representing



the sun. This powerful symbol was embroidered by the bridegroom’s grandmother with prayers and blessings that signified the history of the family. The bride was wrapped in this powerful Bagh, or embroidered garden, and entered her new home, as the Goddess (Dhamija 2006: fig. 28). There is also the five-coloured Bagh of joy, representing the ranga – colours, which are associated with raga (musical mode) and rasa (the essence of life). Raga, the musical mode, and rasa, the very essence of being and life, are interconnected through colour that creates waves of music, which in turn create rasa. The brilliant use of laying the stitches created a rippling effect of light and shadow, which created the graphics of geometrical forms, almost reminiscent of Mondrian, and which is used with consummate skill by the women. The colour palette created a melody and the rhythm was echoed in the rippling changing colours. One of the masterpieces created by the women is the labyrinth called bhul bhulaiya, the coiling form, which draws the viewer to enter and lose herself. Although the upheaval of partition and changes in rural areas threatened the survival of traditions there is now a very active revival of Bagh and Phulkari in India and Pakistan. The phulkari exhibition had a tremendous impact on the art world of Delhi and aroused a great deal of interest. The gallery, located in Lado Sarai, an area that had a concentration of art galleries, attracted the owners of other art galleries. This was much to the surprise of the gallery owner, for normally there tended to be an exclusivity in the participation of the art shows. Artists from all fields of creative expression came to view the exhibition and the response was very positive. The views expressed generally responded to a sense of joy, which was palpable in the exhibition. The possibilities of the interpretations and connection provided for each of the objects on display made the textiles’ deep significance apparent to the viewer.

CONCLUSION The cumulative effect of these specific exhibitions of textiles of South East Asia and Commonwealth countries leads to some clear conclusions in the making and spiritual and political formation of textiles. The act of creation is a ritual and often the creator is treated as a shaman who has access to less conscious ways of knowing. For example in the Egungun masquerades the complex layered costumes allude to invisible worlds. The artist obeys the ancient rules, which impart power, and is perceived as having insights that reach to an understanding that breaks all barriers. Yet it is only when the object in, for example, the performance or marriage ritual is put into use that the power of the cloth comes into its own, thus creating the close linkage between the creator and user; for fabrics are not only for clothing, but also for creating a sympathetic magic. As these exhibitions have demonstrated, fabrics have a range of functions as religious hangings or royal insignia, which impart power, as well as means of sanctifying and creating sacred space. Specific cloths are also used in the most important rites of passage of birth and death. The funerary rituals are perhaps the most resonant for not only is there a finality about them, but the ritual suggests a continuing involvement with the journey to the land of the ancestors. It is only if we see the fabrics in their socio-religious and cultural context that we can understand their importance, their value and significance. The actual process of weaving or dyeing is central. Ritual cloths woven for rites of passage and for important ceremonial occasions became imbued with mystical power in



the process of creation. This was the case of the Indian Patan patola and double ikat cloth, gringsing, which took on a new life in Bali in Indonesia. The woven shawl of the continuous circular warp, woven on the back-strap loom in Southeast Asia and used by the shamans, was imbued with the power of the uncut cloth. The act of use in ritual performance and the process of masterly creation gave it power, which could be ominous if not protected and appropriately used. The motifs and juxtaposition of colours convey essential messages, which are significant to those who are familiar with the social and religious principles of the social milieu for which they were created. It remains to be seen how these ancient traditional processes, many on the brink of loss, will take on fresh ways of surviving and developing in contemporary globalized cultures.

REFERENCES Beier, Ulli. 2006. ‘The Egungun of Yorubaland’, in Davies, Suzanne (ed), Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics. [RMIT Gallery (Melbourne, Vic.) for Commonwealth Games (18th, 2006, Melbourne, Vic.)] Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Gallery: 60–61. Chattopadhyay, Sohini. 2010. [Review]. A Wealth of Weaves. 2 October 2010. http://www. (accessed 22 April, 2014). Davies, Suzanne (ed). 2006. Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics [RMIT Gallery (Melbourne, Vic.) for Commonwealth Games (18th, 2006, Melbourne, Vic.)] Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Gallery. Davies, Suzanne and Jasleen Dhamija (curators). 2010. Powercloths of the Commonwealth. Catalogue. National Crafts Museum, New Delhi. Dhamija, Jasleen. 2006. ‘Introduction: The Threads Which Enclose the World’, in Davies, Suzanne (ed), Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics. [RMIT Gallery (Melbourne, Vic.) for Commonwealth Games (18th, 2006, Melbourne, Vic.)] Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Gallery: 45–51. Gillow, John and Barnard, Nicholas. 2014. Indian Textiles. London: Thames and Hudson. Kennedy, Brian. 2004. ‘Director’s Foreword’, in Maxwell, Robyn, Sari to Sarong: 500 Years of Indian and Indonesian Textile Exchange, 2 April–4 July 2004. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra: vi–vii. Maxwell, Robyn. 1990. Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation. Australian National Gallery. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. Maxwell, Robyn. 2004. Sari to Sarong: 500 Years of Indian and Indonesian Textile Exchange. 2 April–4 July 2004. National Gallery of Australia, (accessed 18 March 2014).


Quilts for the Twenty-first Century Activism in the Expanded Field of Quilting KIRSTY ROBERTSON

INTRODUCTION Sue Prichard (2010: 9) opens the introductory essay of the catalogue for the exhibition Quilts 1700–2010 with the following statement: ‘Quilts stimulate memories of warmth, security and comfort. They are also inexorably linked with the feminine.’1 One could add to this list another theme, focused on what Janis Jefferies (2011: 127) calls ‘the subversive power of the needle’. Quilts, quilting and quilt scholarship have long been tied to activism, ranging from abolitionist causes in the nineteenth century to feminist reclamation of an undervalued pastime in the twentieth, and incorporating economic, pacifist, environmental, labour and numerous other issues.2 Activist quilts are found across the globe, and their making crosses lines of age, race and class (though less often of gender). In this chapter, I begin by exploring the rich history of activist quilting and activist quilt scholarship. I then turn to what I call the expanded field of quilting, following Rosalind Krauss’s (1979: 30–44) term ‘the expanded field’. Specifically, I analyse the extension of quilting practice into different contexts and examine the work of a series of artists who do not create traditional quilts but who use the processes of quilting (such as patching, suturing and appliqué) to draw together knowledge, facts, images and artifacts into quilted wholes, often with activist or political intent. I ask whether such works can be read as akin to twenty-first-century activist quilts. To patch or piece together suggests collecting information or things, an act of investigation. A patch can be a scrap or a remnant: a piece of material, a computer key, a torn item of clothing. Patching can also mean to mend, join together, or connect.3 Thus I look to the work of artists Jarod Charzewski and Derick Melander who build sculptural forms from piles of colourful clothing, asking whether these structures can be read as twenty-first-century politicized crazy quilts, and I turn to the work of Mishka Henner and Jenny Odell, finding in their collection, organization, and stitching together of thousands of tiny digital images, examples of digital quilt-making. In short, I look at artworks that use piecing or patchwork as political strategy, whether those politics are part of community efforts to resist individualism or attempts to draw 197



attention to important issues such as surveillance, sustainability, and over-consumption. Often it is the familiarity of materials (digital images, textiles, clothing) that makes the quilt’s message accessible. Such material activism blurs the boundary between art and craft and suggests a new framework for the analysis of a certain kind of gently politicized art making.4

THE EXPANDED FIELD OF QUILTING Why quilting? In short, there is history here. In the 1970s and 1980s, feminist scholars began to research quilting as an emancipatory act (Mainardi 1973; Maines 1974–75; Orlofsky 1974; McMorris 1984; Parker 1989; Gunn 1993; Keller 1993; Pershing 1993; Garrard and Broude 1996; Berlo and Crews 2003). Patricia Mainardi, writing in 1973, noted, Because quilt making is so indisputably women’s art, many of the issues women artists are attempting to clarify now – questions of feminine sensibility, of originality and tradition, of individuality vs. collectivity, of content and values in art – can be illuminated by a study of this art form, its relation to the lives of the artists, and how it has been dealt with in art history. —Mainardi 1973: 15 Judy Elsley wrote similarly that ‘sewing is one way for women to begin the process of self-reclamation because it represents, more than other activities traditionally associated with women, a powerful and elemental symbol of connection’ (Elsley 1994: 74). More recently, Janis Jefferies reminded us that: It is now generally acknowledged that many women have inscribed in quilts and stitch work the stories of their lives as a source of pleasure and painful recollection, using the medium as a weapon against the constraints of femininity and as a potential means of challenging masculine meanings and dominance in the visual arts and society. —Jefferies 2010: 126 Extending such interpretations, many feminist scholars began to use quilting as a metaphor, suggesting that patchwork and piecework could be used to analyse women’s subjectivity, women’s literature, women’s careers, and place in the world (Parker and Pollock 1981; Showalter 1991). The patchwork quilt represented an undermining of linearity, which was associated with masculine paradigms of writing. In her germinal article ‘Piecing and Writing,’ Elaine Showalter wrote: In literary theories of a Female Aesthetic, the metaphor of piecing has been used as a model for the organization of language in the wild zone of the woman’s text. . . . In the ‘verbal quilt’ of the feminist text, there is ‘no subordination, no ranking’. —Showalter 1986: 226–227 Approaching from a slightly different angle, Alice Walker describes how important quilting and stitching were to her as she meditatively worked through the plot and characters of the novel The Color Purple (a book in which quilting figures centrally) (Walker 1983: 361–383). This kind of writing, much of it reclamatory, continues through to the present day (Goggin and Tobin 2009; Elsley 2009, 2010). In 2001, for example, Maura C. Flannery contended that quilting could be used as a metaphor for scientific inquiry (Flannery 2001). Her argument suggested that too many male-centric metaphors



were used in the sciences (such as exploring, hunting, and penetrating the unknown). Quilting together a patchwork of information into a hypothesis presented for Flannery a different and less aggressive approach to the sciences.6 Feminist analyses of quilting focused on the material objects of quilts, reclaimed histories, literature, and quilting itself. Many writers looked to the communal nature of quilt-making, seeing in it a proto-feminist community, or at least a community of women that existed fleetingly outside of traditional patriarchal regimes (Przybysz 1994). Quilting bees, which were often organized out of necessity and to pool resources, were oft-cited examples of ‘community spirit’ and frugality (Ice and Shumlinson 1974; Roach 1985). Perhaps this was particularly true for African American women. Quilt making – for income generation, political organization, story telling, and advocacy – was used by African American slaves, emancipated slaves, maids, and working women, from the eighteenth century through to the late twentieth (Cash 1995: 32). The economic collective of the Freedom Quilting Bee, founded in Alabama in 1966 as part of the Civil Rights movement, offers an important example (Callahan 1987; Allen 2001; Hood 2001). Additionally, though heavily disputed, stories abound that quilts may even have provided coded maps for the Underground Railroad, the secret route of roads, paths and safe houses that allowed numerous slaves of African descent to escape from the American south in the nineteenth century.7 For example, quilts with specific patterns, known to runaways, might have been hung outside of safe houses, and quilts with coded directions (such as triangles cut to point towards the top of the quilt, or north), may have been passed around. Quilts thus provided comfort and succour, income, and community, they are seen as important historical documents, as text/iles recording lives, kinships, and relationships (Fox-Genovese 1988; Brown 1989; Fry 1990). A combination of labour and leisure, ‘[Quilts] provide a record of the cultural and political past [of African American women],’ writes Floris Barnett Cash (1995: 30).8 In short, across lines of age, class, and race, quilting has been interpreted by many scholars, writers, and quilters as emancipatory, creating important opportunities and spaces for women and the marginalized. This is true both of the historical material documents and of the metaphorical interpretations, which tend to focus on suturing, patching and the creation of women’s space. In these cases it is not just the content of the quilt patterns that is political, but the very act of quilting. However, it should also be noted that these texts and interpretations, dating from the 1970s through to the present, are not wholly representative and present a re-working or re-purposing of some quilt history. A quite different scenario is suggested by the following poem, originally published in 1839: The day is set, the ladies met, And at the frame are seated, In order plac’d, they work in haste, To get the quilt completed. While fingers fly, their tongues they ply, And animate their labors, By counting beaux, discussing clothes, Or talking of their neighbors. —Anonymous 1839 This poem suggests that it was light gossip rather than in-depth conversation that characterized quilting bees. Such readings are supported by a number of nineteenth- and



twentieth-century literary depictions of quilting. In the famous Anne of Green Gables series, for example, quilting bees appear often, and are regularly sites where normative, heterosexist, mono-racial, mono-religious and mono-class expectations are voiced and affirmed (Montgomery 1908–1921). Quilting is used to specifically mark points of introduction into mainstream society (marriage, coming of age, birth, etc.). Additionally, women were often encouraged to develop needlework skills as signs of industriousness and submissiveness (Przybysz 1994: 10). To this day, quilting remains in many cases associated with conservatism, family values, and submissive femininity. And yet, the later interpretation of quilts, quilting and quilting bees as proto-political has been an important strategy for reclaiming the importance of female conversation (who knows, after all, what was really said). In fact, it was precisely the undervaluation of women’s history that led 1970s feminists to look at quilts. And it is precisely because quilts are often passed down as detailed but anonymous documents (only occasionally accompanied with written or oral histories) that they are ripe for interpretation (and reinterpretation) (Prichard 2010: 9). Perhaps activist quilting and activist quilt scholarship rely on quilting being generally dismissed as a feminine, domestic pastime, unassociated with political causes. For example, scholar, blogger, and quilter Potente Susurro takes on those who dispute the stories of quilted Underground Railroad maps, noting that while there may not have been topographical maps sewn directly into quilts, the importance of such stories means that ‘they can be seen as reterritorialization from a largely white imaginary of black quilting forms into one of African American storytelling’ (Susurro 2009: n.p.). In other words, perhaps because of the way that they are pieced and patched together, quilts elicit a wide range of explanation and analysis, much of it dedicated to supporting progressive causes. I suggest that understanding such paradoxical (as in, against received doxa) approaches is key to understanding the past, present and future not just of quilting but of quilt scholarship. For the sake of simplicity, I call such approaches ‘productive re-interpretation’. Productive re-interpretation often plays with or even relies on very conservative or traditional stereotypes of quilting. Many of the feminist scholars cited above suggest that the acceptability (the seemliness) of quilting and bees made them spaces where community formation, organization, and self-awareness could emerge. Over time, such ideas have been put into action, and the years since the 1970s have seen the production of thousands of quilts with activist content. The legacy of feminist writing can be seen in the importance granted to the community production of many of these quilts, and also in their occasionally overtly feminist content. Importantly, activist quilts often draw heavily on the nostalgic and feminine elements of quilting: they are productive re-interpretations of the nonthreatening history ascribed to quilt-making. Famous examples of activist quilts include Chilean arpilleras, colourful, patchworked, and appliquéd quilts and hangings that traditionally depicted scenes of daily life in Chile. However, following the 1973 military coup and ousting of President Allende, these arpilleras were repurposed to tell stories of arrest, torture, disappearance, fear and loss under the Pinochet government. Many arpilleras were smuggled across borders and used as documents to convey the situation in Chile to potentially sympathetic audiences (Agosin 2007). Again, it was the seemliness of the arpilleras that allowed them to (craftily) pass over borders. Other examples include the now well-known Amazwi Abesifazane project in South Africa, which encouraged women (often poor Black women from rural townships) overlooked by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996–present) to tell their own stories using quilting, embroidery, and appliqué (Becker 2007). And towering above all in



the size of its contribution to activist quilting is the US -based NAMES AIDS Memorial Quilt Project. Begun in 1987, the NAMES project includes individually made memorial panels remembering more than 48,000 people who have died from AIDS (Morris 2011). The project drew (and draws) attention to the devastating extent of the AIDS epidemic and has, according to the project’s website ‘redefined the tradition of quilt-making in response to contemporary circumstances’ (The AIDS Memorial Quilt n.d.). More recently, activist quilting has grown in popularity, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the United States, one finds work such as LaShawnda Crowe Storm’s community-based Lynch Quilts Project, which explores the history of racial and ethnic violence in the United States through research, quilting bees, and discussion (Storm 2013). A second example is Kathryn Clark’s series of quilt maps, which use aerial views and contrasting colours to trace house foreclosures in neighbourhoods in the United States (Clark 2013). Clark notes that she chose the medium of quilting on purpose, because of its connection to a history of thriftiness and the way that quilts were made from scraps of fabric in hard times. In the United Kingdom, one finds projects like the Shoreditch Sisters’ contribution to a ‘Stop Violence Against Women’ campaign. Here women gathered to communally produce a quilt covered in embroidered vulvas and designed to raise awareness of the practice of female genital mutilation (Williams 2013). The Fine Cell Project, also based in the UK , teaches inmates to embroider and quilt. In 2010, inmates at Wandsworth Prison produced a quilt based on the floorplans of the prison, using cottons and weave the same colours as prisoners’ uniforms. The quilt was accessioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a description of it notes that . . . many of the hexagons demonstrate a clear conversation with both the history of the British prison system and contemporary discourses on authority. In one, a fingerprint is surrounded by borders of DNA , suggesting issues relating to the identification of criminals and the control of personal freedom. —V&A 2014 Other blocks focus on the boredom of prison life, the power of the probation board, wrongful conviction, and religion. There are hundreds of other examples of activist quilts, including memory quilts, antiwar quilts, healing quilts, and so on (Gildart 2007). Quilting is used to teach community spirit (and occasionally math and drafting skills) at the school level and thousands of quilts are produced each year for charity. There are also pro-war quilts, anti-abortion quilts, and thousands of patriotic quilts. Projects come from across the political spectrum. Quilting, as noted above, can be both a conservative and also a radical act. Nevertheless, in each, quilting is used to draw attention to issues, often to promote healing through the methodical act of repetitive stitching, and occasionally, as in the Chilean examples, to speak in code to audiences in the know. What all of these projects and strategies have in common is a belief that textiles, and specifically, a very traditional form of textile creation, can be used to convey messages of social, political or cultural import (Powell 2000). Where else might we find such strategies in use? In the following section, I attempt to draw together the threads of the paper thus far: the expanded field of quilting, the legacy of feminist scholarship, productive reinterpretation, and activist quilting. While the examples discussed are not typical quilts, I turn to artworks that use quilting techniques such as patching, stitching, and appliqué, as well as community participation that can be likened to quilting bees. Ranging from ‘crazy quilts’ made from the detritus of a consumerist society where the overconsumption of



clothing is the norm, to artworks that use the grid-like form of quilting and patchwork to compile information, I seek to understand the act of piecing together textiles and images to convey a specific meaning, often critical of the world in which we live.

PATCHING : A TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY CRAZY QUILT What might an activist crazy quilt for the twenty-first century look like? The original crazy quilt ‘craze’ reached its height in the late nineteenth century. The quilts used scraps of fabric of different patterns, colours, and sizes, sewn together in a manner that looked haphazard (though they were usually carefully planned). Numerous influences on crazy quilts have been cited, among them the Arts and Crafts movement, the American Aesthetic Movement, commedia dell’arte, asymmetrical Japanese ceramics, and clothing designs shown at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.9 But what the quilts made of tiny patches in odd shapes required most was excess textiles, either the ends of worn clothing, or scraps that were bought purposely to make the quilts. In other words, sometimes the quilts were born of need – plain quilts that were patched so often with whatever spare cloth there was that they became crazy quilts. But by the late Victorian era, kits could be purchased of fine velvet, silk, and brocade fabrics, specialty embroidery threads, ribbons, and other embellishments, such that the crazy quilt was less about thrift and more about conspicuous consumption. This was true even for women of lower income, who traded with friends and family and purchased collections of inexpensive scraps sold specifically for the crazy quilt making trend that took place at the turn of the twentieth century (Breneman 2009). The crazy quilts were the offspring of the Industrial Revolution and the result of more easily accessible textiles for sewing. They were equally examples of excess and thrift, the decorative and necessity.10 Such quilting was also often a demonstration of skill – many crazy quilts were used to demonstrate exquisite needlework with patches sewn in a variety of intricate stitches. The artificial silks used in the quilts were weighted with mineral salts and gall, which made them appear heavier and gave them more rustle (Nebraska State Historical Society 2009). Over time, the silks have badly deteriorated, and museums and collections are full of disintegrating crazy quilts, each disaggregating into the pieces from which it was made. Quilts are not only personal records, but are also documents of the changing global trade in textiles, visible in eighteenth-century quilts as silks gave way to cottons, and in the nineteenth-century crazy quilts in the variety, colours and availability of textiles (Browne 2010: 45; Parry 2010: 58; Prichard 2010: 14). As such, the crazy quilts tell the story of a particular moment in time. This begs the question: what might a crazy quilt look like in an era of extreme excess and overconsumption? If the original crazy quilt craze came from, on the one hand, a need for thrift in the face of the high cost of textiles, and, on the other, from a love of sumptuous fabrics and the decorative, what might that look like in an era when clothing rarely makes it to the scrap bin, when clothing is so cheaply accessible that the average US American buys 64 new items each year, and discards 8.5 million tons of textile waste annually? (MacBride 2011: 25). I suggest that the dual impulse of thrift and excess behind crazy quilts can be found in the work of a number of primarily US -based artists who use carefully arranged items of clothing to create large-scale three-dimensional patchworks. While traditional crazy quilts continue to be made, even, occasionally, as commentary on excessive consumption,11 I argue that a crazy quilt for the twenty-first century is one in which the patchwork has exploded from its boundaries, disintegrating the two-dimensionality of the traditional



quilt. There is, in fact, no need to use scraps because whole items of clothing are so easily available. A twenty-first-century crazy quilt comments inevitably on excess and accumulation, on over-consumption, on the glut of exhausted commodities and the growing latent waste of surplus clothing.12 Take, for example, Jarod Charzewski’s Scarp (2008), a three-dimensional landscape made from carefully piled clothing (see Plate 13.1). The clothes, arranged in hills and valleys through the gallery space, are also organized into a vertical colour spectrum. Like an escarpment or a cross section of the earth, the clothing scarp takes the idea of the natural geological layering of earth and the story it tells about the history of the planet, and replaces it with ‘a [fabricated] history with its own synthetic and fleeting artifacts as the medium’ (Charzewski 2014). Each of the levels in Charzewski’s Scarp refers to a level of consumption: ‘competitive purchasing’ (grey); ‘compulsive purchasing’ (blue); ‘commercial intimidation’ (purple); ‘planned obsolescence’ (red); ‘actual wear and tear’ (green); ‘lost or misplaced items’ (yellow); ‘self esteem purchasing’ (purple); ‘fashion trends’ (pink) (Charzewski 2014). In a similar vein, New York-based artist Derick Melander piles t-shirts into carefully organized pillars, walls and circles. Like Charzewski, Melander comments on excess consumption. One of his well-known sculptures, 3,615 pounds (2009), refers to the amount of textile waste created by New Yorkers every five minutes. Also like Charzewski, Melander sources the used clothing that makes up his projects through donation from local Goodwill Industry stores. Both artists comment on the memories implicit in their works. ‘As clothing wears, fades, stains and stretches, it becomes an intimate record of our physical presence. It traces the edge of the body, defining the boundary between the self and the outside world,’ writes Melander, who refers to his works as ‘collective portraits’ (Melander 2014). Where Melander’s work differs from Charzewski’s is in its process. Melander effectively stages quilting bees. Each sculpture draws together large numbers of people who work to sort, fold, and pile clothing. The process, Melander states, is as important as the final product, and through the act of folding, organizing and piling, conversations take place that often focus on the underlying premise of the work – the excess consumption that leads to the discarding of otherwise usable clothing. In both cases, there are obvious differences from the crazy quilts of the 1890s, the most pertinent being that the works are not two dimensional, and that they are not sewn together. But nevertheless, reading these art works as in keeping with a history of crazy quilting on the one hand, and a history of activist quilting on the other, leads to a productive re-interpretation that draws in a history of making and labour that is often missing from the art world. With these ‘quilts’, one might also look to their impetus to mobilize the nostalgia and memories inscribed in used clothing to unsettle accepted practices of buying and discarding used textiles. Quilts for the twenty-first century are not necessarily about comfort. They are not covers, metaphorically, but in fact do the opposite. In the case of Charzewski and Melander’s work, they reveal, they question. This kind of patchwork is about bringing together the detritus of a commodity society and arranging it, carefully, into patterns that reveal a deeper blueprint of capitalism. Such ‘crazy-quilt’ formations are found in the work of a number of artists, some, but not all, of whom use textiles. Guerra de la Paz’s clothing installations, Christian Boltanski’s massive undertakings making use of vast stockpiles of used clothing, Sidsel Palmstrom’s textile piles, are just some of the artists and works using such techniques. Generally speaking, these works are analysed in a lexicon belonging to contemporary art. While this



does not seem surprising for such work, it does suggest a gendering of practice, where if the pieces of cloth used are whole (sewn into clothes), or are arranged sculpturally, they are considered to be art rather than craft. Reversing the typical direction of scholarship, moving art into the world of craft, sculpture into quilting, suggests a vibrant connection to histories of textile production, feminist scholarship, community, and collaboration. Perhaps these are activist quilts hidden in plain view.13

THE DIGITAL QUILT If a crazy quilt for the twenty-first century is a deconstructed entity, a twenty-first-century patchwork quilt might be the opposite – an aggregate of elements built up into a recognizable whole. There is patchwork here, but it is a working together of information and a search for answers rather than a suturing together of cloth. I begin, though, with a traditional quilt. Artist Leah Evans creates quilted hangings that use both hand sewing and machine work. She uses techniques of appliqué, reverse appliqué, piecing, dyeing (natural and synthetic), needle felting, hand printing and embroidery. In short, she is an accomplished textile artist. Her work makes use of photography, maps, and satellite imagery to create intricate aerial, bird’s-eye views of recognizable towns and cities. Evans is not the only artist using textiles to create aerial images (see Walker’s Foreclosure project, for example), and there seems to be a comfortable relationship here, noted by a number of bloggers, photographers, and quilters.14 ‘The patchwork of adjacent agricultural plots becomes especially colorful when the land is segmented into strips,’ writes Simone Pruesse on a blog that collects images of ‘agricultural patchworks’ (Pruesse n.d.). A patchwork of land, particularly of farmland, is a familiar way of describing vast landscapes of farms and fields, particularly when seen from above. Evans’ quilts make this relationship literal, they make it material. But where else might this relationship also be present? The work of British photographer Mishka Henner offers an interesting example. Henner’s photography series Feedlots focuses on aerial views of feedlots and oil fields, the basis of the Texan economy. The works demonstrate an ‘astonishing and terrible beauty’ (Twilley 2013: n.p.). At first it appears as though Henner hired an aeroplane and flew over the sites taking photographs, but in fact, each image is carefully composed of hundreds of available satellite images, ‘knitted seamlessly together to create ultra-high definition images that, according to those lucky enough to have seen them in person, look, at first glance, like Abstract Expressionist paintings’ (Twilley 2013: n.p.). My own interpretation is, of course, that they look nothing like Abstract Expressionist paintings,15 but an awful lot like Leah Evans’ quilts. Perhaps this should not be seen as surprising, given that they use similar techniques, though Evans uses a needle and thread and Henner uses computer software. As a report on Henner’s images notes, ‘Ninety-seven per cent of the beef consumed in the United States will have been “finished” on a feedlot: a vast and odoriferous empire of pens and troughs where up to 100,000 steers at a time spend the last three to six months of their short (12- to 18-month) lives gaining up to 4 pounds a day on a diet of corn, protein supplements, and antibiotics’ (Twilley 2013: n.p.). The presence of so many animals in such tight quarters produces huge amounts of manure, which show up in Henner’s images in bilious green and red pools of waste. Through stitching together each tiny pixelated image, a near perfect bird’s eye view appears, even if it is one demonstrating a devastated (and devastating) landscape.



An earlier series of Henner’s work is even more illustrative of the potential power of patching together information to make a whole. In the Dutch Landscapes series (see Plate 13.2), Henner uses satellite images of Dutch and US military sites to patch together ‘off-limits’ landscapes. The military sites, obscured from Google Earth and other search systems, appear in Henner’s images as multi-coloured polygons. Secrecy in the twentyfirst century is literally a crazy quilt, if a digital one. Sensitive sites on Google Earth are all obscured by pixelation, and often those forms of pixelation are specific to the government and military bodies that have made the request (the Dutch, for example, use multicoloured polygons). But, as is noted, ‘In direct opposition to their intended purpose, these interventions act as signposts, revealing the location and importance of ammunition depots, artillery ranges, and military bases’ (Twilley 2013: n.p.). A slightly less dramatic example of what might be called digital patchwork can be found in the work of Jenny Odell. Like Henner, Odell draws on satellite imagery, but her method of patchwork is somewhat different. Using Google Satellite View, Odell picks one item: airplanes, cargo trains, waterslides, famous landmarks, silos, waste ponds. She cuts out huge numbers of each from the images, and rearranges them into new appliqué-like patterns, drawing attention to repetition in the human landscape. She writes of the work, it is precisely from this inhuman point of view that we are able to read our own humanity, in all of its tiny, repetitive marks upon the face of the earth. From this view, the lines that make up basketball courts and the scattered blue rectangles of swimming pools become like hieroglyphs that say: people were here. —Odell 2014: n.p. The cutting of patches takes place here digitally. Odell is not using scissors, but the process is the same – her quilts use appliqué, but they are recognizable in the same way as are Henner’s. While they might certainly be read as photographs they are, I suggest, equally readable within a textile history. These works, like those of Charzewski and Melander, draw attention to overconsumption, and to the mass amounts of debris (material and virtual), created by late capitalism. These are just two artists among many, whose work potentially points to a certain way of creating that is increasingly popular in both the art and craft worlds, and as I’ve argued, in the space in between. Textiles are a great connector. They are ubiquitous, so much so that it is easy to forget the threads connecting a global textile industry with a woman quilting in the American South in the nineteenth century, or a 1970s feminist reading of women’s literature as patchwork with a 2014 analysis of piles of clothing as latter-day crazy quilts, or a Chilean arpillera with the work of digital cut-and-paste artists. But those threads are there, sometimes loose, sometimes pulled tight. What activist quilting – in textile, in clothing, in digital images – does is to make issues intimate, understandable, but never solely comforting.


This exhibition was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK , in 2010.


The rise in quilting scholarship over the past few decades can in and of itself be seen as a political action, as quilting was overlooked in the academy and almost completely ignored in the art world prior to the 1970s. Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof ’s exhibition Abstract Design in American Quilts, held in 1971 at the Whitney Museum of American Art



in New York City, and the subsequent book The Pieced Quilt: An American Tradition (Holstein 1973) played an extremely important role in suggesting that quilts could be read as precursors to the modernist abstract work of painters such as Piet Mondrian and Barnett Newman. From this exhibition, quilting scholarship received an enormous boost (see further analysis in note 6). See also Berlo (2011: n.p.) and Berlo and Crews (2003). 3.

Although I don’t discuss it, Suzanne Lacy’s Crystal Quilt (1985–87), a work in which a ‘quilt’ of people was created, could be seen as a precursor to the kinds of art forms that I discuss (Lacy 2012–13).


In the chapter I largely avoid adding to the debate over the relationship between art and craft, that is, over how to define one or the other, or over how to keep them separate or bring them together. I am nevertheless conscious that gender-biased art-world hierarchies positioning craft as lesser underlie any discussion that brings together traditional handcraft (quilting) with other forms typically defined as art (namely, collage, installation, sculpture and graphic design). See Grant (2013) for an example of the subordination of craft to art, and Adamson (2007); Buszek (2011); Jefferies (2011) for recent thoughtful and thoughtprovoking responses to this topic. For earlier responses, see Lippard (1973/1976, 1978/1995), Parker (1977, 1989), and Parker and Pollock (1981).


Mainardi was arguing for quilting in light of the backlash against domesticity and domestic crafts that characterized some forms of second wave feminism.


It should be noted, however, that some of these writers, Mainardi among them, wanted to keep quilts solely within a female discourse, separate from the patriarchal art world (and one imagines the science world as well). They would likely not have appreciated the direction of Flannery’s research, nor of this chapter. See Berlo (2011) for a discussion of Mainardi’s position. Also see Prichard (2010: 140), where she describes how the important 1971 Abstract Design in American Quilts exhibition (see note 2), was preceded in 1970 by a protest and sit-in demanding equal representation for women at the Whitney, led by artist (and quilter) Faith Ringgold and scholar Lucy Lippard. The Whitney responded in 1971 with the Abstract Design in American Quilts exhibition, a show of quilts made by anonymous nineteenth-century sewers (likely women) but connected to the twentieth-century male-dominated Abstract Expressionism movement. Contemporary female artists (even quilting artists) were left out. Pritchard makes a similar point about the immensely popular exhibition The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, which travelled in 2002–2006, and perhaps ‘attempted to create artists from women who . . . had to sew to survive’, thereby ‘misrepresenting their makers’ and denying ‘the complexity surrounding their production’ (Pritchard 2010: 140).


The main source on the Underground Railroad quilting code is the book Hidden in Plain View (Tobin and Dobbard 1999). However, numerous writers, quilters and scholars have suggested that the code is merely wishful thinking (Cummings 2005; Brackman 2006; Zegart 2008).


Fry (1990: 6) also found that quilting traditions of African American women were often undervalued in mainstream accounts (scholarly, popular and otherwise). Fox-Genovese (1988) found similarly that the majority of sewing and weaving done on plantations was done by slave women.


Rarely, it should be noted, were the scrap quilts made by slaves living in the antebellum south cited as precursors of crazy quilts (Susurro 2009).

10. See also Przybysz (1994: 9) on the rejection of such ornate work in the late 1880s and the turn towards more streamlined design (particularly in the United States). 11. A quick search of Pinterest shows hundreds of pins with titles like ‘Recycled Quilt’, ‘Second Hand Clothes Quilt’, and ‘Recycled Clothing Quilt.’ 12. I’m adapting the term ‘exhausted commodities’ from Will Straw (2000: n.p.).



13. The wording in this sentence is a reference to Susan Glaspell’s well-known short story ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ (Glaspell 1917). In the story, a farmer is killed. The police suspect his wife, but can find no clues. As two women (a friend and the Sheriff ’s wife) are asked to come over to pack some things, they see the evidence: uneven stitches in her quilting, a canary, strangled by her husband, in the sewing basket. The women quickly realize that the protagonist has murdered her abusive husband. The clues are tidied away, the protagonist is protected. The evidence is hidden in plain view, but is only decipherable to those who know the code. 14. See, for example, the work of Valerie S. Goodwin, Jimmy McBride, Eszter Bornemisza; Shizuko Ozaki; Ian Hundley; Alicia Merrett and others. 15. There is a nice corollary here to the Abstract Design in American Quilts (1971) exhibition where quilts (rather than aerial photographs) were compared with Abstract Expressionist painting.

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Lippard, Lucy. 1973/1976. ‘Household Images in Art.’ In Lucy Lippard (ed), From the Centre: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art. New York: E.P. Dutton. [Reprinted from Ms. 1973 1 (9: March)]. Lippard, Lucy. 1978/1995. ‘Making Something from Nothing (Toward a Definition of Women’s “Hobby Art”).’ In Lucy Lippard (ed), The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art. New York: The New Press. [Reprinted from Heresies 1978 4 (Winter)]. MacBride, Samantha. 2011. Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press. Mainardi, Patricia. 1973. ‘Quilts: the Great American Art.’ The Feminist Art Journal 2(1): 1, 18–23. Maines, Rachel. 1974–75. ‘Fancywork: the Archaeology of Lives.’ The Feminist Art Journal 3(4): 1–3 McMorris, Penny. 1984. Crazy Quilts. New York: E.P. Dutton. Melander, Derick. 2014. Derick Melander Website. Available online: http://www. Montgomery, Lucy Maud. 1908–1921. Anne of Green Gables Stories. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Morris, Charles E. 2011. Remembering the AIDS Quilt. Ann Arbor: Michigan State University Press. Nebraska State Historical Society. 2009. ‘Crazy Quilts From Nebraska Museums.’ Nebraska State Historical Society. Available online: crazy_quilts/. Odell, Jenny. 2014. Jenny Odell Website. Available online: Orlofsky, Patsy and Myron. 1974. Quilts in America. New York: McGraw Hill. Parker, Rozsika. 1977. ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Housewife.’ Spare Rib (7): 5–8. Parker, Rozsika. 1989. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. New York: Routledge. Parker, Rozsika and Griselda Pollock. 1981. Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology. London: Pandora Press. Parry, Linda. 2010. ‘Complexity and Context: Nineteenth-Century British Quilts.’ In Sue Prichard (ed), Quilts 1700–2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories. London: V&A Publishing. Pershing, Linda. 1993. ‘ “She Really Wanted to be her Own Woman”: Scandalous Sunbonnet Sue.’ In Joan Newlon Radner (ed), Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Powell, G. Julie. 2000. The Fabric of Persuasion: Two Hundred Years of Political Quilts. Chadds Ford: Brandywine River Museum. Preuss, Simone. nd. ‘When Agricultural Landscapes Become Patchwork Quilts.’ Environmental Graffiti. Available online: Prichard, Sue. 2010. ‘Introduction’ and ‘Negotiating space: fabric and the feminine 1945– 2010.’ In Sue Prichard (ed), Quilts 1700–2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories. London: V&A Publishing. Przybysz, Jane. 1994. ‘The Victorian Crazy Quilt as Comfort and Discomfort.’ Quilt Journal 3(2): 8–13 Roach, Susan. 1985. ‘The Kinship Quilt: An Ethnographic Semiotic Analysis of a Quilting Bee.’ In Rosan A. Jordan and Susan J. Kalcik (eds), Women’s Folklore, Women’s Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.



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Transforming Malaysian Handwoven Songket in the Contemporary World JUNE NGO SIOK KHENG

INTRODUCTION Songket is an exquisite piece of traditional Malay fabric belonging to the brocade family of textiles. Songket weaving has existed in the Malay Archipelago since the thirteenth century and is one of the most luxurious textiles as well as a traditional heritage of the Malay world. The role of textiles in the Malay world began to change when textiles were utilized as symbols of rank or position in a community. This led to the custom of differentiating the status of the wearer in specific ways; for example, differentiating the ruler from his subjects by using special motifs and patterns, colour of the silk ground fabric, quality and density of the gold threads forming the motifs and complexity and intricacy of the design (Maxwell 1999: 24–25). In the past, songket woven with glittering gold threads were used mostly in the Malay courts and became an object that differentiated ranks in a society; a symbol of prestige and of the wearer’s social status. For example, since the period of the sultanate of Sultan Muhammad Shah of Malacca (1424–1446), yellow-coloured clothing was associated with royalty (white gold for the Sultan and yellow for the Prince or Crown Prince), blue or violet for the chief minister (Bendahara), green for the chief of law and order (Temenggong) and red for the admiral (Laksamana) were mentioned in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) (Siti Zainon Ismail 1999: 14; Noor Azlina Yunus 2008: 26). The gold and silver motifs give songket from the Malay world a distinctive appearance and distinguish it from other types of handwoven textiles from Southeast Asia. The songket motifs are created by employing the supplementary weft technique using the traditional menyongket (a Malay word meaning to embroider) technique where the gold or silver metallic threads are inserted and woven into the cloth (Selvanayagam 1990: xv). During the menyongket process, the warp threads are picked up using a fine bamboo stick (lidi buluh) to create the motifs (see Plate 14.1). Limar Songket, weft ikat combined with songket is the most luxurious fabric woven by the highly skilled weaver for the royal courts of the Malay world (Maxwell 1999: 23). The laborious and tedious tasks of picking up the threads and inserting the metallic 211



threads according to the design require a skilled concentration and craftsmanship from the weaver.

HISTORY OF SONGKET IN THE MALAY PENINSULA According to the Chinese records on maritime commerce during the Sung dynasty, trade between China and the Malay Peninsula was already in existence in the thirteenth century. Merchants from the Malay world traded with the Chinese in beeswax, resin, camphor or ivory, varieties of gharuwood, lakawood, rhinoceros horn, sandalwood, rattan and tin. The Chinese traded earthen-ware bowls, gold, silver, iron, lacquer-ware, pongee parasol umbrellas, porcelain vessels, rice, salt, Ho-ch’ih silk skeins, sugar, wheat and spirits (Wheatley 1959: 32, 34; Norwani Mohd. Nawawi 1989: 8). The strategic location of the Malay Peninsula, particularly with Malacca’s booming port, attracted many traders from India, China and the Middle East who brought with them their cultural knowledge, skills and materials that influenced the lives of the local people. The techniques and motifs of songket weaving came to the Malay Peninsula not only through trade, but also with migration and political marriages since the fifteenth century or even earlier. In her 1989 study of Malaysian Songket, Norwani Nawawi found proof that silk yarns had been sent as presents to the royal families in Southeast Asia since the thirteenth century (Norwani Mohd. Nawawi 1989: 7). The production of local textiles in the Malay Peninsula flourished and reached its height from the thirteenth to the fourteenth century when trade between the States from the east coast and China was at its peak. Weaving centres were set up on the east coast rather than the west coast of the Malay Peninsula due to the trade route of the Malay Archipelago that led to inter-cultural exchanges as well as migration along the coastal areas. These coastal areas were mostly populated by Muslims who still uphold strong political, social and cultural ties with one another. The weaving centres were established in the coastal areas of Champa, Cambodia southwards to Patani, on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula (Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang), Sulawesi, Riau, as well as the east coast of Sumatera and Aceh. These places were visited by Arab traders who spread Islam together with a knowledge of weaving, which later became fused with textile influences and weaving methods introduced by the traders from India. For example, songket is found not only in Terengganu and Kelantan but also in Sumatra and Sulawesi. Songket from the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Sulawesi demonstrates a fusion of Chinese, Indian and Islamic influences where the silk yarns were imported from China, while the approach to weaving indicated a strong influence from India. The abstract motifs used in songket, and the absence of animal and figurative motifs, showed the pervasive force of Islam (Maznah 1995: 108).

THE ROLE OF THE WEAVING INDUSTRY: THE EAST COAST OF THE MALAY PENINSULA Weaving was done by women and performed a vital economic role. According to stories from Kelantan, when it was ruled by Che’ Siti Wan Kembang in the seventeenth century, women must acquire the skills of textile weaving, as well as cooking, sewing and reading the Quran before they could get married (Norwani Mohd. Nawawi 1989: 7). Under the protection of the Sultan, the weavers lived at the courts producing beautiful songket worn by their Sultans during royal ceremonies. These songket also



served as gifts from the Sultans when they performed official visits to other countries (Maznah 2001: 24). The renowned Malay writer, Munshi Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, visited Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang in 1836 and observed that the production of the silk sarongs was then a thriving industry (as cited by Mohd. Yusof Bin Abdullah 1990: 8). In the nineteenth century silk yarns from China, which had been used in the weaving industry on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, were still a vital import. Exports then consisted of gold, tin, coffee, pepper, bananas, silk fabrics and sarongs. At this time the number of weavers increased tremendously and towns such as Kuala Terengganu (Terengganu) and Kota Bharu (Kelantan) were well known for their products. In 1839, the Sultan of Omar of Terengganu (1839–1875) became very interested in handicrafts and brought in craftsmen from the Malay Archipelagos to Terengganu. The skilled craftsmen taught the local craftsmen to produce quality handicrafts. Subsequently, Terengganu became renowned for its quality craft. According to the 1910 Annual Report of Kelantan, almost every house in Kota Bharu had a loom. Although weaving was still a valued occupation that was only carried out by women mainly in Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu, there was a decline in income in 1920 as the weavers had to work very hard to compete against the cheaper imported textiles. Unfortunately in the 1930s, many women gave up weaving as competition against the imported textiles became economically unviable (Maznah 2001: 25). Even though there was a significant decline in the numbers of weavers, the handloom weaving industry continues to exist up to the present day.

HISTORY OF THREADS AND DYESTUFFS ON THE EAST COAST OF THE MALAY PENINSULA Since the fifteenth century, different types of cotton and silk from India and China had been traded in Malacca’s lively port, for use in weaving songket. Apart from spreading Islam and introducing silk fabrics to the locals in the Malay Peninsula, the Arabs also brought gold and silver threads with them to trade. Before the introduction of cotton and silk threads, the local Malay weavers used vegetable fibre threads made mainly from pineapple leaves and banana stems (Mohd. Yusof Bin Abdullah 1990: 3–4). During the early twentieth century the cotton and silk threads used to weave sarongs in Kelantan and Patani were imported via Singapore from China (Skeat 1902: 123) and this was documented in the survey carried out by Fisk in 1958 on the handloom industry on the east coast. Synthetic dyestuffs were imported from the United Kingdom, Germany, the USA and China, while metallic threads were from India, Europe and Japan (Fisk 1959: 20). Despite the fact that songket weaving is considered a significant aspect of Malay identity, it is a fact that the threads used for weaving in the Malay Peninsula at that time were mostly imported and not produced locally. As the cotton and silk skeins were in raw form and undyed, the weavers would dye the threads themselves using vegetable dyes. Prior to dyeing, durian husk ashes were used to bleach the raw silk threads, and fruit and stalks from the coconut palm for the cotton-silk threads. Among the colours of the vegetables dyes used in the early twentieth century were blue and black from tarung leaves (Indigo) or mangrove bark, purple from an infusion of Tengar bark or a mixture of the light red mala (sticklac) with indigo, yellow (tumeric) and yellow green (mixture of tumeric and chips from the Kederang tree or young rambutans shoots). The colour red was obtained from asam gelugor (Garcinia



Atroviridis) mixed with tamarind, mala, Sepang or Brazilwood with chips from the Kederang tree or Kesumba (Bixa Orellana). Grey colour was produced by dipping first in indigo and orange and then into a used mala bath. Asam Gelugor and alum solution were used to fix the colours of the natural dyes. Lime was used to darken blues and yellows and fermented coconut milk to darken purple and black (Skeat 1902: 123–127; Winstedt 1909: 59–60).

TRADITIONAL SONGKET LOOMS Since 1980 any modifications made to songket weaving which concerned dyeing techniques and adjustment of production were mainly due to market demand. However, the weaving equipment and methods remained unchanged for more than a century (Fisk 1959: 7). According to Selvanayagam (1990: 33), ‘the Malay loom (Kek) is very simple in structure and is believed to have originated from either India or China’. The Malay loom is a two-harness loom and utilizes a warp beam (as shown in Plate 14.2). The warp is stretched between the four wooden posts (tiang kek) of the weaving frame, which is about 1.2 metres (about four feet) high. The weaver sits on a bench (1.5 metres (five feet) long) supported by two bars at the back of the frames. In front of the weaver’s bench, there are two strong posts also supporting the bench. At the top end of each post is a square groove. A movable wooden crossbar (pesa) is slotted into the grooves and acts as a cloth roller or beam. The pesa is where the songket cloth is wound up while the weaving is in progress. At the opposite side of the weaver’s bench, a warping board is slotted into wood guides (pasung) that hang from a crossbar at the top of the frame. The two harnesses (shafts) with heddles (karat) and the reed (gigi jentera) are held by another crossbar. The two crossbars are supported by the two horizontal beams that run along the length (2.4–3 metres, or about 8–10 feet) of the loom. These are attached to the vertical wooden posts. According to Winstedt, the looms that are still used in the Malay Archipelago (Java, Sumatera and Malay Peninsula) are of better design than the looms made in India. This is because the weaver in India had to sit on a cross-bench or raised flooring in a hole that was created in the ground when weaving (Winstedt 1909: 61). The design and mechanism of the Malay loom in the Malay Peninsula are very similar to those in Thailand and Sumatra. Typically, a songket loom is able to produce fabric up to a maximum of approximately 107 centimetres (42 inches) wide and about 9 metres (9–10 yards) in length.

USAGE OF SONGKET Historically, songket was worn by royalty and their families, but today songket is normally made into costumes for use during ceremonial functions such as inaugurations, Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations that indicate the end of the Ramadan fasting month, religious occasions, weddings and ceremonies marking circumcision, ear-piercing and shaving the hair of a newborn baby. Songket is also worn during formal state functions and dinners. Even today, most Malay traditional songket costumes are exclusively designed with special motifs and ornamental borders to cater for the type of Malay costume used during a particular Malay formal function. For example, samping and tengkolok (folded headdress) are worn by the Malay man. Samping is a smaller form of sarong and is wrapped around the waist and worn over their Baju Melayu (tunic and long trousers). As for the Malay women, they would wear sarongs and kain panjang (long shawls) or selendang (narrow shawls) with their traditional dress, the baju kurung or baju kebaya.



Over the last decade or so, songket textiles have lost some of their formality and been transformed into apparel and fashion accessories.

SONGKET DESIGNS AND PATTERNS Historically, songket motifs and patterns were designed by the weavers themselves. Motifs were smaller in scale than is common today and the patterns were arranged in detailed compositions. No large flower motifs were produced in the past (Abdul Aziz Rashid 1999: 8). Some members of royalty designed their own songket: for example, Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah wore his own songket designs to the coronation ceremony of King George VI in 1937 as did Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin (Mohd. Yusof Bin Abdullah 1990: 13). The traditional songket motifs were inspired by the natural surroundings and daily activities in the vicinity of the weaver’s home. The weaver’s creative imagination led to the creation of motifs influenced by trees, fruit, flowers, birds and even from Malay cakes.

POPULAR TRADITIONAL SONGKET MOTIFS Songket motifs were normally arranged in a number of ways on the cloth; for example. bertabur (scattered), songket penuh (full patterned) or placed in between the teluk berantai (chain of bays). Patterns were also positioned in horizontal or vertical stripe arrangements. A full patterned songket arranged in chain of bays was known as jong sarat (laden junk) (Siti Zainon Ismail 1999: 13–14) (see Plate 14.3). Pucuk Rebung (bamboo shoot) and Lawi Ayam (Cockerel’s Tail) motifs were two widely used songket motifs. Both were triangular-shaped motifs usually used at the kepala kain (head of the cloth) section of the sarong or samping songket (as shown in Plate 14.3). The kepala kain should be worn facing the back. These motifs are still much loved and in use today. The Teluk Berantai (chain of bays) motif was usually used in the full pattern songket on the badan kain (body of the cloth) section. The Teluk Berantai motif had a few chains linked together and the main motif was found in the centre of the chains, placed in geometric shapes such as the rhomboids, squares and ogees. These shapes formed the chain known as Rantai; for example, the Bunga Kota Raja dalam Teluk Berantai (Sultan’s Fortress Motif in Chain of Bays) (see Plate 14.4). The scattered pattern songket motifs such as the Tampuk Manggis (named after the mangosteen fruit) and Tampuk Buah Kesemak (persimmon) are arranged in various ways all over the badan kain of the songket. (Examples of such songket motifs are shown in Plate 14.4.)

SONGKET WEAVING AND THE CHALLENGES FACED BY THE MALAYSIAN SONGKET WEAVING COTTAGE INDUSTRY Due to the complexity of the craft, the number of songket weavers in Malaysia has dwindled. The younger generation of women, whose predecessors wove songket for a living, are no longer interested in songket weaving as it is thought to be time-consuming and boring. Others have stopped weaving after marriage, while some have moved to the



city hoping to land a better job. The expense of songket, due to increases in the prices of silk and cotton yarns, dyes and metallic threads, has also affected the demand for songket (Selvanayagam 1990: 194). Despite these difficulties the desire to make songket persists, together with the challenge to position songket in a contemporary setting. In order to learn the craft of songket weaving, a weaver needs to be very dedicated and patient to acquire a high degree of skill. The thirteen processes in songket weaving that have remained unchanged over the centuries are: 1. Mereka corak: Planning the design of the songket pattern. 2. Mencelup warna: Dyeing the cotton or silk yarns (thread) in hanks. 3. Menerai: Unwinding the hanks and winding the yarns on the bobbins using the spool winder (rahat) and revolving wheel (ruing). 4. Menganing: Warping the yarns on the warping frame. 5. Menggulung: Winding the warp yarns onto a warp board. 6. Menyapuk: Sleying the yarns through the reed 7. Menyediakan kek: Setting up the loom for weaving. 8. Mengarat: Making the frames for the string heddles and threading the string heddles to form the weaving shed. 9. Menenun: Plain weave weaving. 10. Menyongket: During the menyongket/supplementary weft process the weaver will determine and pick the number of warp ends (3, 5 or 7 depending on the thickness of the threads) using a fine bamboo stick (lidi buluh) to create the motifs according to the design on the graph. 11. Mengikat butang: String loop leashes are tied, following the draft pattern, along the warp threads at the back of the loom to enable the weaver to insert the fine bamboo sticks. 12. Angkat butang: Lifting the string loop leashes and inserting the fine lidi buluh according to the draft pattern. This process enables the weaver to insert and weave the metallic threads according to the draft pattern easier, and speedier as she does not have to pick the warp ends manually again or repeatedly. 13. Menenun: Weaving the plain weave (ground cloth) and the songket pattern with the metallic threads. Producing a traditional handwoven songket requires much patience and time from the weaver. Without the passion to create a piece of beautiful songket, it would be difficult for a weaver to endure the painstaking process of picking the yarns from the warp to create the intricate songket motifs. The time needed to complete a piece of songket will depend on the complexity of the design (many colours per row demands many discontinuous weaving sections and repeat size), types of threads (silk or cotton), experience and skills of the weaver. For example, a silk samping of 2.3 metres (about 7 foot 8 inches) long and of average complexity of design will take at least 2.5 months (6 to 8 hours/day of weaving) to complete. Some of the challenges faced by the songket weaving industry in Malaysia are due to the limited usage and stiffness of the songket cloth. Apart from that, most of the handwoven songket fails to fulfil the needs of today’s fashion conscious consumers because of the traditional look. In 1999 the Director General of the Malaysian Handicraft



Development Corporation in the introduction of the book entitled A Malaysian Touch: Textiles for the New Millennium stated that traditions would diminish because handcrafted textiles were not in demand today and were unable to compete against massproduced textiles. They were not suitable for today’s market in terms of their design and function (Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation 1999: ix). As he mentioned, competition from machine-made songket has affected the demand for the handwoven songket. The inability to compete in price, quantity, and consumerfulfilment are the primary factors that threaten the survival and sustainability of distinctive Malaysian Songket. A clear need existed to give the craft of songket weaving new zest and relevance. Unless new weavers continue to take up the challenge of mastering the skill, Malaysia may lose generations of cultural heritage. Therefore, it is crucial to find ways, as in other Asian economies such as India and Thailand, to preserve the craft of songket weaving, and encourage the younger generation, particularly women, to learn the art and produce contemporary handwoven songket to cater for local and international markets. For example in Thailand, traditional designs have been successfully adapted to suit the taste of Western markets. The handwoven fabrics are sold by the metre at retail shops or nonprofit organizations that support handloom weavers from rural provinces. These quality contemporary and innovative handwoven fabrics are able to compete with the imported high-end products (Conway 1992: 184).

QUALITY HANDWOVEN TEXTILES TO GIVE MALAYSIA A COMPETITIVE EDGE With the establishment of the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (MHDC ) in 1979, many workshops and exhibitions have been organized to promote the traditional Malaysian textiles especially in areas of batik and songket, which augured well for the development of traditional crafts in our society. The MHDC set up the National Craft Institute [Institut Kraf Negara (IKN )] at Rawang, Selangor. The objective of IKN is to teach traditional Malaysian handicrafts including songket weaving to the younger generation, besides offering educational certificates and diploma courses related to traditional Malaysian handicrafts. The MHDC Craft Innovation Centre Malaysia (Pusat Innovasi Kraf Tenunan Malaysia) at Chendering, Kuala Terengganu was opened on 18 April 2005 with the aim of research and development in Malaysian songket to enable competition with international textiles products, as well as providing weaving training and related weaving services (e.g. yarn dyeing) to weavers. The centre also serves as a reference point for weavers to obtain the latest information on weaving innovations and the industry. Today, in order for songket to sustain and remain competitive, it is necessary to produce songket that emphasizes quality of materials and design, as well as broader applications for the finished cloth. This can be achieved by putting theory into practice through experimenting, manipulating and exploiting the relationship between textile design, textile science, production processes and weaving technology. For example, the production of traditional handwoven textiles can be sustained through education and innovation. Value-added contemporary handwoven textiles can be achieved by manipulating and exploiting the relationship between textile design and textile science. Knowledge in textile design and textile science can lead to the innovation of the traditional handwoven textiles. Innovation through design, materials, colours, equipment (weaving looms) and weaving techniques can improve the aesthetics,



quality and speed of production of the traditional handwoven textiles. The next section demonstrates some of the results of such an approach.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ON MALAYSIAN HANDWOVEN SONGKET The need for the traditional Malaysian textile craft industry to shift to higher value-added products and to broaden its usage or application is vital in order to be competitive in the local and export textile craft market and sustain family and cultural heritage. The use of the handwoven textiles adds a particular appeal to apparel, home-furnishing, premium gifts and decorative items. Various innovative methods to improve the processes and tailor the aesthetics for today’s fashionable market and trend-conscious people address the quality and speed of songket production. The approach to designs, materials, colours, equipment (weaving looms) and techniques can be re-thought or integrated at different phases or intervals during the songket production: (i) Application of thematic and fashionable motifs using supplementary weft techniques, e.g. geometric, flora, foliage, ikat themes are turned into repeated stylized or abstract motifs/ designs. (ii) Before weaving the warp and weft threads can be resisted (tied or waxed), dyed or painted using synthetic/commercial dyes or natural dyes. By using synthetic dyes the whole resonance of the cloth can be changed. More ranges of colours can be obtained. (iii) During weaving a wider variety of threads can be used, natural or man-made/ synthetic fibres such as rayon and polyester and metallic threads can be used. (iv) During finishing the handwoven fabrics can be dyed or discharged using the resist technique to create interesting textures and dimensional effects. Many creative artisans and researchers have experimented and created new contemporary songket. For example, Norwani Mohd. Nawawi (1989) has produced songket with contemporary motifs and colours, and also utilized computer-aided design software and jacquard loom for her research work. Another example of research in innovating songket was carried out by a British textile designer, Suzanne Stankard, who was employed by the MHDC to carry out an 8-month research project in 2003 to develop a range of contemporary songket and to teach students creative songket weaving at the National Craft Institute based in Rawang, Selangor (Stankard 2003). Stankard has produced a range of contemporary songket together with IKN students by combining both traditional and modern motifs and used alternative yarns and textured yarn surfaces. The author’s PhD research (June Ngo 2003–2007) on transforming traditional handwoven songket into contemporary songket involved collaboration with songket weavers in the Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu and Kuching areas in Sarawak to produce a range of contemporary songket with good draping qualities for apparel usage. In order to achieve the aim of the research, the concepts of education and innovation were applied. Fusing various types of threads and other textile techniques (such as shibori, devoré and chemical treatment on fabrics) with contemporary songket fabric further enhanced the textures and dimensions of the cloth.



TRANSFORMING TRADITIONAL HANDWOVEN SONGKET INTO CONTEMPORARY SONGKET Since 2008, efforts have been made to preserve and promote Malaysia’s culture and heritage especially in songket weaving. As a result teams of textile designers, weavers and marketing experts worked together in synergy, sharing their expertise on projects to create and promote songket. The author’s PhD research showed that expert textile designers also needed visualization and communication skills. A rigorous approach to developing new ideas also required an ability to communicate effectively his/her specific design requirements to a weaver when creating a textile product. The research suggested that textile designers needed a sense of functionality (whether it is for fashion or furnishing fabrics) to produce aesthetically pleasing songket to cater for fashion and quality-conscious consumers. Commercial realities indicated that virtues of branding were equally important in producing quality handwoven songket products. Creating products that have an international appeal while maintaining cultural identity meant that good networking, marketing strategy and competitive pricing became vital tactics (Ngo 2007).1 The new, collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach to thinking about songket has resulted in efforts to improve the livelihoods of artisans, raising awareness of the relevance of the songket weaving heritage through the production of innovative contemporary songket and developing new markets through branding. For example, Royal Terengganu Songket (, Tanoti (, Bibah songket ( and Senijari ( are a few renowned songket brands active in contemporary Malaysia. Social Entrepreneurs are working with the traditional artisans, but not actually weaving themselves, in order to highlight the quality of the brand name, such as Senijari.

SONGKET WEAVING WORKSHOPS The set-up of a contemporary songket weaving workshop is very similar to the general structure of the songket weaving cottage industry in Kuala Terengganu except that one does not have to go from one house or village to another in search of a particular specialist skilled in aspects of songket weaving (see Plate 14.5). All the songket makers who specialize in different stages of the songket processes needed for a complete sarong or samping can be found in one workshop. For example, there are specialists who dye silk and cotton yarns, warp makers, menyongket (making the songket patterns) and weavers. Typically, a supervisor is appointed to assist in overseeing the running of the workshop and the songket production. Such workshops can be found at Bibah Enterprise Sendirian Berhad, Tuanku Nur Zahirah Foundation and Tanoti Sdn Bhd.

Bibah Songket Bibah Enterprise Sendirian Berhad (Bibah Songket) was established in 1996 by a textile designer and entrepreneur, Habibah Zikri. She was one of the first few entrepreneurs who set up a weaving workshop in Malaysia. There are approximately 20 weavers employed at Bibah workshop and all songket designs are created by Habibah herself. Bibah songket also produces samping, sarong, shawls, decorative products, artworks and gift boxes. The Bibah songket workshop is fully equipped with all the necessary tools and equipment needed to produce a piece of songket manually but a yarn winding machine speeds up the



lengthy process of transferring silk yarns in hank forms onto the spools (before the process of making the warp).

Tuanku Nur Zahirah Foundation Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ ) is a foundation begun in 2007 under the royal patronage of the former Queen of Malaysia, Tuanku Nur Zahirah, which aims to preserve and enhance indigenous craft and heritage while helping to improve the livelihoods of artisans. When the YTNZ began its work, a study of the crafts industry of the country was carried out by the foundation. Overall, most of the songket weavers came from rural areas and the majority of them earned very low incomes, often well below the poverty line. As a result of this, fewer and fewer young people considered a career in traditional craft. YTNZ chose to begin with songket as it is a craft that has more than 800 years of history in the Malay Archipelago but is in great danger of disappearing over the next twenty or thirty years if nothing is done to arrest its decline. YTNZ is the first organization in Malaysia that focuses on the production of contemporary handwoven songket to cater for a broader market while preserving the traditional craft of songket weaving (as suggested above in the research for ‘Transforming songket’ by the author). The foundation hopes to continue to facilitate the commercialization of such innovative songket in new markets in order to ensure future growth and sustainability. In 2008, the author was invited to be a consultant to YTNZ . From 2008 to 2012, her task was to produce high-quality handwoven songket suitable for fashion, interior and corporate gifts. She also had to maintain research and development in producing contemporary and innovative songket designs. A songket weaving production centre was set up to train young weavers the craft of songket weaving in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu and a research and development songket weaving centre was set up in Kuching, Sarawak to produce contemporary handwoven songket.

Royal Terengganu Songket The YTNZ songket project also established the brand ‘Royal Terengganu Songket (RTS )’ as a viable social-business enterprise that developed, produced and marketed fine-quality handwoven songket products. Contemporary songket has been produced for apparel, home-furnishing and premium gifts under the RTS . This project hopes to commercialize songket products in new and non-traditional markets in order to ensure sustainability of the dying craft. The research and development on songket weaving, weaving techniques and looms carried out by the YTNZ Foundation has successfully produced an innovative range of contemporary songket fabrics, with a fresh approach to technique and materials under the Royal Terengganu Songket brand. One of the activities carried out by the foundation is collaborating with highly regarded Malaysian Fashion designers to create outfits using contemporary songket. Fashion designers such as Dato Tom Abang Saufi, Melinda Looi, Jovian Mandagie, Tangoo, Pink Jambu and Datuk Radzuan Radziwill were invited to collaborate in this project. The exquisite fashion masterpieces were published in Songket Revolution, a coffee table book published by YTNZ in March 2009 that aimed to raise awareness of songket, its history and evolution, nationwide and internationally.



Pink Jambu Songtik is another collaboration project between Royal Terengganu Songket and the fashion designer Pink Jambu first produced in 2010. The debut collection of 42 Songtik shawls showcased the marrying of songket and batik textile crafts from Malaysia. In this collection, the designers Tengku Marina Ibrahim (CEO and Design Director of Pink Jambu) and Ngo experimented with various types of yarns, colours and designs to create a range of unique and drape-able shawls. In 2011, after the success of the 2010 collection, the designers showed their second collection of shawls ‘Songtik Fables 2011’ depicting stories of love, relationship and well-being highlighting technical innovation that merged batik-painting and songket-weaving on a single surface.

Tanoti In April 2012, the funding for the YTNZ Contemporary songket weaving workshop in Kuching ceased and the highly skilled young weavers employed by the foundation were going to lose their jobs. Jacqueline Fong and her business partner decided to establish Tanoti Sendirian Berhad Private Limited in May 2012 to continue to improve lives through handicraft, an objective that was started by the foundation. Tanoti started with twelve weavers who had served under the YTNZ . Today, the number has increased to approximately 20 weavers and two textile designers. With its weaving team in place, Tanoti not only changes the look of songket but also injects a fresh approach to its technique and materials. For example, in order to speed up the design process, Tanoti designers use computer-aided design (CAD ) software such as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to produce the textile designs for smaller repetitive songket designs and converts them into graph form instead of the conventional method that transfers and copies the design onto graph paper. However, designs with large repeat or no repeats will still have to be drawn out and converted on the graph paper manually. The CAD software is also very useful to present the designs in different colourways and simulate the songket design onto a finished product. Customers are able to visualize the completed songket and this ensures satisfaction. Weavers at Tanoti are also taught to weave the Sarawak and Peninsula (Terengganu) styles of songket. Only quality filament silk and Lurex® metallic threads are used by Tanoti to produce premium songket for its own and other brands. Today, the handwoven songket is no longer a textile limited to ceremonial use. Although songket has retained its luxury and heirloom element it has extended its use to exclusive shawls, rare gift items, cushion covers, table runner and placemat sets, fashion accessories such as clutch bags, artworks and interior wall panels (see Plate 14.6).

Senijari ‘Senijari’ is a brand that was established in 2013 by Suryani Senja Alias and was founded as a social enterprise. The word Seni in the Malay language means art, and Jari means fingers. In short, Senijari signifies the act of creating works of art by hand. As many weavers today face the challenge of trying to stay competitive against massproduced songket in terms of quantities and prices, Senijari aims to revitalize songket by introducing modern designs, provide opportunities to weavers to preserve their craft and heritage, and also improve their source of revenue. Senijari collaborated with songket designers, producers and weavers in Malaysia by creating fair partnerships, and a portion of the profit made is channelled back into further development of heritage-based designs and products.



CONCLUSION The author’s research demonstrates that textile designers with creative design skills and knowledge in textile science (including dyestuffs and chemicals) are able to lead the new creation of songket generating innovative hybrid products carrying Malaysian brand names. It is very clear that this can only be realized if all the stakeholders related to the Malaysian textile craft industry work together in synergy: handloom songket weavers, songket producers, workshop managers, textile, fashion and product designers, related governments agencies and associations, institutions of higher learning, as well as textile technologists, engineers, branding and marketing experts. The efforts to innovate and transform the traditional handwoven songket for a broader contemporary usage while preserving the traditional craft have also provided opportunities for young and under-privileged women to earn a reasonable and consistent income. As in other southeast Asian weaving workshops such as Carol Cassidy’s Lao Textiles or Artisans Angkor Cambodia, songket weaving can continue to exist successfully as a small or homebased industry to ensure the survival of this magnificent traditional craft. Despite the threat posed by mass-produced textiles, this chapter has shown that many songket producers and researchers continue to co-exist and compete successfully. The sustainability of the handwoven songket can continue if the equipment, design, materials and colours are carefully devised to produce exclusive and customized cloths for the high end of the market. A new, reinvented songket can be created to cater for contemporary markets, which will enable songket to continue to thrive as a small industry in Malaysia. Education allows the songket weavers to improve themselves and diversify their skills creating legitimacy for its survival while providing a sustainable approach to ensure the perpetuity of a precious heritage.


The author applied her knowledge from her PhD research in her consultancy work as the Director of Textile Design and Production to the Tuanku Nur Zahirah Foundation.

REFERENCES Abdul Aziz Rashid. 1999. ‘The songket collection of the Museum of Asian Art, University of Malaya’. In Mas Zeti Atan (ed), Songket satu warisan Malaysia Kuala Lumpur: Petronas. Conway, S. 1992. Thai textiles. Thailand: River Book Press. Fisk, E.K. 1959. ‘The economics of the handloom industry of the east coast of Malaya’. Journal of the Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. XXXII (32) Part 4 (No.188): 6–72. Maxwell, R. 1999. ‘Songket and Status: The development of prestige textiles in the Malay world’. In Mas Zeti Atan (ed), Songket satu warisan Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas. Maznah Mohamed. 1995. ‘The origins of weaving centres in the Malay Peninsula’. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. LXVIII (68) Part 1 No. 268: 91–118. Maznah Mohamed. 2001. ‘Women, weaving and markets’ in Cheah Boon Kheng (Vol. ed), Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Early modern history (1800–1940). Singapore: Archipelago Press. Mohd. Yusof Bin Abdullah. 1990. Sejarah perkembangan tekstil di Terengganu (Historical Development of Textiles in Terengganu), Bengkel Pakaian dan Tradisi Melayu (Malay Clothing and Tradition Workshop), organized by the Terengganu State Government and



Museum Organisation Malaysia in collaboration with Department of Terengganu State Museum and Ministry of Culture, Heritage and Tourism Malaysia. 9–11 December 1990, Kuala Terengganu. Ngo, June Siok Kheng. 2007. ‘Transforming traditional Malaysian songket into contemporary songket for broader apparel usage’. PhD thesis. Universiti Sains Malaysia. Noor Azlina Yunus. 2008. Songket revolution. Kuala Lumpur: Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah. Norwani Mohd. Nawawi. 1989. Malaysian songket. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Pustaka dan Bahasa. Reita Faida Rahim. 1999. The Malaysian Touch: Textiles for the New Millennium. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation. Selvanayagam, G. 1990. Songket Malaysia’s woven treasure. New York: Oxford University Press. Siti Zainon Ismail. 1999. ‘Lustrous Gold Threaded Songket’. In Mas Zeti Atan (ed), Songket satu warisan Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas. Skeat, W.W. 1902. ‘Silk and cotton dyeing by Malays’. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 38: 123–127. Stankard, S. 2003. Conclusional report on creative weaving and songket project. Submitted to the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation. Wheatley, P. 1959. ‘Geographical notes on some commodities involved in Sung Maritime Trade’. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 32, Part 2 (No.186): 5–140. Winstedt, R.O. (1909). Industries: Spinning, dyeing and weaving: Malay Industries, Part I, Arts and Crafts. Kuala Lumpur: F.M.S. Government Press, pp. 59–70.



Creative Resilience Thinking in Textiles and Fashion MATHILDA THAM

INTRODUCTION Four interdependent and core themes run through this chapter. The first, systems thinking,1 turns our attention to the intricate relationships that comprise textiles, fashion and their engagement with sustainability. This is important since focusing on isolated issues, which has been the dominant way of addressing sustainability to date, has not succeeded in establishing overall sound and futures-embracing practices. Following on from work in ecology by Holling (1973), my second core theme, resilience thinking, describes the extent to which systems are able to cope in the face of some form of disturbance: by absorbing it, by adapting, or by transforming into new trajectories (Folke et al. 2010: 20). Essential to an understanding of resilience thinking is that change is normal for systems. It is how systems build capacity to work with change that defines whether the outcome is sound or not. Key aspects of such capacity are, for example, diversity and flexibility (Walker and Salt 2006). The deep and comprehensive understanding of the textiles, fashion and sustainability conundrum that a systems and resilience outlook affords, helps us to look beyond the many issues at hand (such as environmental pollution or labour rights), and discover underlying problematic constructs and flawed relationships. Most fundamentally, this concerns the relationship to sustainability which, I argue, has been constructed as an external or other to a dominant understanding of textiles and fashion pursuits, as well as human pursuits more generally. My third core theme is therefore a reading of sustainability as living with empathy, for ourselves, for other people – near and far in time and space, and for the natural world. In order to give this living with empathy an agency in the remit of textiles and fashion, I use the notion of a creative resilience thinking – my fourth core theme. This enables us to turn our attention and capabilities – as students, educators, researchers, designers, makers and users – towards thinking and practice that draw on a broad epistemology; that celebrate the interconnectedness of complex systems; and, most importantly, that embrace and advance the deep joy so many of us find through engagement with textiles and fashion. Altogether, the notion of creative resilience thinking helps to position ourselves as solutions holders instead of problem causers. Consequently, this chapter seeks to offer an integrative framework for understandings and explorations rather than a comprehensive narrative of unsustainability and sustainability 225



in the remits of textiles and fashion – which would be impossible within the scope, and which also already exists (see e.g. Allwood et al. 2006; Fletcher 2008; Blackburn 2009; Chapman 2010; Fletcher and Tham 2014).

TEXTILES , FASHION AND SUSTAINABILITY Sustainability: A Systemic Concept The context of this chapter is the sustainability imperative. It is now globally and formally agreed that the environment has reached an alarming state of degradation, and that human activities drive earth systems off balance (see e.g. Rockström et al. 2009; IPCC 2013). In 1987, when the very definition of sustainable development was first introduced (WCED 1987), the systemic nature of both unsustainability and sustainability was emphasized, and the urgent need to understand the complex interdependent relationships between ecological, social and financial dimensions declared. The significance of these inter-relationships is re-invoked in the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework, which clearly shows, for example, that eradication of poverty is intrinsically related to improving both human health and that of natural systems (United Nations n.d.). Yet an important relationship, at the core of the definition of sustainable development – ‘[to] meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs’ – is the relationship between the present and the future, towards intergenerational equity (WCED 1987).

Unsustainability in Textiles and Fashion The field of textiles, fashion and sustainability, as discourse and practice, has reached certain maturity. Today a great deal is known about the disturbance that textiles and fashion operations cause to both natural and social systems. The negative impact on the environment is attributed to extensive extraction of resources, pollution effects and waste build-up, across all their lifecycles (Blackburn 2009; Chapman 2010). The textiles and fashion sectors’ disturbance to social systems became a global media topic after the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013 (by no means a unique incident), with tragic consequences for individuals and communities. More than 1,300 garment workers were crushed under eight storeys of concrete. This tragedy exemplifies the intrinsic links between social, ecological and financial systems, as pressures from the latter, in the emblematic guise of ‘faster and cheaper’ ruled out notions of care (Parker 2014). The social concerns fall into two categories: human rights (including long working hours, wages insufficient to meet living requirements, sexual and other harassment, forced or compulsory labour, child labour and lack of right to organize in unions and conduct collective bargaining) and human health (including hazardous chemicals, fibre dust, noise, repetitive motions, and chemical residues harmful to end-users) (Allwood et al. 2006: 14). As a consequence of the Rana Plaza disaster, 150 companies signed the Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding and independent agreement designed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh safe workplaces (Rana Plaza Arrangement n.d.).

Current Dominant Strategies The dominant route to addressing both environmental and social concerns in the textile and fashion sectors has been that of code of conduct documents, which, in essence, are



comprehensive lists laying out rules and responsibilities. These are initiated by the companies, and signed by the factories. Compliance is checked through audits (deemed ideally, third-party audits). The code of conduct documents have become increasingly standardized, aided by initiatives and networks such as NICE (Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical) (Nordic Fashion Association 2014). The attitude to the relationship between fashion or textile company on the one hand, and supplier on the other, has gradually shifted (at least in rhetoric) from ‘policing’ to dialogue, and more long-term commitment (Parker 2014). Where a first generation of approaches focused predominantly or exclusively on the production and processing stages, at the present time some companies are also extending their responsibilities. For example, by asking customers to wash at lower temperatures, the user phase is targeted (see e.g. Marks & Spencer 2014a). The end-of-life phase is addressed when companies engage in take-back schemes. To illustrate the significance of such work, Marks & Spencer and Oxfam’s shwopping initiative, which invites customers to donate unwanted pieces of clothing, is estimated to have saved 7.8 million items from ending up in landfill, where on average 1 billion garments (and 16 items per person) in the UK end up each year (Marks & Spencer 2014b). In 2013, H&M was the first fashion company to launch a global garment collection initiative (H&M 2013).

A CRITIQUE OF CURRENT STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN TEXTILES AND FASHION Despite the significant journey that the textile and fashion sectors have travelled since their first formal (but by no means universal) engagement with sustainability in the late 1980s and early 1990s (see e.g. Black 2008), experts agree (see e.g. Allwood et al. 2006; Chapman 2010) that we are far from what could be described as sound practices. What follows is a discussion exemplifying some key areas of contention with strategies to date, pointing to examples of emerging thinking and practices that attempt to fill these gaps. The three interlinked areas of critique I want to offer are: standardization or blanket approaches, the inability for strategies to catch up with increasing volumes, and imbalanced power relationships intrinsic to the textiles and fashion industries. As you will see, ultimately the critique concerns the strategies’ failure to contribute to system resilience by not showing sensitivity to complex relationships.

Strategies Constitute Standardized or Blanket Approaches The standardization of code of conduct documents is regarded to have made the work of factory managers easier, not having to address a range of what, in focus or language, are different demands from different suppliers (see e.g. Pasquinelli 2012). Yet, there is a risk that codes in this way streamlined and made permanent can result in a lack of ambition – and from the resilience perspective crucially – flexibility, diversity, and sensitivity to context in responses to disturbances. On the other hand, clothing company People Tree exemplifies the value of an in-depth understanding of a local context of production when formulating design/sustainability strategies. People Tree lets the particular skill-sets of their supplier as well as potential future directions of those skill-sets directly inform design choices (Parker 2011). We can only assume that much of such nuanced understanding is lost if dialogue is guided by a strict form. This argument against standardization is supported by McDonough and Braungart (2002) who offer a powerful



critique of one-size-fits-all solutions that are not sensitive to the particular context of use. In the case of textiles and fashion, predominant strategies to date fail to acknowledge the diverse reality of actual textile or clothing usage. To exemplify such blanket approaches, a company may specify virgin organic fibres regardless of whether a garment is likely to be used for a long period of time (such as in the instance of an expensive coat), or whether a garment is likely to have a much shorter life in use (such as a very of-the-moment style), in which case, recycled fibres may be a more appropriate choice (Fletcher and Tham 2004). The science of such correlations is, of course, complex as both hard lifecycle data and experiential notions come into play. The body of knowledge on actual use is rapidly building, both in terms of lifecycle data (such as water and energy consumption related to care, see e.g. Allwood et al. 2006; Chapman 2010), and experiential dimensions of purchase, use and disposal (see e.g. Fletcher and Tham 2004; Woodward 2007). For the latter, the disciplines of consumption studies, and sociology, and in particular the methodology of wardrobe studies have made significant contributions (see e.g. Klepp and Bjerck 2012). Again, the to date streamlined responses to disturbances mean that key facets of resilience, such as flexibility, diversity and sensitivity to context are not built in, rendering the systems ultimately vulnerable.

Strategies Fail to Acknowledge and Address the Ever-increasing Volumes of Textiles and Clothing The average number of clothes bought by women in the UK almost doubled between 1997 and 2007 (Defra 2009). The UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) predicts that from a global perspective, annual resource extraction and consumption will have tripled by 2050 (UNEP 2011: xv). The fast fashion business model of churning out fashion products at increasingly low prices in increasing drops (in-season deliveries) to the shops, is not only spreading within the clothing sector, but is becoming intrinsic to new fashion ventures, such as those of value chains. It is also spreading to other market domains, such as home furnishings, as exemplified by Zara and H&M’s home initiatives. Emerging consumer markets, looking to Western consumerist lifestyle ideals, are of course a significant factor in the rise of volumes. Altogether, this means that relying, predominantly, on incremental measures at product level, thereby decreasing the environmental impact of a garment or textile, only achieves things getting worse a bit less quickly. The net direction is still negative. A range of research projects and niche practices are attempting to address the accelerating volumes by decoupling clothing use from ownership. The remit of productservice-systems (PSS ) has served as important inspiration for this (see e.g. Manzini and Vezzoli 2003). PSS places access to function rather than the ownership of a commodity at the forefront of design scenarios, which can be exemplified with the home-improver not actually needing to own a drill but to be able to make a hole in the wall. The research project Lifetimes brought these principles into the remit of fashion, acknowledging that the viability of such a translation depends on honouring both experiential and conventionally termed functional motivations behind clothing purchase, use and disposal (Fletcher and Tham 2004). From studies into women’s actual use and experience of a series of garment types: a pair of jeans, a plain coat, underwear, and a party top, it generated scenarios from slow to fast fashion. As an alternative to purchase and ownership as a prerequisite for the fast fashion experience, it suggested rental services integrated within the high street retail system. Lånegarderoben (the



Lending wardrobe) in Stockholm is one actual example of initiatives that enable customers to access and use fashion in a way that amounts to sharing (Lånegarderoben n.d.). The remit of a sharing economy or collaborative consumption is being developed, in theory and practice (see e.g. Botsman and Rogers 2010; Gansky 2010). The significant attitude change to used clothing that has taken place within the last decades may also contribute to making the fashion experience less firmly fixed to (high) material throughput. Yet, to my knowledge, no mass-market company has taken steps towards a net decrease of the volumes they produce. Thus, the declared eco-lines remain cynical tokenistic islands in a sea of volume. Of relevance to the discussion of the scale of fashion and textile production, and particularly North Western consumption, is the rebound effect concept, which describes how ‘reducing cost of one utility may increase levels of consumption of that utility’ (Kane 2003). Rebound effects are best known in financial terms; however, there is also evidence pointing to a ‘feel good’ rebound effect, where perceived virtuous behaviour, such as recycling, may result in the feeling of being entitled to increased use of resources (see Caitlin and Wang 2013, as cited in Thorpe 2014: 65).

Strategies are Founded on Problematic Power Relationships A third area of critique concerns the power imbalance of relationships played out at a number of levels, not only in the fashion and textile sector generally, but also in dominant sustainability strategies in fashion and textiles. An overarching unease concerns neo-colonial tendencies, as we here continue to roll out both problems to and strategies for them there. (As you will see further into this chapter, the use of italics is relevant, as it denotes an, in itself, problematic conceptual separation.) In other words, that production of textile and fashion objects moves to ever new frontiers, also means an outsourcing of environmental and social costs, and with the emergence of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and the code of conduct and audit model, an outsourcing of responsibility to address these costs. It is true that the focus on upstream activities, such as research, design and management here and the pursuit of cheaper labour costs, has also opened up employment opportunities for many (an estimated 25 million garment workers globally) and not least for women (75 per cent of these garment workers) (Parker 2014: 211). From the human rights perspective, freedom of association and collective bargaining are deemed central to dignified and sound working conditions (Barrientos and Smith 2007: 714). This is meant to build long-term stability for individuals and communities, and achieve standards congruent with desired conditions in the local context by giving voice to those who have lived experience there. Yet, currently only five to ten percent of workers worldwide are estimated to be unionized, the low figures being attributed to repression, some countries’ (such as China and Vietnam) laws, and restrictions in freetrade zones (Parker 2014: 212). A temporal stability required to achieve flourishing unions is also broken by the capricious shifts of production sites to meet the demands of technologies required by new trends, and (even lower) labour costs (McMullen and Maher 2011, as cited in Parker 2014: 212). The theme of textile’s and fashion’s other brings together a series of power imbalances evidenced in current dominant practices. (Fashion’s other draws upon woman as man’s other in de Beauvoir’s seminal text The Second Sex; de Beauvoir 1952/1989; see e.g. Skjold 2014). Central to the concept of ‘otherness’ is both the notion of a dominant and



‘right’ norm from which the other diverges, and how the other is by different mechanisms rendered invisible. The many workers in the South and East, on whom our enjoyment of fashion and textiles in the North and West depends, meet both these criteria – their otherness constructed through, for example, our lack of knowledge and curiosity, their geographical remoteness, and also an invisibility that results from sheer numbers. The concept of otherness can also help us to better see the speciesism (most profoundly anthropocentrism), which places human needs or wants above those of other species. A ‘fable of inexhaustibility’ (Mitchell 2005: 138) and a dominant economic way of assigning value render other species and natural resources ‘invisible’. A long trajectory – the Scientific Revolution, an important ‘milestone’ – of hu/man’s separation from nature and related dominion over nature, has constructed humans as superior to other species (e.g. Merchant 1982). Otherness is also central to emerging discourses that highlight the racism, sexism, ageism, able body-ism, and lookism (discrimination or prejudice on grounds of physical appearance) intrinsic to the industries (e.g. Skjold 2014; Woodward 2007). von Busch uses the dramatic (and, I believe, accurate) notion of a ‘fashion supremacy’ to pin down the ‘violent’ but sophisticated mechanisms of exclusion inherent in the fashion system, and to critique an inherent market myth of freedom of choice, even hailed as democracy (von Busch 2014). In conjunction, the areas of contention outlined above concern: a) that not enough is happening quickly enough – or too little too late; b) that the right things are not happening – or that current strategies are actually making things worse, and/or shifting problems to new areas.

A SYSTEMS OUTLOOK In this section I explore some reasons behind the shortcomings of dominant strategies to date, by using a systems perspective. The system, in this instance, refers to the textiles and fashion remit as a whole, including its many operations, the resources it draws upon, and the many stakeholders it involves, for example designers, labourers, end-users, media. A systems perspective illuminates two problem areas: ●

Flaws in the feedback loops (communication paths) between different parts of the fashion and textile system and interlinked systems. Flaws in the very logic of the system ‘the mindset or paradigm out of which the goals, rules, feedback structure arise’ (Meadows 1997).

Flaws in the Feedback Loops The flaws in the relationships between different areas of the system, whether that be nonexistent relationships (such as between a garment worker and an end-user), or imbalanced or weak relationships (such as a designer’s understanding of the environmental impact associated with a particular dye process), brings us to a fairly obvious problem remit, that of both the scale of the fashion and textile industries, and the associated complexity of sustainability pursuits in this remit. The textile and fashion supply chains and the wider lifecycles are extremely complex and far-reaching, geographically, in terms of the many stakeholders they depend upon and influence, and in terms of their reach into the future. This means that challenges to management, knowledge sharing and processes of implementation are colossal.



Several approaches and initiatives seek to arrive at helpful overviews of both problems and potential solutions. In the UK , the Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Sustainable Clothing Roadmap (which led to WRAP ’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan) has sought to create both interconnected overviews and plans for design, reuse and recycling, influencing consumer behaviour and metrics, with signed commitment from key actors including Tesco, the Arcadia Group, and Marks & Spencer to reduce the environmental footprint of clothing (WRAP 2014). Purporting to represent more than a third of the global clothing and footwear industries, SAC focuses on the use of an index to reduce environmental and social impacts worldwide (Sustainable Apparel Coalition 2012). The research project Mistra Future Fashion (based in Sweden) seeks to arrive at systemic understandings by the building and synthesis of knowledge from eight comprehensive research projects, which include the perspectives of business models, policy instruments, consumption, materials and processes, and design, recycling and endof-life (Mistra Future Fashion n.d.). A range of initiatives, commonly termed eco-labelling, seeks to decrease the complexity of environmental and social variables in order for endusers to be able to compare offers in the market (e.g. Ethical Fashion Forum n.d.). Yet, the attempts are akin to the losing battle of incremental measures against increasing volumes. An obvious, but uncomfortable ‘truth’ of the textile, fashion and sustainability conundrum constitutes the ultimate unviability of the scale of operations. This takes us to the second systems insight – that of the flawed inherent logic of the system.

Flaws in the Very Logic of the System The obvious paradigmatic flaw (which is often hinted at in the points of contention with current sustainability strategies laid out above) concerns the growth framework, which, since the mid-nineteenth century, has been a core organizing principle in many countries (Offer 2006: 15). Thorpe provides a clear overview of the pressures that growth yields on the fashion sphere (Thorpe 2014). Frequently raised, interlinked concerns both in this remit and beyond are that: ●

The market economy fails to assign value or the right value to socio-cultural and natural world dimensions. The market logic, in pursuit of efficiency and optimization, promotes monocultures and large-scale operations with a distorted distribution of costs and gains to achieve nodes of extreme wealth. The growth framework exerts extreme time pressures on operations, again, in the name of efficiency and optimization, at the cost of more slowly paced systems or ‘layers of civilization’, such as nature and culture, with longer recuperation times (see Brand 1999: 36–37).

See also Offer 2006; Victor 2008; Jackson 2009. An emerging body of literature and practice is exploring alternatives to the growth logic in assigning value. For example, the Happy Planet Index (NEF 2014) provides a complement to the dominant Gross Domestic Product model by measuring the life expectancy, experienced well-being, and ecological footprint of a nation (NEF 2014). Similarly, the social enterprise model, which applies commercial strategies to promote human and environmental health, constitutes a complement or alternative to dominant business models. Some emerging textiles and fashion initiatives exemplify work in this



remit by focusing on building strong local relationships. Fibershed (2011/2014) provides an online marketplace for farmers and artisans who subscribe to a set of criteria of fibres, dyes and labour all local to Northern California. ‘ReMade in Leeds’ (UK ) offers workshops on upcycling (mending, remaking, restyling) the personal wardrobe thus upskilling the local fashion interested community (Antiform 2013) (see Plate 15.1). The growth framework as paradigmatic logic also has direct repercussions on the possibility for us as individuals and societies to form viable relationships with the future. Our traditional ways of committing to our own future well-being have eroded, while new systems (that account for overwhelming short-term stimulation) have not yet evolved. We are less able to pace ourselves; our ability to maximize our own well-being across time is failing. —Thorpe 2014: 67, original emphasis Avner Offer, cited here, means that the novel stimulation afforded by the speedy market of strong economies leads to a decrease in our ability for long-term commitment, such as to study or save. The fast ‘psychic rewards’ are also contained within the individual and promote individualism, while such things pertaining to self-discipline, social cohesiveness and social learning seem relatively both undesirable and arduous, ending up unprioritized and unpractised at the cost of societal long-term well-being (Thorpe 2014: 67, citing Offer 2006). Finally, in this section, I would like to discuss a paradigmatic flaw that is perhaps less obvious, but adjacent to the one of an overarching growth logic. It concerns the construction of sustainability as separate from and external to other pursuits, and to individuals and societies. This results in sustainability seen as a cumbersome add-on, as opposed to an intrinsic motivation of all our thinking and doing. It is played out when an individual is motivated to redistribute ‘feel good’ from one consumption choice to excess in another. It is played out when an academic institution confesses that there is no space for sustainability within the curriculum, budget or even physical environment. It is played out, again, as whole industries try to retrofit themselves, using the same unit logic, that arguably created the problems in the first place. The history of a construction of sustainability as other is well explored albeit not in those exact terms. To allow myself a designer magpie view: Marx critiqued the separation of man from his tools (e.g. Avineri 1968). Benjamin (1969) argued that authenticity, diversity and deep understanding of origin and context are lost in an age of mechanical reproduction. Merchant (1982) told a history of ecology from a feminist perspective, illuminating the twinned tragedy of oppression as nature emerged constructed as dead, and it and women as resource. Less famously Liedloff (1975/1986) having lived with indigenous people in the South American forests, critiqued a North and Western (and spreading) compartmentalization and construction of work (as arduous) and domestic or free time (as play) with repercussions on how, for example, we raise our children with severed abilities to form healthy relationships, intimate and far-reaching, across natural and social systems. Arguably, this also contributes to the feeling of entitlement ‘to treat ourselves’ after a hard day, week or month at work. Naess (1989) suggested a deep ecology to draw humans more firmly, conceptually and practically, into their natural environment. Hawken, Lovins and Lovins (1999) have illuminated the separation between price and actual cost. Macy and Johnstone (2012) have invited us to honour the range of emotions that facing the global challenge of sustainability provokes as an integral step and continuous practice toward life for sustainability. The favouring of dichotomies – intrinsic to and a precondition for the Scientific Revolution, industrialization, becoming



modern – that these thinkers critique is, of course, also manifested in the remit of fast fashion and textiles. Yet, a possible and more potent reading of sustainability is that of living with empathy: for ourselves, for other people – near and far in time and space, and for the natural world. To think and do for sustainability, then, is not altruistic, nor egotistical, it just is. I have come to believe that essential to sustainability pursuits is that we start by exploring our own values and interests, examining our superficial and deep motivations, laying bare our individual paradigms. In effect this amounts to exploring our relationship with ourselves, enabling us to connect more honestly and solidly with the world around us, enabling us to find agency from who and where we are and want to be (see also Macy and Johnstone 2012). At individual and societal levels, change can be ‘easy’ if we work with rather than against. Current sustainability work is rendered arduous, complicated, even boring, because it constitutes an uphill struggle, a direction against the dominant guiding principles of our societies – the goals of the system. In a now famous and often cited text, systems thinker and environmentalist Donella Meadows (1997) beautifully and with a conjuror’s flair reshuffled a dominant order of approaches to change – relegating ‘command and control’ to the place of ten, and promoting ‘paradigm shift’ to the place of one. People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems. You could say paradigms are harder to change than anything else about a system. . . . But there’s nothing physical or expensive or even slow about paradigm change. In a single individual it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a new way of seeing. Of course individuals and societies do resist challenges to their paradigm harder than they resist any other kind of change. —Meadows, 1997: part 1 A disclaimer is in place. I do not purport to say that efforts at product or process level are not valid or valuable. Both in isolation and accumulatively, of course, they often are. Instead, and following Meadows, I want to advocate a reshuffling of the perceived importance of initiatives, and align perceptions of problems and solutions with the deeper motivations of the systems. In other words, I argue that the textiles or fashion company should prioritize the exploration of its core logic, and its re-attunement to a deeply held empathy for natural, social, cultural and economic systems, over calculating and controlling environmental and social tolls. Such a prioritization, arguably, will result in fewer such tolls to mitigate.

RESILIENCE THINKING AND UNSUSTAINABILITY Walker and Salt (2006) provide a strong introduction to resilience in the context of interdependent social-ecological systems. Their reading of current unsustainability points out some key problem areas, with which the discussion I have outlined above resonates. They argue that whereas we are good at noticing and responding to fast changes, we are not good at addressing slow ones. This is because we fail to notice them (they creep up on us), and because we don’t think we can do anything about them (which could be said to be comparable with ‘too big to fail’ in banking). We can relate this to the previous discussion of the flawed paradigmatic logic concerning economics as central organizing principle, and the construction of sustainability as other in textiles and fashion. Walker and Salt also describe how conceptualizations of problems or problem domains shape



and limit responses. The authors highlight how sustainability cannot be achieved through ‘optimizing isolated components of the system’, which stems from a simplification of complex systems that we actually don’t understand. Instead such ‘drive for an efficient optimal state outcome has the effect of making the total system more vulnerable to shocks and disturbances’ (Walker and Salt 2006: 9). Yet an important lesson from resilience thinking is that systems can be stable in many different ways (Walker and Salt 2006: 37). This means that ‘business as usual’ (both in the context of industry and the wider engagement) is not the only way of thinking and doing textiles and fashion – it only seems to be so, because that is what we have become used to. Instead there are different ways for these realms to ‘flourish’ (in Ehrenfeld’s term; Ehrenfeld and Hoffman 2013). What is also crucial is that resilience is not only about robustness in the face of disturbance, but also about the ability to harness ‘crises as windows of opportunity for novelty and innovation, and recombining sources of experience and knowledge to navigate social– ecological transitions’ (Folke et al. 2010: 20). Furthermore, resilience work at the local level contributes to larger systems’ resilience (Folke et al. 2010: 20).

CREATIVE RESILIENCE THINKING IN FASHION AND TEXTILES Walker and Salt (2006) outline nine interconnected characteristics of a resilient world.2 I have synthesized and appropriated these to the realm of textiles and fashion, in such a way I think can be helpful to the reader. The resulting seven characteristics are: diversity, modularity, different paces, communication and feedback, innovation and creativity, sensitivity to context, and overlap in governance. Each can be used as a starting point for discussion and exploration. Together they provide a framework for creative resilience thinking in textiles and fashion.

Diversity In ecological, economic, social and cultural terms, diversity is not only essential to risk management (not putting all eggs in one basket) by ensuring complementary and overlapping functions. Actively promoting diversity is also the antidote to otherness and ensures a heterogeneous and rich textiles and fashion remit, with a multitude of perspectives on both problem solving and new ideas.

Modularity Adjacent to the theme of diversity is that of modularity, which builds nested levels of systems, or multi-layered institutions, with sufficient space for subsystems to self-organize and self-regulate. This means that problems in one remit of a system can be contained, and not overly affect other areas. Both diversity and modularity are directions against the dominant trend of homogenization of the textile and fashion offer, and monopolies, challenging both dominant business and production models, and narratives.

Different Paces Several fashion and design thinkers and practitioners have explored the potential of a diversification of pace in this remit (e.g. Fletcher and Tham 2004; Thorpe 2004; Slowlab



n.d.). This work does not advocate slowing down everything but striving for a range of paces guided by appropriateness. This chapter has discussed how the high pace of fashion production and consumption itself directly contribute both to excessive resource use and to social tolls.

Communication and Feedback Because of the complexity, scale, fast pace, geographical vastness, and the many stakeholders involved, sustainability work in the realms of textiles and fashion has struggled with timely and efficient information sharing. In order to build resilience, it is vital that creative avenues are explored in terms of sharing and synergizing information and knowledge, and making them accessible to – and contribution possible from – audiences that have hitherto been excluded from the discourse. Here the experientially rich and emotive language of textiles and fashion has an important role to play. Conducive to a real knowledge ecology (Shrivastava 1998) is also that hierarchies determining what constitutes valid knowledge and valid knowledge holders are examined, and efforts dedicated to bridge across disciplines and cultures within and beyond the textiles and fashion industry (see also Fletcher and Tham 2014).

Innovation and Creativity For sustainability to be possible in this context, it is essential that it is constructed as a positive and creative opportunity for textiles and fashion futures, and an intrinsic possibility of the systems. All stakeholders must be invited to contribute creatively to textiles and fashion futures (at the levels of products, systems and paradigms), from the particular range of experiences, interests and capabilities they respectively represent (see also Fletcher and Tham 2014).

Sensitivity to Context Resilience is always contextual; the appropriateness of responses to disturbances dependent on what is both viable and possible, practically and conceptually, according to parameters of, and qualities in, the context. In the remits of textiles and fashion there are the plural contexts of design, making, use and disposal (and more) to consider. This does not mean that lessons from one remit cannot inspire ideas elsewhere, but that such translation requires careful consideration in light of ecological, economic, social and cultural perspectives of the new context. Sensitivity to context is both a way to counteract the harm caused by ‘one-size-fits-all’ or blanket approaches, as discussed above, and an encouragement to explore and draw upon values, interests, capabilities, vernacular practices in the local context.

Overlap in Governance The principles for the Transition movement urge local initiatives to build in decentralization and the eventual demise of leadership in processes of change in order to promote shared ownership and continuity (Hopkins 2008). Economic Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom emphasizes the flexibility in responses that less authoritarian systems can achieve (Ostrom 1999). John Paul Lederach (an expert in peace building) highlights the role of middle-range leaders, with connections to both grass roots and the top in successful reconciliation (Lederach 1999; see also Tham 2014). While decentralized governance can be perceived as



messy, it is more resilient when conditions suddenly change (Pisano 2012: 33). In the context of the textiles and fashion remit, a relatively small number of stakeholders have had much influence, which is congruent with the trend towards monopolies, and dominant narratives. For textiles and fashion futures of sustainability, it is therefore important to explore avenues towards more diverse and polycentric leadership and governance, enabling, for example, voices of the civic realm as much space as those of business enjoy today. Here, again, the Internet is already an enabler in how it can serve to network and give voice to many small initiatives.

CONCLUSION Systems thinking can help to achieve connected outlooks springing from the here and now of a physical textile or garment, to its immediate lifecycles; to the larger production systems enabling it to come into being; their wider ecological, socio-cultural, financial, legislative, technological dependencies; and of course the range of stakeholders, today and in the future. Any such here and now becomes a viable starting point for an exploration that can eventually span the world. By describing change as normal to systems, as well as a diversity of ‘right’ ways of achieving stability, resilience thinking brings capabilities to respond to change to the forefront. Therefore it can enable an inclusive and levelling appreciation of what constitutes important contributions, and the mobilization of a plurality of interests and expertise – whether they be virtuosity with craft, personal experiments with style, examinations of the psychology of fashion – to build resilience. I suggest that further research into this remit (not to say that such work is not taking place but that it should be assigned more gravitas and priority): ●

Explores fashion and textiles as interconnected wholes, which incorporate and set up no hierarches between practices of designing, making, crafting, using, styling, writing, photographing, mediating . . . (See, for example, the Local Wisdom (2014) project, which celebrates the ‘craft of use’.) Explores how to bring into the public realm more narratives of alternative fashion systems and new fashion with-ers (replacing others), and explore dissemination formats (such as film, performance, workshops . . .) that are accessible and palatable to diverse audiences. (See, for example, showing older women enjoying style.) Explore pedagogies for textiles and fashion that start from individual and local values, interests and experiences. (See, for example, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand, which bases teaching, pedagogy and relationships on Maori values; Massey University n.d.)


I, and many like me, are indebted to the work of Fletcher (2008) for bringing systems thinking to the remit of fashion.


Walker and Salt’s original characteristics are: diversity, ecological variability, modularity, acknowledging slow variables, tight feedbacks, social capital, innovation, overlap in governance, ecosystem services (Walker and Salt 2006).



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Use Your Illusion Dazzle, Deceit and the ‘Vicious Problem’ of Textiles and Fashion OTTO VON BUSCH

Textiles dazzle our Sheinweld, our world of light, world of illusion. We drape our social world in cloth, changing skin, indulging in the pleasure of imagination. But our symbolic play is not the illusion of pure fantasy, it is the nature of our social reality. As Ernst Cassirer argues, we are ‘symbolic animals’ (Cassirer 1944). Textiles are veils, they cover, hide, obfuscate, but also enhance, add luminescence and allure to our world of appearances. The world of cloth is a symbolic world. We wrap gifts and decorate temples in textiles, we shroud the unknown with the veils of mystery, and we enhance the symbolic language of our social being as we drape our bodies from cradle to grave. An intriguing piece of textile is the Jammer Coat by the Austrian architecture office Coop Himmelb(l)au of Wolf D. Prix (2014). It is an oversized coat, a shroud of abstract form, deliberately made to disrupt the silhouette, printed with a high contrast and graphic pattern similar to the dazzle camouflage of the First World War (Plate 16.1). Not only does the coat confuse the observer’s gaze, and that of surveillance cameras, the coat is made in metalized fabric to shield the wearer’s electronic devices, thus effectively covering the user’s digital footprint from detection by Google. The coat is a symbolic comment on our time, but like all textiles, it is also an incarnation of a will to hide, cover, veil and deceive. The Jammer Coat tries to hide something, yet it does so in a very explicit and dazzling way. It thus opens a discussion about the relationship between the individual use of textiles and clothing, and the systemic relationship to the realm of concealment and illusions, between the idea that textiles covers something authentic, something worth protecting, and that the shroud itself is thus a layer of deceit. The controversies concerning the ethics of our symbolic enfoldment of cloth has echoed through the ages, perhaps most known through tales such as Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes; and historically the illusions of fashion have instigated strife and conflicts, from medieval sumptuary laws and child labour in the mills, until today’s ecologically unsustainable cotton production and the torturous working conditions in the outsourced sweatshops. As William Ian Miller posits, clothes have a history of cover-up and falseness, as, in days of yore mere clothing was felt to be deceitful. Clothes covered an ugly truth beneath and ‘made the man’ out of whole cloth. In Hebrew, the word for clothing and the word for deceit, betrayal, and treachery come from the same root. —Miller 2009: 49 241



Every layer of textiles, always enfolded, draped in veils, is obscuring our vision while articulating its symbolic significance, and also, heightening our desire. This is as much a complex issue with many conflicting interests, as a ‘vicious problem’, an issue engaging with many-layered and obfuscated ethical issues. The world of cloth is a world of deception and denial, and also, secrecy, exploitation and violence.

UNFOLDING A WORLD IN CLOTH As we start to open some of the enfoldments of the world of textiles, we could use Victor Papanek’s famous introduction to his ground-breaking work Design for the Real World as a point of departure, There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today. —Papanek 1985: ix To Papanek, design is a task of problem solving, working with serious matters in a world facing serious challenges. For Papanek, this is the real world, not the world of leisure consumerism. His critique against advertising design is based not only on its shallow persuasiveness and unsustainable promotion of consumerism, but one can sense behind the words a trouble with the mechanics itself of advertising: it is a designed machine producing a world of fraud. We can only guess that in Papanek’s view, fashion design would probably be even more an ersatz-scheme than advertising. What Papanek puts his finger on is that some types of design are influenced by certain logics, a framing of its field of engagement, and a relationship to the world tainted by this modus operandi. Together with advertising design, textiles veils the world in illusion, and especially fashion – the social realm that turns clothes into ephemeral symbols of status and allure – reproduces a phony agenda of consumerism. Textiles have a long tradition of masking, veiling and obfuscation – not only on a material level, as a draping of the world, but also in its very logic and purpose: textile bedecks and cloaks the world with the mistiest veils of illusion. If clothes signify the material aspects of textiles draped around the body, fashion may be the artificial shroud of social and psychological dreams in their most chimeric incarnation. In everyday language fashion has a temporal aspect and it speaks of the current cultural zeitgeist, whereas clothes usually connotes the material incarnation of garments. Yet a clear distinction between the two may be counterintuitive if we are to look at the layers of illusion. Instead, there exists a continuum of concealment that is apparent in the realm of textile. Not too unlike a layer of paint, textile covers the world of appearances, with different consistencies of function and illusion. It may be an almost transparent protective layer, like a varnish, but it may also contain pigments and tints of culture and values, even pretending to be of another material, like a metallic paint. Even the most practical workwear, or the draping of a sari or tunic shapes the silhouette. The drape or cut may highlight broad shoulders or put emphasis on the hips, it may elongate the figure. Textiles mix material properties with layers of cultural signification. A fabric itself may add a shimmer of exclusivity or a patina of honourable work. A fit on the body may signify cultural heritage or the attitude of street-wise coolness. Symbols may be evidence of rank and prestige, but may also be used in an ironic or subversive way.



The very concealing nature of textiles, draping whatever is underneath, makes textiles a continuum of illusion, between on the one hand, a protective cover of hardwearing faded clothes, and on the other, a layer of full cultural fantasy and role-play. By the very act of covering (or not), textile invites to a play of realities. As highlighted in Efrat Tseëlon’s brilliant study on the orders of masking, draping the body in cloth offers both a ‘metaphysics of depth’ as well as a ‘metaphysics of surface’, as appearances help reflect, conceal and deconstruct reality (Tseëlon 2012: 4f). Anthropologist Terence Turner (1980) has pointed out that textiles are an essential part of our social reality. To Turner, the ‘social skin’ of the body, our clothes, are part of a socio-symbolic dimension of our sociality. It enacts our social standing and the roles we distribute throughout our shared world and thus marks off our relation to others. With the social skin, every bodily accentuation signifies social meaning through its socio-cultural context. As Turner suggests, clothing is, similar to religion, a serious matter. It regulates and marks almost every significant bond of belonging, not least tribal connections, affiliations and ethnicity. Thus, as we drape our social world in cloth we indulge in the pleasure of draping and veiling, shaping our environment with the symbolic layers of culture. It is a serious matter, yet simultaneously a matter of illusion. Illusion is also a social issue. The art of misleading requires ingenuity, as it is based on the response of the misled subject leaping into early conclusions (cf. Martin 2009). But as with our social reality, deception is not the illusion of pure fantasy, but an enfolding of the world through the layering of cultural responses. The shrouding of reality produces a figment of the imagination, still a very serious matter, and as philosopher Jean Baudrillard argues, ‘illusion is not the opposite of reality, but another more subtle reality which enwraps the former kind in the sign of its disappearance’ (Baudrillard 2000). The illusion of cloth produces certain utilitarian avenues for community needs as well as individual agency. To anthropologist Jane Schneider textiles fulfil such social needs: cloth and clothes include transforming the body and its surroundings in ways considered aesthetically or sexually attractive; dressing well to accrue prestige, the respect of others, a sense of worthiness or empowerment; generously distributing textiles to consolidate friendships and followings; and signalling through clothes an identification with particular values or constituencies. —Schneider 2006: 203 Yet, it is its very use as symbolic arena that produces the common argument to see fashion as a form of illusion. And perhaps obviously so, as fashion per se is an arena of appearances. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu famously argues that clothes are turned into fashion through the brand and its social processes of legitimization where the fashion field ‘transubstantiates’ clothes into the higher commodity of fashion, like an act of magic (Bourdieu 1975). Cultural historian Bernard Rudofsky also sees fashion design as a work of trompe-l’oeil, a purposeful distortion of the social body and its meanings, a playful deception of appearances (Rudofsky 1947). On a parallel note, literary theorist John Vignaux Smyth posits how fashion inherently bears the marks of both deception and violence, being a mimetic concealment of a sacrificial order where all signs bear the stigma of lies and exclusion and ultimately become unfashionable (Smyth 2002: 173ff). Fashion theorist Ingrid Loschek argues along similar lines, as real clothing is artificially staged as fashion,



It is significant that we do not refer to a ‘clothes show’ or ‘clothes photography’, but to the ‘fashion show’ and ‘fashion photography’, for they grant the semblance and illusion of fashion to clothing. —Loschek 2009: 134 Fashion critic Gavin Waddell advances a similar argument, yet adds that there may even be a level of deception in the way the fashion industry communicates, There is so much misconception, deliberate and inadvertent misinformation, and ignorance surrounding the world of fashion that it is difficult to get a clear, unbiased picture of how it really works. —Waddell 2004: ix Anyone who has examined the back of a shop window knows how the clothes are crudely draped and pinned to fit the ideal mannequins, and similarly, it is public knowledge today that almost every fashion photograph is somewhat digitally manipulated. So not only is the world of appearances also a world of misinformation, but fashion is also founded on an uneasy alliance between a many-layered fantasy and a crude and exploitative realism, as Waddell continues; Fashion deals with a world of illusion on the one hand and a hard-bitten, multi-million pound, extremely complex industry on the other. Each aspect relies on the other – the industry needs the fashion illusion to excite the market, and illusion needs the multimillion pound industry to pay for its new ideas, expensive research, extravagance, foibles and design talent. —Waddell 2004: xi As Waddell argues, fashion draws no clear demarcation between reality and fiction, industry and illusion, as they are so closely intertwined. Similarly, the realm of illusion in fashion is not unreal, and in order to produce an inauthentic world, one does not necessarily need to lie. The production of fashion may be an excellent example of this, ‘if the epistemology of fashion is based on a projective illusion, then fashion victims are deceived, even if no-one is deliberately lying’ (Ashwell and Langton 2011: 147). The realm of fashion may be an arena for deception, but somehow trying to use the illusion to one’s advantage – making an alluring blend of reality and fiction – is what the whole game is about. As in the natural environment, the best camouflage is when no perceptual stimuli alert the viewer to any presence of the hidden at all (Mitchell 1993: 65).

TEXTILE MIMICRY, CRYPSIS , AND MASKIROVKA Fashion is a world where social hierarchies are not only natural, but also inherent in the phenomenon itself: we imitate what we adore, not what we despise. The illusionary aspects of textiles and fashion can be seen on a more abstract scale as a form of layered camouflage; textiles cover and enfolds our social reality with swaths of obfuscation for certain ends, reproducing and supporting the stratified and strategic realities of idol and fan, authority and submission, leader and follower, producer and consumer, master and servant. If we look at our social world, draped in textiles, what can we see in its mirror darkly? The social enfoldments of cloth feature two main aspects from the world of camouflage: making the phenomenon resemble something else, called mimesis, or making the phenomenon hard to perceive or distinguish from the background, called crypsis.



The first aspect of camouflage, mimesis, or imitation, can also be applied to the classic application of culture or social processes, such as the ‘mimetic desire’ of Rene Girard (Girard 1976), or the ‘laws of imitation’ of Gabriel Tarde (Tarde 1903). Through fashion we imitate each other, fashion travels through the social plasma as a meme, a virus of the mind (Brodie 1996). Fashion is an echo, it bounces between us, copying itself as we imitate each other, and mirror each others’ desire. But mimesis also works on a more abstract plane in the social reality of textile and fashion production and consumption. As we talk about a ‘democratization’ of fashion, we somehow imagine a parallel between fashion and equality. Perhaps that ‘voting with our dollars’ through cheap access to garments somehow means something similar to parliamentary elections, checks and balances, equal votes, and leaders held accountable before a rule of law. In a similar vein, we may think that the glamorous façade of fashion would somehow allow for something that at least resembles fair working conditions, both for the workers overseas or the interns in the offices. And as the popularity of fashion seems to grow every year throughout consumer society, with new glossy magazines and cool reality-TV shows, we seem to somehow know more about fashion than ever, and it may seem the fashion industry is mimicking a liberal society that supports increasing welfare for all and allows more individual agency and freedom of expression. Yet, the mechanics of manufacturing draws its fuel from other sources, always appearing as something else. The exclusive elitism and punishing violence inherent in fashion never speaks it true name. The second mode of camouflage, crypsis, of blending into the environment, using concealment and stealth, draws from another logic common in textile production: secrecy. Textiles have a long history of mystery, from the masks and veils of the shamans and the well-kept secrets of silk production or the dyeing techniques of the guilds, and on to Victorian age child labour in the mills and the well-hidden overseas factories of today. Jane Schneider draws attention to elements in the production of textiles that has parallels to crypsis, when she makes a distinction between ‘courtly’ and ‘capitalist’ production of cloth and clothes, each with its different production logic. Whereas the first may be honouring crafts, rituals, ceremonies and used within gift economies, the second becomes essential to the commodity economy and the fuel of industrial capitalism. However, both these modes of production still echo of layers of mysticism from old times as cloth touches the human world so intimately, both the skin and our social experience. Cloth drapes bodies through the passages in life and death, it delineates and adorns sacred spaces, flies in the wind to send prayers to the sky, The spiritual properties of cloth and clothing, whether they derive from soaking up historical and mythical associations, or from artisans’ incantations as described below, render these materials ideal media for connecting humans with the world of spirits and divinities, and with one another. —Schneider 2006: 204 For Schneider, the spiritual properties of the making of cloth, spinning, dyeing, and weaving, all contained rituals of magic, which is still part of the oblique position of textile manufacturing. The oracular role of fashion even enhances these mystical attributes. Similarly, the production of cloth has always echoed the dark arts, with artisans ‘performing rituals and observing particular taboos in the course of spinning, weaving, embroidering, brocading, dyeing and finishing their product’ (Schneider 2006: 205). This especially involves dyeing, which before the advent of chemical dyes was a very secretive



and expensive practice. It made dyers often closely connected to royal monopolies with ‘exotic substances, training, talent, and closely guarded secrets’ (Schneider 2006: 205). Dyeing, like alchemy or magic, was a practice and esoteric knowledge with deep mystery and with a great potential to social recognition and wealth. But, as Miller points out, craft was also a morally ambiguous form of knowledge, as being skilful was also being cunning, and historically ‘one sees a deep mistrust of the moral quality of skill and those who were skilled. They were felt to be uncanny, as if they were so many otherwordly tricksters’ (Miller 2009: 53). As hinted earlier, these traits of crypsis and illusion has in today’s complex, hard-bitten and multi-million fashion industries become elements of economic survival or success. The hiding of labour conditions is not merely a lack of knowledge from consumers, but a culturally and systemically induced ignorance, similar to what Robert Proctor calls a ‘political agnotology’, the social construction of ignorance (Proctor 1995: 8). To Proctor, agnosis, to ‘not know’, or ‘unknown’, is a cognitive lacunae or doubt that is culturally induced, actively obscured or kept dark. Expanding on Proctor’s argument, also the social construction of crypsis in fashion production could be woven into layers of political agnosis. The creation of fashion, from design to retail, is hidden under layers of systemic unknowns, which in turn constructs an inability for consumers, each in his or her own bubble, to be aware of what kind of social reality they are co-producing by buying cheap textiles, especially fast fashion. The paradigm of fast fashion can only be maintained if the underlying structures remain veiled, while simultaneously fragmenting and obfuscating any deeper look into the machinery of outsourced and globalized manufacturing. Yet, rather than positioning textile production under the neutral characteristics of camouflage, as something natural, these traits of deception serve under a more strategic agenda, similar to the cultural struggle of agnosis. The endeavours of deception and illusion are today serving the purpose of legitimizing social hierarchies, upward wealth distribution, elitism, and also indifference to the social consequences of the injustices, exploitations or violent means and ends that are enfolded in our socially draped world. Fashion has no memory, and its violence happens at all levels of its production and use. A label stating ‘Made in Bangladesh’ says nothing in itself about outsourced production in sweatshops or warped trade agreements. Also at the consumer end, the ‘democratization’ of cheap and accessible fashion, which opens the value system of fashion to more social groups, effectively excludes the same groups from the venues where real influence happens: there is very little fashion media for and by the poor and ugly, yet they share the standards of beauty set by the rich, powerful and beautiful. As a bouncer refuses entry to a marginalized member of the public because of dress code, another ‘paragraph’ of the code can be used to repeat the action next time, yet pointing to another excuse, another ‘wrong’ garment. To be considered unattractive can be a subjective or individual experience between peers. But it can also be part of a subjugation under a structural regime of domination and exclusion, where ideals of beauty and seemingly ‘democratic’ hierarchies of values become weapons of repression and where ideals reinforce submission, or a regime of ‘fashion supremacy’ (von Busch 2014). I have thus found it more accurate to give these secretive undertakings of the industry a more weaponized frame of reference; that of military denial and deception. I would argue that the secrecy of textiles has today developed into a system of maskirovka (Russian: disguise, camouflage, concealment) of the production of textiles and their operational and strategic use. The reason to use the term maskirovka, rather



than just deception or agnosia, is because the term signifies a deeper strategic and political implementation of national security than in other countries. It is not only in operational or military use, but in Soviet and Russian context maskirovka is integrated into the overall political strategy: deception as an integrated part of every action. Technically, maskirovka is ‘the art of masking by means of denial and deception activities’ (Harris 1987: 186). But, using the term highlights that deception and obfuscation is an integrated part of every strategic action, not added on top as a mask only covering military action. The aim of maskirovka in military action is making sure deception is always simultaneously employed on political, strategic, operational and tactical level as a mandatory support of action, with the goal of positive of active control of the enemy (Beaumont 1982). As the 1978 Soviet Military Encyclopedia also adds, it is not only an operation of purely military means; Strategic maskirovka is carried out at national and theatre levels to mislead the enemy as to political and military capabilities, intention and timing of actions. In these spheres, as an extension of politics, it includes political, economic and diplomatic measures as well as military. —cited in Shea 2002: 66 As Harris highlights, maskirovka masks the possibility for verification of information, it covers the object under observation behind a veil of uncertainty, but what is most disturbing for the observer ‘is not that maskirovka impedes verification, but that verification induces maskirovka’ (Harris 1987: 187). That is, as soon as we ask for transparency or the possibility of verification, the crucial use, or even need, of masking becomes eminent. The aim is to make the opponent uncertain at every level, as each observation opens a new front for deception and illusion. For the realm of textiles, maskirovka draws a parallel to how deception and illusion cuts through every layer of textile production, from the individual’s draping of the body, the cultural play with identities and symbols, all the way up to the political economy, from the production of illusion on the mannequin, to the illusionary ‘democracy’ in the meritocracy of desire. These illusionary, yet simultaneously highly real, manoeuvres mask the environment of textiles in consumer society. The enfoldment of our lives through cloth is today deeply entangled into our social realities, thus the power of cloth, especially the ubiquitous fashion, seems ever increasing. Yet, fashion also fragments the population: by highlighting individuality and individual responsibility we become liable for our own deception. As every new season offers a new ‘surprise’, like the maskirovka, depriving an opponent of any ‘opportunity to offer organized resistance’ (Glantz 1989: 33). Today, almost every brand, and even the fashion system as a whole, uses deception to veil its inherently hierarchical and elitist, and often exploitative, practices. Environmental pollution, abuses of labour and collapsing factories are not exceptions, they are an everyday that must be denied under a veil of a fashion ‘made for all.’ Deception and illusion is thus not only a question of instances, of isolated events, but illusion is crafted at an abstract and strategic level, where the maskirovka of fashion covers consumer culture under a veil of political influence, calling it ‘democratization’, perceived meritocracy. Also at an individual level the maskirovka is at work, where fashion brands can on the one hand say they are about ‘personal expression’, yet on the other hand, still be so exclusive it is only a small elite that has access to being ‘personal’. It also hides systemic abuses of labour-ethics and human rights under a varnish of ‘fair



trade agreements’, and celebrates social injustices as a freedom of expression, pointing out that everyone is unique, but only the rich are unique in the right way. Thus progressive ideals in fashion merge with the liberal and globalized capitalist economy and the democratic experiment, but veils hide the systemic issues of classism, ableism, racism, and the slim, white body norm still pushed as a requisite for success, unachievable to most. The point of maskirovka is to make deception and illusion systemic; to always hide intentions. In the fashion system, this takes the form of supporting a new ‘democracy’ in fashion, yet make sure to offer no real influence into the system of fashion. Instead, it means disseminating more fashionable goods at affordable prices, some to larger social groups, but most to the already wealthy, thus arming even more social anxiety expressed as status armament, luring consumers deeper into dependence and addiction on fashion as the main arena for self-fulfilment. An example can be how fast fashion brands may say they are for ‘everyone’, yet their stores are seldom in the poor areas of town. Similarly, a brand may offer various forms of ‘transparency’, yet the consumer seldom gets to know who gets paid what in the supply chain. These tendencies do not only concern issues of sustainability, a problem that may be solved by reduction of energy and material use or changing consumer patterns and practices, but they reveal how textiles are part of real social conflicts, deeply veiled under the realm of cloth and slogans like ‘made for all’. The field in which fashion acts is not only complex, with an array of issues, vested interests and stakeholders that will never find a full compromise. The deep entanglement of maskirovka, of many-layered and weaponized obfuscation and illusion, moves fashion from being a ‘wicked problem’ (Rittel and Webber 1973) to be more of a ‘vicious problem’: it is as much an ethical and political issue, as a technical one. It is vicious because it engages with issues of intended secrecy and deception in its production, communication and deployment; it mixes ethical and economic issues with injustices and exploitation of ecosystems, and in the end hides the violence of its social use under the varnish of beauty and attractiveness, as if its outcome is a meritocratic endeavour in which everyone is selfmade. As the L’Oreal advertisement says: ‘Because I’m worth it’. Yet, will the viciousness of the problem disappear with a campaign raising awareness? Perhaps a push for clarity and transparency may turn out to be a boundary of glass, an invisible barrier that no more than dazzles our perception? Or may it even be a mirror darkly: a layer of self-gratifying illusion, however honest, yet still merely a glimpse to the full globalized exploitation that is seemingly inherent to the very logic of textile production, while it offers no more than a band-aid to its consequential suffering – a cycle of production always drawn to the cheapest labour sources, where the most vulnerable people are exploited under continuously appalling conditions, and always hidden from view, under a varnish of accessible and meritocratic glamour. These issues have become especially apparent over the last decades in the discussions on sustainable fashion. With an emerging environmental crisis, and its clear connection to overconsumption in the West, textiles have once again taken centre stage in society’s conflict ridden relationship to our frivolity when it comes to the games of illusion.

BEYOND THE PRODUCTION OF ILLUSION In today’s consumer society fashion may have lost some of its lustre of exclusivity. The market is swamped in cheap clothes in convincing style. Such ‘McFashion’ is now an everyday treat in lifestyle practices and common fashion consumption has become as ‘unsatisfying, commonplace, and utterly forgettable’ as the fast-food equivalent



(Lee 2003). In the chain stores, fashion is shopped on routine even though fashion has ‘lost its luster’ (Thomas 2007). Not only are the wardrobes over full, there is a growing public concern that we have all turned consumer obese from a life pampered in textile desire, not least seen in movements such as Clean Clothes Campaign and the emerging alternative eco-fashion weeks. Various diets and cures have been proposed to address our unsustainable addiction to the cheap thrills of fast fashion. One emerging type of asceticism towards the current type of ‘McFashion’ has circled around the notion of ‘slow fashion’. Drawing from the success of the slow food movement, ‘slow fashion’ has been seen as a possible remedy to overconsumption (Clark 2008; Fletcher 2008). As a parallel, there are also calls for ‘transparency’ to challenge some of the obfuscating elements of textile production. This transparency is mainly seen as a remedy for uncovering environmental crimes and workforce exploitation in outsourced manufacturing, and some companies have been fast to respond, for example Patagonia and Icebreaker. In 2014 the Fashion Revolution initiative, spanning campaigners, academics, press and industry, pushed for a viral campaign to push for transparency, mobilizing public attention to question; who makes our clothes? Mobilizing on 24 April, one year after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh, they state on their website, We believe knowing who made our clothes is the first step in transforming the fashion industry. Knowing who made our clothes requires transparency, and this implies openness, honesty, communication and accountability. It’s about re-connecting broken links and celebrating the relationship between shoppers and the people who make our clothes. —Fashion Revolution n.d. With their noble intentions these initiatives highlight a transition of the perception of power in labour issues; a move from governments, unions and labour organization towards consumer agency and responsibility. Not only does this emphasize the idea that an enlightened and observing eye can change the world, rather than organized action of labour, it also highlights the ambition that transparency will produce a new kind of honesty that will cut through the veils of obfuscation that so far have seemed inherent to textiles and fashion. The hope of idealistic awareness takes on the match against realist power and deception. There is a guilt-ridden echo through the sustainable approaches to fashion: consumerism is the problem, and a sense that the consumer ought to fix the problem. As the saying goes: ‘Be the change’. There is no denying this is a worthy undertaking, yet it may also be a very limited consumer response to the larger maskirovka of fashion today: the consumption of textiles is totally enfolded and intertwined with the larger fashions and cultural practices of today; cultures of non-commitment. As Zygmunt Bauman argues, we seek social inclusion by cultivating attention and attracting demand to ourselves in a social marketplace where consumers ‘are, simultaneously, promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote’ (Bauman 2007: 6). In continuously changing careers, lifelong learning, and a global market-place of migrant labour, we are persistently challenged to change ourselves and our lives, and never commit to anyone or anything. And as we shapeshift through our lives, we can be sure every new skin will also be a textile one. Some of the most celebrated initiatives over the last decade have aimed to promote sustainable fashion practice through emotional attachment, cultivated through slowness, craft and honesty. Special pieces of cloth and intricate craft techniques are used to produce sensibility and authenticity, perhaps most celebrated in the community-produced textiles



and fashion collections of Natalie Chanin. Such initiatives echo of a hope to challenge a commodity culture of non-commitment into new modes of being, of virtuous and lasting affection. Small fashion brands work with village manufacturers in developing countries, and the boundary between development practice and fashion business is blurred as a world of glamorous pleasure and identity politics blends with charity: opulent pop stars fight poverty, beautiful film stars are ambassadors for the United Nations. Perhaps most explicitly, the allure of righteous fashion is exposed in fashion designer Bruno Pieters’ celebrated brand ‘Honest by’, where ‘100% transparency’ in production is pushed to become one of the main qualities of attire, and the brand communicates ‘everything about the materials, the manufacturing methods, and even the pricing strategies of the products stocked’ (Honest by, n.d.). Not only does the name promise a righteous and ethical stance, Pieters’ approach is an explicit challenge to the mythical fabrications of fashion and the initiative seems to resist some of the inherent logics of textiles in the industrial age. It may thus seem ironic that the trend of dazzle-like graphic prints was a recurring theme in the 2013–14 collections of Pieters (Plate 16.2). Yet this dazzle-like look may also expose the inescapable connection between the aesthetic zeitgeist and the paradoxical, and perhaps impossible, concern of combining the current tastes with lasting and virtuous authenticity. It is as if the look, with its dazzling appeal, asks the question: ‘To whom can I be honest?’ The almost countercultural initiatives of honesty and authenticity pinpoint an inherent dilemma of eco-fashion; that nothing much really changes with today’s ‘sustainable’ approach built on awareness, authenticity and honesty. However much we ‘raise awareness’, we still consume too much for the planet’s resources, enclothed status stress is an everyday experience on a highly competitive job market, and users are still left passive to the decrees of fashion, even if consumption of fashion, as well as blogging about it, today is far more accessible or ‘democratic’ than just a decade ago. Yet, awareness is still not action, and it may indeed just fuel a rightful overconsumption of ‘ethical’ and ‘transparent’ goods that still perpetuate a systemic exploitation, hidden by veils of maskirovka where consumption masquerades as action for change. As Thoreau already noticed in his critique on government, ‘Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail’ (Thoreau 1849/1992: 231). It may thus seem paradoxical that fashion, a vehicle for social mobility, professional prestige and individual self-expression, which seems essential to liberal societies, is at the same time highly dictatorial and uniform, cementing social hierarchies rather then dissolving them. Similarly, many initiatives that push for slowness, craft and honesty aim to push fashion activism beyond the mere act of ‘voting with your dollars’. Yet, they often fail to address their own manoeuvres of obfuscation: in today’s high pressure job market, who can put in the labour of textile craft and care? Who can afford to learn or pay the service? Who has the time for repair? Who can be an unpaid intern or craftsperson? Which strata of society can afford the social stigma of wearing explicitly repaired clothes? A critical perspective on the sustainable developments in fashion over the last decade could argue that the very democratization of fashion is part of a longer tradition of obfuscation of agency in textiles. Not only are material production and labour concealed overseas, but also the very conjuring rituals that build the myth of fashion is veiled and hardly ever divulged. For every opening and invitation to divulge some of the mystery of design and production, brands move to collaborate with artists or elitist street cultures, or go on to use ‘tacit’ or ‘ethnic’ craft techniques, always conquering new, seemingly white spots on the map.



The initiatives of transparency and honesty are thus most often still mixed with highly mystical and elitist traits. The initiatives are always resonating with a popular culture where dreams mix. It is a balancing act with, on the one hand, the lustre of glamorous celebrity, and on the other hand, an almost mythic search for deep authenticity of an almost religious nature, yet still expressed through clothes. This narrative was popularized in the movie The Devil Wears Prada (2006) where the main protagonist moves from being a fashion outsider to become involved and successful in the game of illusions, but in the end sees through the veils of glamorous delusions to overcome the social pressure and ‘find herself ’ in honest asceticism. On film, authenticity is almost always found by putting on knitwear, not a glamorous dress, and certainly not by dealing with one’s own role in sustaining systemic issues of labour, exploitation and injustice.

USE YOUR ILLUSION : TACTICS OF FASHION ACTIVISM Whereas many of the initiatives on sustainability in fashion address the material practices of production and use, other practitioners use their agency to tackle other parts of the maskirovka of fashion. These practices highlight the contested issues around the role of cloth in consumer society and open new vistas for action. They probe ways by which cultural practices can engage in the cultivation of self-realization beyond the highways and chain stores of consumerism, and without falling into the reactive stance of frugality or fashion asceticism. One approach, in the vicinity of critical design, has been commenting on the contemporary emergence of a control and surveillance society, from CCTV cameras on the streets to the on-line tapping of Internet-traffic. Designers and artists have responded with clothing concepts on camouflage; for example Adam Harvey’s CV Dazzle (2010), a style of make-up where the user becomes unidentifiable from face-recognition software, or the earlier mentioned Jammer Coat of Coop Himmelb(l)au (2014). An artistic tactic addressing the illusionary elements of fashion with a method of participatory activism is the work by Philippino-American artist Stephanie Syjuco. Syjuco has been running several projects on displacements of agency in textile production and consumption, often engaging with issues of copies and counterfeiting, empire and globalization. The Cargo Cult, Dazzle Camouflage and Cascadian Pattern Collapse projects of 2013–14 have focused on crypsis and cultural critique through the layering of commodities and camouflage. In Cargo Cults, Syjuco produced a series of studio portraits using massmanufactured goods, purchased to be returned through a manipulation of the store’s return policies (Plate 16.3). Using garments with ‘ethnic’ patterns from popular chain stores like Forever21, Charlotte Russe, H&M, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, she staged photos where she took on the persona of an ‘ethnic subject’ of colonial documentation, wearing contemporary fashion with patterns similar to dazzle camouflage. While recreating old colonial photos of anthropological studies of the ‘other’, she simultaneously plays with the current trend of dazzling pattern combinations, while highlighting how the outsourced production of these garments not only reproduces similar mechanisms to colonialism, but also displaces our knowledge of these environments and subjects. Syjuco’s work can also be seen as a larger comment on how to engage with the issues of deception and the systemic maskirovka of the fashion industry: Syjuco shows how systems can be manipulated at several levels simultaneously: using current ‘ethnic’ trends to reappropriate and talk back to fashion, using return policies and consumer law for accessing props, and binding these practices together under the military connotations of



dazzle camouflage, highlighting the violent undercurrents in textile production from colonial times until today. In Cascadian Pattern Collapse Syjuco also staged participatory workshops where eight participants designed unique props and garments from scraps sourced from Pendleton, an American woollen manufacturing company based in Oregon known for iconic ‘American’ plaid designs and ‘Native American-inspired’ patterns. These were styled in fictional narratives dealing with capitalism and empire, where each phase of production, styling and modelling of these ‘ethnic’ props opened new layers of the dazzling layers of fashion. The resulting photoshoots of the project document a playful yet critical view of globalization, labour, and industrial manufacturing processes, and where participants also exercised in new ways to approach dress practices. Another approach has been to try to hack into the illusionary qualities of fashion, short-circuiting them and use some of them as an energy from which to tap new tactics of resistance. The dominant ‘ready-to-wear’ paradigm has triggered responses that fuel new mobilizations of skills, galvanizing civic resources and assets, training disobedient behaviours, on top of the program of raising awareness, from the sewing-café Sweatshop in Paris, to the OpenWear network of open-source fashion design and production in Milan. Among these activists the seasonal changes of fashion and the dominant consumer system becomes an arena for political intervention and the many-layered illusion of fashion becomes an instrument for skill enhancement, empowerment and tactical engagement. From their perspective, socially engaged fashion can revitalize the platforms for broader political emancipation, an essential component for a sustainable society. One radical example of the creative use of illusion can be the now dormant Spanish lifestyle activists in YOMANGO. In the beginning of the 2000s, the loose collective of activists in Las Agencias, the agency, formed a counter-lifestyle movement or anarchistic practice that aimed to critically comment on the role of consumption in contemporary society. The name, commenting on the Spanish clothing company Mango, is Spanish slang for ‘I steal’. The group has aimed to make their initiative on civil disobedience through stealing similar to the promotion of brand lifestyles; Like all other major brand names, it is not so much about selling concrete stuff but more about promoting a lifestyle. In this case, the YOMANGO lifestyle consists of shoplifting as a form of social disobedience and direct action against multinational corporations. —Smith and Topham 2005: 36 YOMANGO see their actions as a branded form of counter-lifestyle, where the aim is to acknowledge desire and the illusions of consumerism in order to promote behaviours of resistance. While they produce methods, for example of how to produce a shopping bag for shoplifting, what they call ‘clothing for civil disobedience’ (YOMANGO 2004: 108), they also promote practices; ‘ YOMANGO is a gesture which provides you with everything advertising promises but the reality of capitalism prevents you from having: the prospect of adventure, self-fulfilment, creativity, sharing, community’ (YOMANGO 2004: 152). Liberating fashionable goods from the store also liberates the shoplifter from cowardly conformism to domination of a rigged economic system, YOMANGO liberates objects and liberates your desire. It liberates your desire which is trapped within objects which are trapped inside large shopping malls, the same place where yourself are trapped. YOMANGO is a pact between co-prisoners. —YOMANGO 2004: 152



Their stance is the opposite of that of asceticism, and the transparency they promote is focused on other systemic mechanisms than fair trade. They celebrate consumerism, but through stealing: a carnival of desire and a riot in the world of illusions, YOMANGO is not about theft, it’s about magic, about the liberation of desire and intelligence crystallized in the ‘things’ offered for sale. If YOMANGO has a politics, it is the politics of happiness, of putting the body first. Be happy, insultingly happy. —YOMANGO 2006 To their followers, the toppling of the very systems of surveillance is their branded logo; ‘the hole left by tearing the locks off becomes a logo in its own right’ (Smith and Topham 2005: 36). The fashion engagements of Syjuco and YOMANGO can be seen as training in other ways of being with the illusion of fashion. In their practices, they run boot camps on dealing with deception and the dazzle of textiles – not primarily to see through, or unveil, textiles and fashion, but forming new practices around cloth as a cover of the world, tapping into the maskirovka of textiles to cut through the veils. Their practices are not only critical to the ‘spectacle’, but take on the very dazzling nature of textiles, testing new routes through the enfoldments of myth, colonialism, capital, law and labour. Both Syjuco and YOMANGO use the illusionary elements of fashion to shift focus and expose another layer of maskirovka – to make us perceive the illusionary veils of cloth, and also, make us able to grasp and take action. This approach may have some similarities to the ‘design noir’ in critical design (Dunne and Raby 2001), but the take of Syjuco and YOMANGO has an emphasis on the systemic perspective and a cultivation of alternative agencies that cut through several layers of deception. Whereas Syjuco highlights how dazzle and cargo cults are operative elements in our lives, and helps us to decipher it and take control of our symbolic agency, YOMANGO trains us to use desire as a leverage towards courage and a more action-oriented lifestyle, even trespassing the boundaries of private property to reveal how we are trapped within systemic deceptions of consumerdriven desire. Fashion, as we meet it in everyday consumerism, is not a neutral illusion, but a strategic deception, denying and pacifying our aspirations for justice and equality. It is an illusion of a higher abstraction, a maskirovka, channelling our agency and striving for selfrealization into the market economy, under the confidence trick that it is a meritocracy, that advancement is possible. But the scheme is rigged from the start. We may be dazzled by the allure of fashion, but the vote is not equal; fashion does not fit all bodies, it is not accessible to all, and the design leaders will be held responsible to the consumers. And even more, the life of the poor and unattractive has no value in the fashionable attention economy. To study this play of power must mean to unfold and reveal the many layers of realist politics, the Realpolitik, of fashion, to search for the forces operating within the phenomenon of fashion on an abstract and systemic level. The realm of textiles envelops our world, on a material, symbolic and systemic level, and it is covered with purpose: to simultaneously hide and reveal what is considered important to convey. The world is covered by purpose, and this purpose is most probably controversial. If we are to strive for a sustainable agenda in textiles, perhaps the biggest challenge is to challenge the culturally and systemically induced ignorance, deception, denial and dazzle embedded into the very fabric of the textile realm. As we take action we must push for more than authenticity, honesty and transparency, we must take on fashion on an



operational level and act for deeper change, perhaps a whole cultural change. This means we must also imagine and work towards a more expanded and deeper notion of how fashion interacts with abstract notions such as freedom, citizenship and well-being. Perhaps we can call what we strive for a ‘deep fashion’: not as phony as advertising design, but the courtly magic craft that entwines fantasies and desires with faith and devotion, draped in the social fabric of true togetherness.

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Textiles and the Curatorial Turn



Editorial Introduction JANIS JEFFERIES

The 20th century has witnessed many experiments in the ‘arts’ initiated by new concepts and the use of new materials and techniques. Social, political and economic factors had radically altered the definitions of art and thus changed its meaning. Contiguous with these shifts, the nature, role and status of the decoration and the decorative arts need to be reconsidered. I asked the question, why ‘Art after Duchamp easily includes post-cards but not tapestries, Xerox but not weaving’. —Constantine and Lenor Larsen 1980, cited in Jefferies 19851 The statement quoted above is based on the exhibition and book that Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen organized and published in 1980. Entitled The Art Fabric: Mainstream, both the exhibition and the book showed and discussed a range of textiles (called ‘fiber’ in the USA ) placing an emphasis primarily on technique. Contributors to this section – McQuaid, Checinska and Watson, West, Carroll (and Dr. Virginija Vitkien˙e, who was an advisor on Chapter 20), McDougall, Shi and Xu, and Cotton – emphasize curatorial shifts and interests by examining the changing relationships between what is produced and where, with the spaces in which it is shown, shifts from studio or collective spaces of production to public arenas of the museum and redefining public space through performance and community actions. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the power of the museum and its exhibitions in the development of cultural identity played a major role in supporting colonial policies of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The museum became a site of mass public interest, sharing the achievements of the nation with exhibitions that represented new findings from recent explorations and voyages and the discovery of new cultures. In this context, ‘Cosmopolitanism’, a concept that has been used to ‘open the horizons for being in the world’ (Papastergiadis 2006: 110), refers to both the ‘ “civilizing mission” of various European imperial projects’ and ‘a philosophical ideal that has sought to achieve a universal politics on the basis of reason rather than the sentiments of patriotism’ (Papastergiadis 2006: 110). Documenting his experience from being a participant at the Via Egnatia symposium that followed the art project under the same title, Nikos Papastergiadis reflected on the complexities of mediation in the representation of culture at a time of geopolitical conflict.2 The ongoing trans-national project, which started in 2004, brought together a number of visual artists, architects, critics, historians and immigrants from five different countries of the European continent in order to create a ‘memory lab’.3 In ‘Glimpses of Cosmopolitanism in the hospitality of Art’, Papastergiadis argues that even though the survival of cosmopolitanism is itself a paradox there is always space for ‘everyday life artists’ to ‘turn against the politics of fear to demand a [. . .] more hybrid and universal form of multiculturalism that revitalizes the forms of hospitality and ethical relations with the other’ (Papastergiadis 2006: 115). 259



THE CURATORIAL TURN I would suggest that, since the 1960s, the exhibition discourse has moved away from an analysis of the work of art as autonomous object to focusing on the contextual characteristics and the space of an exhibition (O’Neill 2007; Heinich and Pollak 2009). Seth Siegelaub, for example, introduced the term ‘demystification’ in connection to exhibition production conditions, ‘whereby curators were beginning to make visible the mediating component within the formation, production and dissemination of an exhibition’ (O’Neill 2007: 13). Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson’s (2010) article ‘Curating and the Educational Turn’ summarizes the curatorial discourse to that point most effectively and concludes the aforementioned collision between the two practices as a whole: art on one side and curating on the other. O’Neill in particular is known for his sharp ability in identifying ‘turns’, ‘shifts’ or themes, and he notes a certain tendency in turn to didactic, instructional and educational strategies in the proliferation of what is termed a discursive turn in Curatorial Practice – a shift from visual aesthetics to discourse and dialogue, which provides audiences with tools to become participants in the production of knowledge that is taking place within curatorial platforms. Maria Lind (2010) poses the question in ‘The Curatorial’ of whether we could think of curatorial practice independently, beyond its fields of operations: ‘Can we speak of the curatorial beyond curating in the expanded field: as a multidimensional role that includes critique, editing, education and fundraising?’ (Lind 2010: 63). She defines the curatorial both as a loose methodology, applied by different people of different capacities, but also extends the term ‘as a way of thinking in terms of interconnections’ (Lind 2010: 63). Whilst Lind offers a selection of articles that traces the curatorial through many different discourses – writing, art, activism, performance, theatre, dance – it is no surprise that design and craft are excluded from the map. In O’Neill’s account one of the most significant developments in curatorial practice has been at an ‘increasingly inter-national, trans-national and multi-national scale, where the “local” and the “global” are in constant dialogue’ (O’Neill 2007b: 16).

1970s–1990s Since the 1970s, the museum world has gone through radical changes. These changes can be characterized through the prisms and divisions offered by post-colonialism and gender studies. For example, Rhiannon Mason, in her review of the relationship between cultural theory and Museum Studies (Mason, cited in Macdonald, 2011: 17–33), uses the term ‘New Museology’ for the branch of Museum Studies concerned with those ideas central to cultural theory that analysed culture in its broadest sense – from culture as a way of life to culture as the result of aesthetic practices. Here, museums are thought of as producers of socio-cultural knowledge. According to Ross Parry’s analysis of museum development in Recoding the Museum (2007), the movement towards a more visitor-centred ethos can be seen as entailing a corresponding shift in the identity of the museum professional, from ‘legislator’ to ‘interpreter’ of cultural meaning. New museum theory attempts to provide a case for a genuine cross-cultural exchange so that the decisions those museum workers make reflect the underlying value systems that are encoded in institutional narratives. The post-colonial criticism of museums (Greenberg, Ferguson and Nairne, 1996) is one of the central tenets of new museum methodologies.4 Museum Studies looks at the role of the curator from within the history of the institution – most notably, that of the museum. It is concerned with a diverse set of fields:



anthropology, natural history, science, art and more.5 On the other hand, curatorial practice is concerned mainly with the field of art; specifically, contemporary art. The reason for this split and the preoccupation of curatorial practice mainly with contemporary art has historical, ideological and economic reasons.6 One possible indication of curating as an independent profession has been marked by a number of professionals in the art field and by art historians. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a discourse to re-position the history of art in the light of the history of exhibition-making emerged. Two central publications that have marked their influence on curatorial thought are Bruce Altshuler’s The Avant Garde in Exhibitions (1998) and Reesa Greenberg, Bruce Ferguson and Sandy Nairne’s Thinking about Exhibitions (1996). These important research works closely examine exhibitions as historical events or historical momentums, which influenced the course and definition of art history. These two books have set the tone for discussing curating and its relation to art practice, entangling the definition of art with the works of curators from the nineteenth century until contemporary times. In A Brief History of Curating (2008), Hans Ulrich Obrist traces the history and theory of Curatorial Practice through detailed interviews with practitioners in the field: twenty-five respond and give a history of influences and seminal figures that informed their curatorial thought and practice. Similarly, Carolee Thea’s (2001) Foci: Interviews with Ten International Curators and On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators (Thea 2009) present a series of conversations with curators who are also organizers of international art events and art biennials. For her, the art historian attempts to interpret the artwork for a potential viewer from the position of an individual standing in front of one single artwork. For her, one of the urgent questions for curatorial practice is the move to art objects as commodities, while possibly undermining the social role of art in society. Thea opens up the definitions of Curatorial Practice. The image of the curator is altered, developing from that of an ‘exhibition organizer’ into a cultural producer, shedding light over many of the hidden, operational roles of curators and their involvement within the political field of the art market. For curator Maria Lind in Selected Writings (2010), there is a break between curating’s operational modes – its manifestations in the field of art – and the core of curating, whereas for Teresa Gleadowe ‘there is a difference between the role of the curator as it has been perceived in the early 20th century and how it is perceived now’ (Gleadowe 2000: 29). Gleadowe discusses the proliferation of the notion of the curator as producer/commissioner of artworks, concomitant with site-specificity in the art of the late 1980s and early 1990s. She concludes her article by defining what she finds central and most important for Curatorial Practice at the beginning of the twenty-first century; in her words, ‘curating at its most effective embodies criticism, and criticism is rooted in historical understanding’ (Gleadowe 2000: 38). Further to this idea of the curator as a producer of artwork, one may also note the idea of a curator as a catalyst for art production, which I believe is a tendency that can be marked by developments over several years with the Kaunas Biennial, concepts that informed the Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art (see Plate 22.4) and textiles-based exhibitions at the Institute of International Visual Art [Iniva] (i.e. ‘Textiles as Social Fabric’ discussed later in this introduction). Hans Ulrich Obrist, in his article Kraftwerk, Time Storage, Laboratory, emphasizes the role of curators in providing the conditions for the production of artworks as meaningful processes of knowledge production. For him, the exhibition space is fluid and elastic. It is a space in which the viewer is confronted with experiences and rehearsals of social situations, which he/she does not have the chance to rationalize or react to in the flow of everyday life. For Obrist, art museums should be fearless cultural



pioneers devoting their attention to the cultivation of artists. So, he ‘walks around other disciplines’ (Orbrist 2000: 45–47) hoping to reinstate the links that the visual arts had at the beginning of the twentieth century with architecture and music and to find ways to create a new format of exhibiting. The latter, with its local and in situ integration within the exhibition rationale of conferences, workshops, catalogues, articles, objects, technical apparatuses, photographs, introduces a new way of thinking in terms of the ‘exhibition event’, as a laboratory rather than a ‘closed document’ or an end product with specific boundaries. However, it could be suggested that the promotion of the above methodology runs the risk of a formless event with no clear direction or message to convey.

TEXTILES AS SOCIAL FABRIC AND HIGH PERFORMANCE As examined by Christine Checinska and Grant Watson in ‘Social Fabric: Textiles, Art, Society and Politics’ the situation may be changing (Chapter 18). As they note, there have been a number of recent interventions within the museum and gallery space that place cloth centre stage, for example at Raven Row.7 Cloth and fibre is being rediscovered by a new generation of creative practitioners: visual artists re-interpreting textile craft practices, curators and cultural critics using textiles as a route towards competing narratives to illuminate how the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ are in constant dialogue. As their title suggests, what makes Iniva’s Social Fabric (2012) unique is its concern with the social question of textiles from a culturally diverse perspective: how do textiles allow us to think about art, society and politics? Or, to cite Sarat Maharaj, ‘what is the fall and feel of the world we find ourselves in?’ On the other hand, and as pointed out by Matilda McQuaid in ‘Curating Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance’ (Chapter 17), based on her seminal exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York (2005), the last century has witnessed extraordinary advances in materials used in textile making that have had and will continue to have an enormous impact on our world. Many textiles are never seen, like those that are embedded in the rubber of automobile tyres, which means that people are unaware of the fact that it is polyester that’s forming the shape of the tyre and holding it together. Whilst acknowledging that there is a great deal of engineering that goes into textile production, it remains a striking phenomenon that most Western-based art exhibitions are notable for another kind of invisibility – the relative anonymity of women artists and the Pacific arts. Is this because it was considered a domestic art and a woman’s craft?8 From ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ (Paris, 1989),9 which juxtaposed non-Western cultural products with Western art works, to ‘Borderline’ (2000),10 from exhibitions about rugs and tapestries by artists, Decorum (2013),11 mega-exhibitions like the first Fiber Visions, 1st Triennial in Hangzhou (2013),12 documenta and the Venice Biennale,13 the processes for understanding textiles in the history of Western modern and contemporary art and the condition of cultural diasporas have tended to be framed either by issues of globalization or by the politics of museum display.

THE BIENNIALS OF LAUSANNE AND KAUNAS This was not always the case. The Lausanne Tapestry Biennial (1962–1995), founded in 1962 by Jean Lurçat, became an experimental laboratory with artists coming from Eastern



Europe, America, France, Switzerland and Japan. ‘In the late 1960s, women mostly from Eastern European countries take over an unoccupied niche by making themselves their pieces of art with extremely innovative proposals’, says Giselle Eberhard Cotton, Director of the Foundation Toms Pauli in Lausanne. The Foundation has been devoted to the art of textile from the Biennials of Lausanne. Chapter 23 in this Handbook provides the reader with the Biennial story.14 Complementary to this account, Ed Carroll (with the help and advice of Dr Virginija Vitkien˙e) addresses the context of the Kaunas Biennial as it emerged in the 1990s as an international event during a time of social, economic, political and cultural upheaval with Lithuania as it emerged from the shackles of the Cold War. The art critic Rasa Andriušyt˙e-Žukien˙e has reflected upon the synthesis of concept, spectacular appearance and technical skills that caused Lithuanian textile art to become the vanguard phenomenon in international context, arguing that the phenomenon has not yet been properly described and presented to the academic and artistic community. The chapter ‘Kaunas Biennial: Spindling from Textile Culture to Public Culture’ does just this (see also Andriušyt˙e-Žukien˙e 2011).

A VIEW FROM ELSEWHERE The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA ) conceives itself as part of an Asia-Pacific community. It is not locked into a contentious English-American definition of art and culture but rather has an encompassing and broader concept of design, craft and textiles. The Gallery has a particular interest in ‘looking’ at the creation of textiles today. This ‘looking’ is framed by the institution’s ongoing involvement with contemporary art from Australia, Asia and the Pacific, the most visible expression being the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibition series. Initiated in 1993, this project was one of the first to present the art of this region within the international framework of a triennial. Textiles that might be classified as anthropological objects in an older model of curatorship are juxtaposed with new textiles and hybrid artifacts from across the region. One crucial aspect is the inclusion of non-conventional materials into ‘traditional’ practices and designs. There is a very direct sensitization to material through different depths and unexpected combination of yarn. Objects, like people, may also be considered in spatial and geographical terms. For example, the paths through which things and people move in the shifting patterns of small-scale communities help define the rhythms and pulse of urban life from place to place, describing patterns of migration on route, resting in newly configured domestic interiors, private collections or temporary exhibitions. Textiles in the accounts given by Ruth McDougall in her very thoughtful ‘A View from Elsewhere: A Global Stage – Curating Textiles from the Asia Pacific’ (Chapter 21) and Margie West’s ‘Yuta Djama: Innovation in Australian Indigenous Fibre’ (Chapter 19) situate makers and their work within the complex histories of colonialism and the Pacific. The various techniques associated with fibre and fabric celebrate cultural diversity, tradition and language, transformed and translated by mediating new meanings of home and belonging together with long-term survival of what is produced with its relatively low market status and poor economic returns.

AUDIENCES THAT MATTER Audience engagement is not a new idea. Arts presenters and producers have been working to engage audiences for centuries with tactics as simple as printed programme notes, wall



labels, educational visits and workshops. Historically, efforts to assist audiences in contextualizing and making meaning from the art have been ancillary to the programme itself – a sort of educational afterthought. Audience engagement means the institution is thinking about the audience member as central to the event or exhibition . . . We need to think of the whole arc of the experience in a different way. This has been one of the great successes, in my view, of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibitions particularly when APT education (2011) took centre stage. Why this dramatic shift? In part, the increased focus on engagement is a response to broad social trends and changes in the preferences and tastes of cultural consumers. Expectations for interactivity and interconnectivity, fuelled by social media, are the ‘new normal’. The types of kinetic and social experiences idealized by a younger, and perhaps over-stimulated generation of cultural consumers have diverged substantially from the more conventional experiences idealized by older audiences. So, too, may this shift be attributable to a new generation of artists who more comfortably balance the roles of artist, teacher and activist, and who prefer a more interactive and symbiotic relationship with their audience. As a consequence many museums and galleries are increasingly embracing social media and new forms of visitor participation. There is an attention in research and in museum practices toward the implications of this transformation for design; i.e. how will it affect how we regard and design for new relations between museums and visitors, and what is the nature of the productive activities and knowledge building carried out by visitors in these new hybrid exhibition and collective spaces? Let me finish by giving two examples, which might indicate future directions. Digital Threads is an interactive Web environment that highlights new digital artworks by Canadian artists Jennifer Angus, Joanna Berzowska, Kai Chan, Ruth Scheuing and Samuel Thomas. Internationally known for innovative work that challenges the boundaries of conventional textile arts, these five artists define new ways of working and engaging audiences on the World Wide Web. Their work links to 50 exhibitions from the Textile Museum of Canada. The website grew out of a practical need for the Textile Museum of Canada to develop a publicly accessible digital archive of over 12,000 textile artifacts housed in the vaults of the Museum.15 Another example is a new type of experimental exhibition and research structure that invites audiences to collectively and critically explore the range and diversity of artistic practice today by gradually presenting artworks, production processes as well as related material in cumulative display, text, and event formats. Over any given length of time, an artistic practice is investigated, presenting and correlating three or more exhibitions. Displays of older works, collaborations, performances, unfinished business, failed ideas, archives, and other material allow for a slow surfacing of recurring themes, materials, and methods as well as contradictions and productive disruptions across a body of work. In this context and perhaps rather against the navigational speed of internet interactivity, process takes precedence over time in a dialogic exchange between makers, curators, audience, though in contemporary practice such lines are becoming increasingly blurred. Nonetheless, textile, cloth and fabric have a great advantage as durational processes, which unfold and perform over time, and which can be seen in the project of the Swedish artist Annika Ekdahl (see Plate 1, Part 4 Introduction). Table cloths and needlework were created by visitors from the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Austria and significantly performed and re worked in Kaunas 2007, 2009 and in 2011 as part of TEXTILE : REWIND -PLAY-FORWARD in collaboration with Birgitta Nordstrom and textile students of Gothenberg University.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to acknowledge the PhD research of three of my students, Lee Weinberg, Elena Papadaki and Nayia Yiakoumarki who, in their projects investigating curatorial histories and practices, have taught me a great deal.


See also, Constantine, Mildred and Lenor Larsen, Jack (1980) The Art Fabric Mainstream, which is the book from which the exhibition of the same title toured the USA under the American Federation of Arts opening at the San Francisco Museum of Art, May 21–25 July 1981.


See also Papastergiadis (1994), in which he explores the incorporation of the term ‘hybridity’ in art criticism and curatorial practice. In Chapter 8, he extends and complicates his insights through a semiotic reading of hybridity in postcolonial theory.


For a detailed description of the project, its aims and objectives, see http://www.egnatia. info/indexy.htm (accessed 12 August 2014).


Anthropology exhibitions of the nineteenth century are known to have depicted a certain racial order according to theories of evolution (see Greenberg, Ferguson, and Nairne, 1996: 71–73). However, such discourses are also part of anthropological, archaeological and historical museums to this day; for example The British Museum display, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, London, UK where remains of human bodies as well as objects sacred to the cultures represented are kept. This is an example of imperialism at its worst.


Starting from the mid-twentieth century, alternative museums that represent different perspectives on historical narratives have been established, such as Canada Museum for Native American Cultures, Ontario and Harlem Museum, New York (representing the local community’s heritage, and, specifically, black heritage). Museums have also started working in closer collaboration both with their geographical communities and with other communities they represent, for example, The New Museum in New York and The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA ), Brisbane, Australia.


Within academia today, there is a clear distinction between ‘museology’ or ‘Museum Studies’ and ‘Curatorial Practice’, which usually refers to the curation of contemporary art and is usually centred on independent curating rather than working within institutions. ‘Museum Studies’ departments, however, specialize in understanding the institution of the museum specifically. One of the pioneering groups to establish programmes that specialize in independent contemporary art curating, which is a younger discipline in comparison to museology, is the ICI (Independent Curators International), the first programme having been established in 1975.


See, Curating Textiles: Stuff that Matters: Sara Martinetti (France), Alice Motard (France), Alex Sainsbury (UK ), and Seth Siegelaub (USA /Netherlands), Chapter 3 in this Handbook.


In the last several decades of the twentieth century, the museum field of research did become more open to women, firstly with the inclusion of women-artists in art exhibitions and later with the acceptance of women curators into the field. Katy Deepwell (2006), in New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction, traces the development of early feminist curatorial practices and strategies during the 1970s, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between feminist art practitioners, feminist art historians and feminist curatorial practitioners. In her view, modernist definitions of Curatorial Practice, linking arts management, knowledge of art history and close collaborations with artists, are heavily dominated by male figures and until the 1960s, women’s work constituted a marginal part



of museum displays. For examples of exhibitions that are appropriate to this discussion, see Women and Textiles: Their Lives and Their Work presented by the Women Artists’ Slide Library at Battersea Arts Centre, London (1983), June Freeman’s Sewing as Women’s Art (1982) for the Crafts Council, London and Knitting: A Common Art (1987) for Minories, Colchester/Aberystwyth, Wales, The Subversive Stitch: Women and Textiles Today selected by Pennina Barnett and organized with Bev Bytheway, Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK (1988), The Presence of Touch exhibition organized by Joan Livingstone and Anne Wilson for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1996), and Loose Threads at the Serpentine Gallery, London (1998). During the 1970s, a number of women artists – including Leonor Tawney, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks – created the Fiber Art movement with the aim of establishing an independent status for textiles as part of a feminist praxis: in close contact with Minimalist artists including Agnes Martin, and in some cases on the basis of training in the Bauhaus tradition, they designed monumental structures that moved beyond the technical limitations of the loom. See, Textiles: Open Letter (2012), curated by Rike Frank and Grant Watson, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (23 June–10 November 2013). 9.

See, Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grande Halle of the Parc de la Villette (1989). The curator, Jean-Hubert Martin juxtaposed what the West perceived as ‘ethnic art’ with contemporary Western artworks, in order to address problems presented at several exhibitions addressing what they called ‘primitivism’. Magiciens de la Terre is considered by many cultural theorists as the first international, Western exhibition to merge the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ in art exhibiting while avoiding the – then commonplace – aesthetization of work produced by the ‘native cultures’.

10. Borderline was an exhibition that presented traditional Berber textiles from Morocco and Tunisia with contemporary works by Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger. It argued that textiles made by a traditional Maghreb women’s community challenged the idea that Western abstract art was not as unique and original as generally assumed by art historians. The exhibition was held at Palais des Beaux-Arts, February–May 2000 and designed by Zaha Hadid. 11. The Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris highlighted the art of textiles with the exhibition Decorum held in 2013. It aimed to challenge the preconceived notion of tapestry as a minor or anachronistic art form by arguing the numerous virtues of carpets and tapestries: visual and tactile, artistic and functional, that they are also readily transportable and transcend the usual limitations of decorative arts and interior design. The guest artistic director, artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz, designed the exhibition in collaboration with architect Christine Ilex Beinemeier. Ambient music (‘furnishing music’) served as the exhibition’s audio backdrop from a playlist proposed by Jean-Philippe Antoine. See also, Art & Textiles – Fabric as Material and Concept in Modern Art from Klimt to the Present, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (12 October 2013–2 March 2014) Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (21 March–22 June 2014). This exhibition sought an artistic dialogue between works ranging from Gustav Klimt and Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Eva Hesse to Chiharu Shiota. It reviewed Western modernism to show the development of the process connecting fine art and applied arts in the twentieth century. 12. See Shi Hui and Xu Jia (2013), ‘Fiber as a Vision and Cultural Heritage of Hangzhou, China’. Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China. 13. For example, in 2011, Penelope’s Labour: Weaving Words and Images, San Giorgio Maggiore, Centro Espositivo, Le Sale del Convitto, Cini Foundation was curated by the artist Adam Lowe. The exhibition juxtaposed many different kinds of objects, starting with a true Wunderkammer piece, a golden shawl woven from the silk of Madagascan spiders, which is as strong as steel. However, the main thread of the exhibition connects the research and insights of Ada Lovelace’s pioneering work with the Jacquard loom, invented



in 1801, which wove complex patterns on a punch card system, and Charles Babbage, who first devised the concept of a computer in the 1820s: The analytical equation weaves together algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves. 14. On the occasion of Lithuania’s 8th International Kaunas Biennial TEXTILE 11: REWIND -PLAY-FORWARD (2011), a selection of works from the International Tapestry Biennials of Lausanne (1962–1995), the Fondation Toms Pauli granted permission for an exhibition of some of the great artists represented in its collection of twentieth-century textile art, such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jagoda Bui , Kati Gulyas, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, Jean Lurçat, Maria Łaszkiewicz, Wojciech Sadley and Mariyo Yagi, Zilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas – (22 September–4 December 2011). 15. The artists’ online artworks are positioned as the primary point of entry to Digital Threads, inverting the conventional authority of a collection database. An artwork, by its very nature, queries fixed notions of truth and authority: the interactive nature of Digital Threads’ 2.0 environment effectively implicates the user by setting up a subjective, concept-rich framework as a condition for meaningful engagement with an impartial digital archive. Because users are routed first through the experiential filter of five artworks, 50 exhibitions and their affiliated conceptual themes, a tone of artistic and curatorial practice is foregrounded before the user arrives at the altar of impressively organized descriptive data, which includes thousands of cutting-edge, high-resolution images prepared exclusively for this project. The website user experiences textiles – as artwork and artifact – in a context of active translation. This text is drawn from Sarah Quinton’s unpublished keynote presentation at ‘Archive Fever 2: From Material to Virtual Entanglements’ held at Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles symposium, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK , September 2008. A further example might be how Tate London, UK has launched a series of events and conferences that promotes research and discourse around policies and evaluation of new modes of cultural production that have become prevalent with the advent of digital technologies: http://www. (accessed 12 August 2014).

REFERENCES Altshuler, Bruce. 1998. The Avant Garde in Exhibition – New Art in the 20th Century. Berkeley, CA : University of California Press. Andriušyt˙e -Žukien˙e , Rasa. 2011. ‘Highlights of Lithuanian Textile Art’, Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, 57(1). Deepwell, Katy. 2006. ‘Feminist Curatorial Strategies and Practices since the 1970’s’. In J. Marstine, New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction. New York: Blackwell Publishing: 64–79. Gleadowe, Teresa. 2000. ‘Curating in a Changing Climate’. In Gavin Wade (ed), Curating in the 21st Century. Walsall and Wolverhampton, UK : The New Art Gallery Walsall and University of Wolverhampton: 29–38. Greenberg, Reesa, Ferguson, Bruce and Nairne, Sandy. 1996. Thinking about Exhibitions, London: Routledge. Heinich, Nathalie and Pollak, Michael. 2009. ‘Tate Papers Issue 12’, Landmark Exhibitions Issue, Tate’s Online Research Journal, tatepapers/09autumn/ accessed 13 August 2014. Jefferies, Janis. 1985. ‘The Development and Role of Soft Material in British Painting and Sculpture and the Textiles Arts’. The Textile Society Newsletter for the Study of Textile Art, Design and Theory, Number 4, Autumn: 7–19.



Lind, Maria. 2010. Selected Writings. London: Sternberg Press. Macdonald, Sarah. 2011. A Companion to Museum Studies. Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishing. Obrist, Hans Ulrich. 2008. A Brief History of Curating. Dijon: JRR Ringier & Les Presses du Réel. Obrist, Hans Ulrich. 2000. ‘Kraftwerk, Time Storage, Laboratory ’. In Gavin Wade (ed), Curating in the 21st Century. Walsall, UK : The New Art Gallery: 45–60. O’Neill, Paul. 2007a. Curating Subjects. London: De Appel Centre of Contemporary Art. O’Neill, Paul. 2007b. ‘The Curatorial Turn: From Practice to Discourse’. In Judith Rugg and Michael Sedwick (eds), Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance. Bristol: Intellect Books: 13–28. O’Neill, Paul, and Wilson, Mick. 2010. Curating and the Educational Turn. London: Open Editions. Papastergiadis, Nikos. 1994. The Complicities of Culture: Hybridity and ‘New Internationalism’. Manchester: Cornerhouse. Papastergiadis, Nikos. 2006. Spatial Aesthetics: Art, Place and the Everyday. London: Rivers Oram Press. Parry, Ross. 2007. Recoding the Museum: Digital Heritage and the Technologies of Change. London: Routledge. Thea, Carolee. 2001. Foci: Interviews with Ten International Curators. New York: Apexart Curatorial Programme. Thea, Carolee. 2009. On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators. New York: Distributed Art Publishers.


Curating Extreme Textiles Designing for High Performance MATILDA MCQUAID

Textiles are in every part of our personal and physical environments. They protect our bodies, adorn our homes, but they are also integrated into a more complex infrastructure that we rarely notice or which is completely invisible. Revealing these vital yet hidden textiles that lie under roadbeds, reinforce concrete columns, or are implanted into humans was the intent of the exhibition, ‘Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance’. By focusing on the subject of technical textiles – purely functional, precisely engineered, and highly technical fabrics – the exhibition showed the diversity, pervasiveness, and historic continuum of these high performance fabrics. Technical textiles represent in volume the smallest segment of the world’s enormous textile industry yet they are some of the most innovative and purest examples of design today. Aesthetics and decorative qualities are excluded from any list of requirements for a technical textile and if one finds one visually arresting, it is by pure coincidence. More than 180 textiles were represented in the exhibition, and each had a design story to tell. Some of the textiles and their applications were unique, others were experimental, many were collaborations across a variety of disciplines, and all represented extraordinary amounts of research and dedication by artists, designers, engineers, scientists, and visionaries. The journey to find these often peculiar but vital cultural artifacts of our day was a long one. It started in 1992 at The Museum of Modern Art, where I was a curator and had read a catalogue for the 1956 exhibition, ‘Textiles USA’. The catalogue featured a special category of industrial fabrics (with swatches pasted on the pages) that included fabrics for convertible car tops, tyres and to deflect radar. Arthur Drexler, one of the curators of the ‘Textiles USA’ exhibition, wrote about these industrial fabrics: Many industrial fabrics inadvertently heighten properties familiar to us in other materials. The blond opulence of loosely plaited tire cord, though it is always hidden within layers of rubber, rivals fabrics used for formal gowns. . . . Industrial fabrics rarely if ever are designed for aesthetic effect, yet they seem beautiful largely because they share the precision, delicacy, pronounced texture, and exact repetition of detail characteristic of 20th century machine art. —Drexler 1956 269



These beautiful and engineered accomplishments, sometimes mundane and other times monumental, were on par with the core of the Modern’s design collection – the iconic ball bearing and propeller blade included in the groundbreaking 1934 Machine Art show. I wondered how the story of technical textiles continued almost fifty years later? The textiles and applications presented in Extreme Textiles were certainly examples of twentieth- and twenty-first-century machine art, but they were also studies in ingenuity, creativity, and perseverence. The objects in the show did not represent the most common uses of technical textiles; instead, the selection was based on objects for extreme applications, such as the textile used in the first controlled flight by man, future apparel for explorers visiting Mars, and the textile that could monitor vital signs and provide live communication with a soldier on the battlefield. They were unfamiliar to us at the time of the exhibition but they were already having repercussions in areas such as aeronautics and the medical industry. These textiles have caused a quiet revolution in our world. Quiet because the innovations that have occurred over the last fifty years with the development of high performance fibres such as aramids and carbon fibres have been largely contained within the small markets of aerospace and the military. Not until the 1980s did the outside world become more familiar with the existence and potential applications of these fibres and textiles, which resulted in tremendous growth in the field. While more mature commercial development occurred in the 1990s, the new millennium is and will continue to be marked by global networking of these technologies and further expanding the potential markets and applications for these textiles. There is not an area of our world that has not been affected by the advances in technical textiles. Architecture, transportation, industrial, medical, agricultural, civil engineering, sports, and apparel have all benefited from the tremendous progress and the unique collaborations that have taken place in the field of technical textiles. Principles of textile science and technology merge with other specialties like engineering, chemistry, biotechnology, material/polymer science as well as information science to develop solutions unimaginable a century ago. Who would have thought that we would have the technology to design and some day build a forty-storey tower out of carbon fibre composite or to walk on a planet that is fifty-one million miles away or have clothing that can automatically react and adapt to the surrounding environment? These are achievements that rely on an interface between many disciplines and require the openness to experiment time and time again. Because the objects in the exhibition were extreme and their ultimate success was determined by how they performed under very specific conditions, the organization of the exhibition and book (McQuaid 2005) followed the lead from the technical textile industry. The following performance standards were the barometers and categories to assess the textiles and applications: Stronger, Faster, Lighter, Safer, and Smarter. Some objects fit neatly into one classification, others in several depending upon their ultimate function. Choices for placement usually responded to the primary motivation for the objects’ creation. The exhibition outlined the significant events across the major areas of technical textiles, the different technologies that have made some of these extraordinary inventions possible, and tried to demystify material and technique in order to understand how and why textiles play such a significant role in our lives.

STRONGER Incredible strength is one of the advantages of some of the new textile fibres which have the capability to reinforce as well as lift hundreds of tons. In most cases, the textile



structure has been around for centuries – weaving, knitting, braiding, embroidery – but with new fibres coupled with new types of machinery or even old looms that have been retooled to accommodate new fibres, the results and final applications are astonishingly different. One of the most dramatic examples in recent history of using a plain woven fabric for a high performance application was for the Mars Exploration mission in 2003. Airbags woven from Vectran® protected the fragile rover inside when it bounced and ultimately landed without damage on the surface of Mars. Plain weave or the ‘over-one under-one’ interlacing of two perpendicular sets of threads has the greatest strength and stability of the traditional fabric structures (Brown 2005). Combining this technique with tightly woven Vectran at a strength of 350 pounds per inch, created an indestructible cocoon. Another example of a very simple woven structure is tyre cord fabric, which has been used to reinforce tyres for over 115 years. Pneumatic tyres were originally patented in 1845 in England by R. W. Thompson, but they were first applied to a bicycle in 1888 by John Boyd Dunlop, a Scottish veterinarian, who fitted a rubber hose to his son’s tricycle, and filled this tyre with compressed air. Dunlop patented the pneumatic tyre in 1888 and began limited production. Within ten years it had been adopted by the automobile industry. Simultaneous with creating the first pneumatic tyre, Dunlop used for the first time a canvas fabric as the rubber reinforcement. Over time it has been replaced with nylon and rayon, with steel cord and polyester most frequently used except in specialty cars when aramids are the preferred choice. Kosa’s reinforcement fabric, made of high modulus, low shrinkage (HMLS ) polyester industrial filament yarns, is principally used in radial passenger and light truck tyres. Loosely woven and heat stabilized, it is hidden under layers of rubber, but its significant structural function contributes to successful performance, road handling and tyre durability (Plate 17.1). Large, flexible, bulk containers, which on first impression seem relatively low-tech and not much more than an oversized tote bag, provide more than a reinforcement for another material. Reusable and compacting to a fraction of their size when empty, these customdesigned containers have the capability of lifting up to twelve tons of liquid or solid. Made of woven recyclable polypropylene, they have been designed to achieve maximum container weights. Scaling up to even larger containers for transporting fresh water are Very Large Flexible Barges (VLFB ) designed by the engineering firm Buro Happold Consulting. Although the concept of towable bags has been around for some time, larger sizes were unreliable. VLFB have the capacity to transport 250,000 cubic meters of water (about 66,043,013 gallons) – a two-day supply of water for a population of approximately one million people. Nature is also a resource for strong fibres, and ongoing experimentation with spider silk has confirmed its extraordinary strength – by weight, it is five times stronger than steel and three times stronger than bullet-resistant Kevlar®. Ultimately it could be used for body armour, medical sutures and many other applications including underwear for the military. Silk does not melt when exposed to extreme heat from explosions and can prevent finer particles of sand and dirt from penetrating through to skin. One company, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, patented Monster Silk®, a genetically engineered spider silk that is produced by inserting specific spider genes into silkworm chromosomes – the worms produce threads nearly identical to spider silk. The silk’s flexibility, strength, and toughness can be varied by manipulating the DNA sequence (Golson 2014).



FASTER Faster implies a high performance edge in various types of sporting equipment – cars, sailboats, racing sculls, and bicycles – which have all benefited from the combination of strength, rigidity and light weight attained in carbon fibre composites. BMW ’s FW 26, the Formula 1 designed and raced in 2004, can reach 60 mph within 2.5 seconds and achieve a top engine speed of over 200 mph. Sailboats are attempting to make recordbreaking times of 50 knots powered only by the wind and downhill skiers achieve speeds of more than 140 mph. These exceptional performances are due to a combination of physical and mental stamina, material and technological development, and advanced composites provide the successful link to make these events possible. It has only been since the 1960s that advanced composites have been available, and they were primarily used in the military and aerospace up until the early 1980s. All areas of the sports industry realized their enormous potential with carbon fibre providing the highest stiffness, and aramids absorbing the greatest amounts of energy, and both having the ability to replace heavier metal with lighter components. Because lightness ultimately affects speed, textile-reinforced composites are providing major new areas of opportunity for the technical textile market. The Williams F1 BMW FW 26 is a blend of endurance and performance and has achieved these goals through a combination of research in materials and electronics. Although there are many components of the F1 that are either reinforced or made exclusively out of high performance fibres – for example, brake discs and tyres – the largest is the chassis. The car is made of advanced composite materials, such as a carbonfibre reinforcement within a polymer matrix – mostly taking the form of epoxy resin. The design and manufacture of each Formula 1 car is highly proprietary, but the general fabrication process is similar with each team making the necessary refinements to try to give it a special edge over its competition. For instance, to design and manufacture the chassis requires the most advanced computer technology available as well as the highest level of handcraftsmanship. The chassis is moulded by laminating multiple layers of the carbon/epoxy material onto a shaped mould (tool) and then curing the resin under heat and pressure. The form of raw materials is the same as that employed in the aerospace industry, i.e. carbon fibre pre-impregnated with epoxy in a ‘staged’ condition (partly cured, not wet, and therefore stable to handle) or what is commonly called ‘prepreg’. Woven carbon fibre is primarily used because it can be draped and tailored into complex shapes, although unidirectional fibre is also employed. Plies of the prepreg are stacked onto the mould and sealed in a vacuum bag, which has the effect of compacting the laminate prior to curing. This assembly is then put into an autoclave, or a pressurized oven, where nitrogen is applied at around seven bar (seven atmospheres, or one hundred pounds per square inch) to properly consolidate the laminate through the bag. At the same time the temperature in the vessel is raised to approximately 175°C (350°F) in order to cure it. After ninety minutes the part is cooled and is then ejected from the mould as a solid piece (B.P. O’Rourke, personal communication, June 2004). This same technology at smaller and larger scales is used to make everything from high performance racing sailboats to speed skiing helmets. Frequently it has been the elite athlete – whether a race car driver, sailor, or skier – who plays an important role in the design process. User becomes designer more and more as racing experience is invaluable in understanding the practical and performance issues of the equipment. Beat Engel, a downhill racer, started making speed skiing helmets for himself in the mid-1980s. Over



the years he has made helmets for world champions, who clock speeds greater than 140mph, and where performance relies on the highest level of aerodynamics to permit the least resistance. His designs for helmets completely envelope the head and neck so that legs, torso and head become like one compact bullet. Beat’s Speed-monster helmet is a double-shell system with a thin outer layer used primarily to enhance performance and which breaks away if the athlete should fall, leaving behind an inner helmet for protection. Both shells are made out of woven Kevlar® sandwiched between two layers of woven and nonwoven glass fibre and applied with polyester resin. It’s durable, fast, and light (Plate 17.2). The same equation of ‘lighter = faster’ can be applied to sailboat racing, especially in elite competitions such as the Americas Cup racing where every part of the boat is fitted out with the most advanced materials and technologies. Critical to a boat’s performance is the design of the sails which are no longer produced by traditional cut-and-sew technique, but employ a special laminated manufacturing process, 3DL ™, developed by North Sails Nevada. These sails are made as a single piece on an adjustable mould to the precise shape for a particular boat and sailing conditions. Carbon and aramid fibres are placed on a Mylar scrim by means of a fibre-laying gantry which travels over the surface of the sail moulds. The placement of the fibres reflects the anticipated wind forces and stresses on different parts of the sail thereby optimizing local strength and stiffness (Brown 2005).

LIGHTER The quality of lightness is always a focus of design for space and aeronautics where humans continue to be fascinated with the ongoing dream of human flight. This dream has provided some of the most dramatic and curious inventions across all ages. Beginning with the most rudimentary handcrafted wings made from a variety of materials reflecting their age, humans have attempted to mimic birds to achieve selfpowered flight. Perhaps the closest that we have come to this can be seen with a group of flying enthusiasts called birdmen, who beginning in the 1930s donned wing suits in order to decelerate free fall and prolong their time aloft for aerial stunts. Most of these early birdmen used a single layer of canvas stretched from hand to foot like a bat’s wing, which allowed little control and virtually no horizontal movement. The breakthrough came in the early 1990s when Patrick de Gayardon invented a wingsuit that was neither flat nor rigid and had wings with an upper and lower surface with an inlet for air – much like a modern parachute. Since then a number of suits have expanded the idea of skydiving into sky flying. Some have an attachable wing system such as Atair Aerospace’s wing suit, which consists of a jumpsuit and attached wings made of nonwoven polyethylene laminate and Spectra® fibre. The experience of flying in this suit is different from skydiving, as the wings fill with air as soon as the birdman spreads his limbs. The fabric has no porosity, so the wings remain rigid in flight. The shape of the wing is determined by its threedimensional inflatable sewn structure and the disposition of the arms and shoulders of the person in the suit. The birdman still relies on the parachute to carry him safely back to earth – a technology that has been around since 1912, the first time a parachute was used to jump from an airplane. Atair Aerospace, which was founded in 2001 by Daniel Preston, is dedicated to creating state-of-the-art parachute designs as well as flight navigation systems for all varieties of clients – from the military to major corporations. Their composite parafoil improves upon the most basic building block of parachutes by replacing ripstop nylon,



whose construction had remained unchanged for more than fifty years, with a flexible nonwoven composite material. This advanced fabric is made by sandwiching an engineered pattern of high strength fibres, such as ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (Spectra/ Dyneema®) or aramids, between layers of ultra-thin polymer foil and then fusing them under extreme heat. These parafoils are 300% stronger, 600% less stretchable, and 68% lighter than nylon. As canopy size grows, strength of this composite material will increase exponentially and weight will decrease in comparison to nylon. This is particularly advantageous for heavy cargo weights where nylon becomes unstable (Plate 17.3). Orville and Wilbur Wright may not have intentionally mimicked birds, like the birdmen, when the brothers achieved in 1902 the first fully controlled flight in an aircraft. Although this was one year before the landmark day in December when under power, they sustained heavier-than-air flight, this earlier flight marked the invention of the airplane and officially inaugurated the aerial age. The textile that they used for covering the wings of the 1902 glider was a type of cotton muslin used for ladies’ slips and referred to as the Pride of the West. They purchased it off-the-shelf from Rike-Kumler Company, a local Dayton department store. The brothers used the muslin in its natural state and applied it on the bias. This formed a very tight surface that would distribute landing (or crashing) loads across the wing (Rick Young, personal communication, June 2004). They needed a fabric that was flexible and durable in order to achieve their groundbreaking idea for controlling the aircraft, referred to as wing warping, which entails twisting the wing tips of their craft in opposite directions. ILC Dover’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV ) is another example of innovative wing technology. This inflatable wing, made out of a Vectran outer layer and a polyurethane bladder, can be packed down to a bundle ten times smaller than its deployed wing span of four feet. It has the potential to fly into any area or situation where human life would be at risk – firefighting, military, search and rescue missions – as well as when conditions need to be assessed for risk, such as avalanche/volcanic activity, iceberg patrol, and forest fire survey. Although inflatable wings have been around for several decades, what has evolved during this time is the use of smart materials such as electronic textiles for adding functions to the wing. These electronic textiles are integrated into the UAV and provide a means of remotely controlling direction by a deformation of the wing geometry (Cadogan et al. 2003). The UAV project has benefited from using technology that ILC Dover implemented in space suits and the airbags for the Mars Lander including the use of high strength fibres. Fabrics with high strength to weight rations such as Kevlar and Vectran have improved the packing efficiency in inflatable wing designs (Cadogan et al. 2003). There are other methods besides inflation for making a structure rigid that can result in either a permanent shape or one that has a memory and can change back and forth between different configurations. Developments in material science research have produced shape-memory polymers, which are imprinted with a memory of their fully deployed shape, for example, and have the capability to change from soft to hard when exposed to heat or a chemical reaction that happens inside the structure. This allows large structures to be flat-packed in a small cargo area on a space craft and deployed fully constructed (Beesley and Hanna 2005). There are also more earthbound examples of lightness related to architecture. Exploring areas outside of traditional tensile and membrane structures, advanced composites are being used more and more, and on a much larger scale, in architecture. One example is Peter Testa’s proposed Carbon Tower – a forty-storey office building with the main structure woven together rather than assembled from discrete parts. As Philip



Beesley and Sean Hanna describe it in ‘A Transformed Architecture’ (Beesley and Hanna 2005), twenty-four helical bands of carbon fibre, twelve inches wide and an inch thick, run continuously from the bottom to the top of the building. The floor plates are tied in to the external structure acting in tension. The floors and helix are interdependent and interwoven – each preventing the other from collapsing.

SAFER Certainly world events have broadened the role of protective applications in recent years and unique combinations of high performance fibres and structures are making textiles resistant against cuts, abrasions, bullets, or punctures and protective against extreme cold and heat, chemical or biological hazards, radiation, or high voltages. NASA and the military are playing essential roles in the research and development of textiles in this area, and they in turn have been looking at small, cutting edge companies such as adventure gear makers to supply their astronauts and elite soldiers. Some of these textiles are now very familiar to us – Gore-tex®, Mylar® Kevlar® – as they have been integrated into apparel and accessories that may be in our closet today. Referred to as transfer technology, these and other examples result from the essential role that NASA has played in finding and developing materials that are tested for extreme environments like space but eventually can have great potential here on Earth. The Space Act of 1958 required that NASA make its discoveries and inventions available to private industry in order to stimulate economy, increase competitiveness, and to develop technologies for use in everyday products (McCarty, 2005). This trickle-down effect often takes years to reach the consumer market but can inspire better designed solutions that enhance performances for an athlete or a fire-fighter (Plate 17.4). Familiar now in a wide range of protective gear, is Kevlar®, often referred to as the ‘muscle fiber’ (McCarty 2005: 141). It was first marketed by DuPont in 1971 and was used for bullet-resistant vests and space applications – from ropes to spacesuits. As an aramid initially developed in the 1960s, Kevlar® is strong because its long molecular chains are fully extended and packed closely together, resulting in high-tenacity, highmodulus fibres (Chen and Gong 2000). Perhaps the ultimate in protective clothing is the spacesuit – a multilayered body armour and life support system that is designed to protect against known and unknown hazards in space. Designers and engineers have used the most advanced materials to develop prototypes, ultimately leading to the white spacesuit so familiar to us now. For example, silica Beta fibre cloth, developed by Owens Corning under contract to NASA during the Apollo programme, was a nonflammable, Teflon-coated glass fibre that was used in spacesuits and inside the command module. This was later replaced with multifibrous Ortho fabric, a combination of Nomex®, Kevlar® and Gore-tex® fibres that was the material of choice for spacesuits through assembly of the International Space Station (Orndoff 2001). Chromel R, a metallic fibre fabric, was developed for abrasion and cut resistance. The fibres were made of chromium-nickel alloy, which exhibited at the time relatively high tensile and tear strength. Although it was never used in the overall suit (except in an early prototype), it was applied to gloves and boots in the Apollo programme. The astronaut’s glove is equally important as the spacesuit and besides fitting properly, it has to be flexible and lightweight while being protective against heat, cold, and not impede movement or dexterity. In a vacuum, the difference in pressure between the inside and outside of a spacesuit and glove makes each rigid and difficult to move. This rigidity,



while protective, renders normal manual activity even more difficult than the effect of the vacuum, because the hard fingertips of the gloves press against the wearer’s fingertips, where the nerve endings and capillaries are most concentrated. After repeated impact, the capillaries shut down, causing numbness. These considerations make gloves the most difficult technological piece of spacesuit design because engineers must balance protection against tactile sensation (Lewis 2014). A counterpoint to an astronaut’s glove is one used by the Army for handling razor wire – a hand-cut and -sewn suede glove that has been covered on the palm side with evenly spaced industrial staples. The ‘teeth’ of the staple face inward and have been lined with flannel to protect the hand from being punctured by the staple. The positioning of staples on the palm takes into account the barbs of the razor wire and performs like chain mail. This medieval masterpiece exemplifies the ingenuity that results from necessity and an acute awareness of performance qualities in existing materials.

SMARTER Textiles are the natural choice for seamlessly integrating computing and telecommunications technologies to create a more personal and intimate environment. Although clothing has historically been passive, garments of the twentiy-first century will become more active participants in our lives – automatically responding to the surrounding environment or quickly reacting to information that the body is transmitting. A textile is made up of individual fibres combined into yarn that can then be woven, braided, knitted, embroidered or felted. According to engineer and embroiderer Patricia Wilson, these fibres can also have a range of electrical conductivity through several methods such as an all-metal fibre, a metal- or conductive-oxide coating, or a narrow metallic ribbon wrapping. These conductive yarns can then be combined with other fibres to make yarns with unique properties – a textile analogue of a wire. By connecting certain conductive yarns together and adding electronic components such as processors, resistors, light emitting diodes (LED s) and batteries, a variety of soft, textile devices is possible (Wilson 2005). One of the main incubators for interdisciplinary study and thought is the MIT Media Lab, which has produced remarkable designers. In 2004 three graduates formed SQUID :Labs, LLC , a consulting and research group focused on developing breakthrough technologies in the fields of robotics, materials, and manufacturing. One area they investigated was the incorporation of metallic fibres into ropes. Metallic fibres can be used to transmit information, act as antennas for wireless communication, and, potentially more interesting is their use as sensors. SQUID :Labs has developed an electronic rope made by braiding traditional yarns such as nylon or polyester with metallic yarns. There are many variables in the braiding process including the total number and diameter of yarns, ratio of metallic yarns to polyester/nylon, and the arrangement of metallic yarns. For instance, these yarns could be entirely contained within the rope, but if testing for abrasion, then every few feet, a metallic yarn could migrate to the outside and then back inside the rope. This way, if conductivity is lost in a certain segment of the rope, it is assumed that abrasion has taken place on the external metallic yarn. There are numerous applications for these intelligent ropes. Mountain climbers could rely on sensors to estimate critical strain in order to know when to retire overly stressed ropes; construction sites could reduce on-site inspection with these sensors which would indicate when ropes have been compromised because of abrasion; and high tension power



lines, oceanic communication lines and other electric cables could be enhanced dramatically by adding a thin intelligent rope around the outside of the cable. In Wilson’s essay ‘Textiles from Novel Means of Innovaton’, she discusses how superusers – firefighters, first-responders, etc. – can drive technology and recounts her own experience with helping to develop an electro-textile antenna vest for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center. Out of concern for the number of electronics that soldiers were asked to carry, the Army collaborated with Wilson and others to come up with a solution. Wilson applied her own passion for embroidery and textile solutions of the past with the team’s knowledge of optics, electronics, and materials to the problem (Plate 17.5). Wilson explains the collaboration: Examining the situation, we recognized an immediate need to intranet the soldier so that their electronics could communicate and integrate information. Raw sensor data from physiological monitors could give information on the stress level, or need for water, whether the individual had been wounded, and how critical it was to evacuate the soldier. At this early stage of wearable electronics, the focus in the textile community was on weaving conductors into the fabric of the clothing. The team at Foster-Miller [where Wilson was employed at the time] quickly realized that a fabric with woven conductors would be a nightmare to cut, sew, and connect through conventional clothing fabrication processess – a seamstress would need to be an expert in electronics as well as pattern-making! We took inspiration from the art of Victorian millinery and manipulation of ribbons, which the team leaders were teaching outside of work at the time. Wire-edged ribbon was easily formed into flowers for hat decoration, and could obviously be applied flat onto the soldier’s clothing to simplify routing of digital signals and power. Thus began a long collaboration between Foster-Miller, the Army, and the Offray Specialty Narrow Woven Fabrics division of C.M. Offray and Sons, the largest producer of wire-edged decorative and technical ribbons in the world. —Wilson 2005: 199 With history as a guide, Wilson continued to develop many versions of the narrow woven busses, a term coined by her team, and also produced cables for video and transmitting high-speed data.

CONCLUSION The variety of applications and design techniques in Extreme Textiles attests to the fact that textiles can be anything. They offer the versatility to be hard or soft, stiff or flexible, small or large, structured or arbitrary. They are collectors of energy, vehicles of communication and transport, barriers against physical hazards, and carriers of life-saving cures. They have been created by teams of professionals whose disciplines are diverse, yet who have joined forces with conviction and dedication to chart a course that is reinventing textiles. The future of design lies with these examples of ‘disruptive innovation’ as textiles continue to push boundaries, eliminate borders between the sciences, and continue to be a foundation of our physical world.

REFERENCES Beesley, P. and Hanna, S. 2005. ‘A Transformed Architecture’, in M. McQuaid (ed), Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.



Cadogan, D., Smith, T., Lee, R., Scarborough, S., and Graziosi, D. 2003. ‘Inflatable and Rigidizable Wings for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’, paper presented at the 44th AIAA /ASME /ASCE /AHS Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, 7–10 April 2003, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Chen, X. and Gong R.H. 2000. ‘Technical Yarns,’ in A.R. Horrocks and S.C. Anand (ed), Handbook of Technical Textiles, Cambridge, UK : Woodhead Publishing: 42–61. Drexler, A. 1956. ‘Introduction,’ American Fabrics, 38(Fall): 1–68. Golson, J. 2014. ‘Fire-Resistant Underwear Made From Fake Spider Silk Could Soon Be a Thing’, Wired, 9 July 2014, available from (accessed 10 July 2014). Lewis, C. 2014. ‘MOL Glove’, in C. McCarty and M. McQuaid (eds), Tools: Extending Our Reach, New York: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. McCarty, C. 2005. ‘NASA : Advancing Ultra-Performance’, in M. McQuaid (ed), Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. McQuaid, M. 2005. ‘Stronger, Faster, Lighter, Safer, and Smarter ’, in M. McQuaid (ed), Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Orndoff, E. 2001. ‘Fine Gems: The Rare Fabrics of NASA’, Industrial Fabric Products Review, July: 61. Wilson, P. 2005. ‘Textiles from Novel Means of Innovation’, in M. McQuaid (ed), Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.


Social Fabric Textiles, Art, Society and Politics CHRISTINE CHECINSKA AND GRANT WATSON

INTRODUCTION : HOW DO TEXTILES ALLOW US TO THINK ABOUT ART, SOCIETY AND POLITICS ? In the UK there have been a number of recent interventions within the museum and gallery space that place cloth centre stage, for example at the Whitworth in Manchester (We Face Forward: Art from West Africa Today, 2012), and at Raven Row in London (The Stuff that Matters, 2012). Likewise, cloth and fibre are being rediscovered by a new generation of creative practitioners: visual artists re-interpreting textile craft practices, curators and cultural critics using textiles as a route towards contemplation, as a way of opening up an argument or narrative. There have also been publications that cause us to rethink everyday textiles, for example, Lucy Siegle’s To Die for: Is Fashion Killing the World? (Siegle 2011). Siegle tells a contemporary story of cotton production and consumption, highlighting the human cost of the manufacturing of wardrobe staples such as our everyday cotton t-shirts and denim jeans. Cloth is becoming highly visible once again. These tendencies and concerns provide a contextual backdrop for Social Fabric (2012), an exhibition that opened at the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) London in 2012, going on to tour in Sweden, India and Germany. What makes Iniva’s Social Fabric exhibition and subsequent conference unique is its concern with the social question of textiles from a culturally diverse perspective. The Social Fabric project as a whole asked: how do textiles allow us to think about art, society and politics from a cross-cultural viewpoint? Or, within the context of difference and cultural diversity, and to cite Sarat Maharaj, ‘what is the fall and feel of the world we find ourselves in?’ (Maharaj 2012). This chapter presents Iniva’s Social Fabric from its inception in key Marx texts, to the realization of the exhibition, the expansion of the two key artists Alice Creischer and Sudhir Patwardhan’s works via the accompanying archives, and the staging of the conference as a means of opening up further opportunities for dialogue. Set out across three sections, this chapter asks: what is the place of textiles in globalization’s historical cross-cultural entanglements? And, how do textiles function as ‘documents’ in contemporary art practice? Maharaj’s notion of ‘thinking through textiles’ (Maharaj 2009) and Hal Foster’s phrase ‘other kinds of ordering’ (Foster 2004: 5) are used to drive the discussion. Underpinning the whole is the idea that the ‘interrogation of documents is essential to the production of knowledge’ (Spieker 2011) and the writing of histories. 279



This chapter therefore explores the concept of textiles as documents in contemporary art. Here a document is defined as: such matter that provides information or evidence, or that serves as a record. This chapter demonstrates textiles’ ability to document, to provide evidence, to piece together received history and lived experience, to act as a catalyst for new ways of thinking and ordering. In so doing, this chapter places Social Fabric within the context of the current archival turn in contemporary art. In Europe the present interest in textiles as a subject for curating reflects in part this medium’s appearance in the work of contemporary artists, for example Margareta Kern (UK ), Sheela Gowda (India) and Françoise Dupré (France/UK ), where it is chosen for its material qualities, as well as its ability to open a dialogue with a range of subjects that link the gallery to everyday life. This interest can lead in many directions. Towards formal concerns with abstract or soft sculpture, to the serial process of textile construction, to feminism, woman’s work and artisanal labour, to the hierarchies between art and craft, applied and fine art and on to architecture and design, to trade, industry and globalization. Social Fabric took a single slice of this subject – the relationship between Britain and India through the trade in textiles – and developed it using work by artists, as well as extensive archival material including: fabric samples, historical prints, legal documents, political treaties, manuscripts, newspaper cuttings, photographs, sound recordings and film. Iniva was established in 1994 to address an imbalance in the representation of culturally diverse artists, curators and writers. Today it is a leading UK contemporary visual arts organization, which creates exhibitions, publications, multimedia, education and research projects. It seeks to engage with new ideas and emerging debates in contemporary visual arts, reflecting in particular the diversity of today’s society, working with artists, curators, writers and the public to explore today’s visual culture. Such ongoing collaborations provide a platform for high quality creative activity that questions existing positions and hierarchies within visual culture, challenging understandings of cultural diversity. Iniva’s importance lies in its ongoing work to raise the profiles of those creative practitioners who might otherwise be relegated to the periphery since they themselves and/or their work sit outside the mainstream from the perspective of race and culture. Since 2009 Iniva has actively engaged in debates about the politics of cloth from this distinctive crosscultural perspective, for example through conferences such as Second Skins: Cloth and Difference (2009) and the talk event Unstitched (2009), an ‘in conversation’ with Angela McRobbie and Janis Jefferies discussing N.S. Harsha’s Nations, an installation that comprised 192 treadle sewing machines. In 2014 the Stuart Hall Library at Iniva launched the Clothes, Cloth and Culture Group, a monthly discussion forum for artists, designers, curators and thinkers aimed at examining the place of textiles within the global flow of objects, ideas and identities characteristic of globalization’s cross-cultural interweaving.

THINKING THROUGH SOCIAL FABRIC Iniva’s Social Fabric was a development of an earlier project called Textiles Art and the Social Fabric (2009) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (MHKA ) that set out a range of material and practices that use textiles in order to comment on and directly intervene in social processes relating to labour, culture, identity, and protest. The Antwerp intervention began with the work of Helio Oiticica (Brazil), an artist who used cloth as well as other heterogeneous materials in bright colours for his Parangole Capes. These garments were inspired by his experience of working in the Favela of Manguera, in Rio. Once constructed, the Parangole Capes were worn by the favela residents as well as



artists and writers from Oiticica’s own milieu. This gesture made the language of painting operational in social space, celebrated the culture of Samba and declared solidarity with an oppressed and marginalized community. In effect, the wearing of the capes marked the collision and temporary coalescence of two cultures, two classes, two otherwise separate social milieus. The MHKA exhibition produced an extended network of case studies ranging from Oiticica to the Constructivist textiles of the Russian artist Varvara Stepanova, to the monumental banners of the UK artist John Dugger, used at demonstrations and in sports centres, to commissions from contemporary artists. The MHKA responded to the situation of an institution engaged with questions of the international beyond the Western paradigm, colonial, postcolonial and diaspora histories, and with artistic practices that address politics. The Iniva show responded to its location, in London’s East End, in particular to a history in Shoreditch and Brick Lane of immigrant textile production going back centuries, and the presence of the Bangladeshi community who currently make up a significant section of the community. To say that the Iniva exhibition focused solely on a specific relationship between Britain and India is to underplay the enormous scale and trans-global reach of the history of the cotton trade. A lightweight but valuable commodity, cotton helped establish trade routes as well as generate the transfer of knowledge, in terms of design and production of cloth, between these divergent parts of the globe. The East India Company built its success on the textile trade, and began importing cotton as early as the 1600s, and by the end of that century, cotton accounted for seventy per cent of all imports to the United Kingdom. The popularity of chintz in particular, a fabric that astonished European consumers because of its bright colours and intricate designs, meant that Indian cottons flooded the market and generated a backlash from English producers who petitioned Parliament for a ban on Indian calico. Consequently the transition from trading partner to imperial power, an industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, the replication of Indian designs in the textile mills of Manchester and Preston, the use of tariffs at home and on the flooding of the subcontinent with vast quantities of foreign-made goods, were all detrimental to the Indian handloom industry. In Das Kapital (1867), as well as in the article ‘A Critique of Political Economy’ (1867), published in the New York Herald Tribune, Karl Marx commented on the trade in cotton between Britain and India, its association with both capitalist and colonial expansion and its detrimental effects. Writing an interconnected narrative, in which the rapid expansion and sudden contraction in cotton production attracted and repelled workers from the factory system in what Marx describes as a form of servitude, that he further links to the enslaved Africans who in the Americas produced the cotton used in English mills. Ultimately textiles in India became an important symbolic, political and economic factor in the fight for and establishment of an independent nation, in the starkly different forms of Gandhi’s emphasis on homespun cloth, and the cotton mills of Bombay (now Mumbai) that in the early twentieth century helped to transform that city into an economic powerhouse. In Social Fabric, the work of two artists, Sudhir Patwardhan from India and Alice Creischer from Germany, provided a route into this historical narrative and its relationship to the present. Each artist was represented by a single work (the result of research into an aspect of this history) and when these works were hung in two separate galleries they became the point of departure for archival displays that unpacked this research and gave it an extended material presence.



Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty (2005) by Alice Creischer, is a work that draws on a number of textual sources including the Marx section on cotton in Capital and importantly Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocaust, a book that describes the process by which colonial rule wreaked havoc on the welfare of subordinated nations (Davis 2000). It explores the impact of colonial trade on the economy of these subordinated nations and the part that production and trade in textiles played in this process. But the impetus for the work began with an encounter the artist had with a beggar in India, and how wishing to somehow trace the genealogy of the relative wealth and poverty of each party, she produced an ‘apparatus’ to help her. Producing the apparatus necessitated historical research, going back to the colonial period, a time that saw the enormous transfer of wealth from the colonies to Europe; a time during which the foundations of the so-called ‘Third World’ were laid. Creischer’s research moved forward in time to include policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the issue of debt, and a contemporary economic system that continues to sustain and exacerbate income disparities between nations as well as within them. The apparatus is principally made from a series of metal tripods each supporting a rosette. At one end there is an architectural model representing the office of Nehru (India’s Prime Minister 1947–1964) and, in the middle, a textile section partially suspended from the ceiling. The work functions as a quasi-optical device, a machine for looking at history, the individual rosettes having cut-out and see-through elements, with the suggestion that they can be rotated. This idea of a mechanical apparatus is contrasted by the low-tech fabrication of the piece, which, like a complex and extended craft object, has been produced using a number of hand processes. This emphasizes the subjective nature of the account given and its narration by the artist who appears in it – through a self-portrait and by implication because of its hand-made quality (see Plate 18.1). The apparatus is dense with information, including balance sheets, statistics and the minutes of fact-finding committees, which are partially encoded into symbols and patterns. While the work is cryptic, the artist has avoided mystification or ambiguity by providing a key to its contents in the form of a ledger pasted on the wall. In Social Fabric, the work Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty was accompanied by Archive 1 charting the relationship between Britain and India through the trade in cotton, that included a wide range of materials such as an original Indian chintz from 1790, the books of textile samples brought back from India by John Forbes Watson in 1866, nineteenth-century Company Paintings depicting textile workers, a decree banning the importation of calico into the United Kingdom and manuscripts from Karl Marx and Rosa Luxembourg. The other work, which anchored the second gallery space in the exhibition, was a painting by Sudhir Patwardhan called Lower Parel (2001). This painting refers to an area of Mumbai that was for over a century associated with the cotton industry. This history goes back to the second half of the nineteenth century when an industrial revolution took place in India, which saw the rapid development of textile production in Mumbai. Along with its port, this industry helped to modernize the city and transform it into the economic powerhouse it is today. Having a huge impact on Mumbai’s population, the cotton mills attracted a vast pool of labour, with workers flooding in from the surrounding regions seeking employment. When the artist Sudhir Patwardhan arrived in the city in the 1970s, he took a job as a radiographer in a hospital near Lower Parel, which was still an active mill district known



as Girangaon (mill village), and as an artist he made charcoal drawings of the factory workers that came to him for treatment. In 2000, nearly 30 years later and now living in a suburb of Mumbai, Patwardhan returned to Lower Parel to make a painting that would be shown in a gallery located in this now gentrified neighbourhood. This painting, Lower Parel, narrates something of the changes that took place in the intervening years. These include the mill workers’ strike of 1982–83; the decline and closure of mills resulting in the dismissal of 100,000 workers; attempts to divide up the mill land equitably between different groups, including the workers themselves for such purposes as social housing and communal public spaces; and the gradual erosion of any fair division by the mill owners, eager to sell the land to property developers for shopping malls, bowling alleys and high-rise luxury apartments. Patwardhan has carefully constructed his painting, organizing the figures and architectural elements to produce a composition that includes the different aspects of this story – in the form of a parable tightly told within a single image. The architectural backdrop includes a railway bridge, behind which a disused mill shares the skyline with a high-rise apartment building. The mill workers are still there (or at least the next generation) but in this painting now operate small-scale enterprises, working as juice vendors, and on stalls selling fruit, fried snacks, clothing, electrical goods and telephone services, all of which are clustered around the railway station entrance. Going about their individual lives, the artist has arranged these figures in a way that makes them legible as a group, representatives of their community; and thereby invoking their collective struggle against the closure of the mills and the distribution of mill land in the face of powerful vested interests. Patwardhan’s painting was the centrepiece of a display that included sound recordings of the workers’ testimonies taken from transcripts of interviews conducted by trade union activists Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar and collected in their book One Hundred Years One Hundred Voices (Menon and Adarkar 2005), as well as photographs, texts and newspaper cuttings documenting the workers’ struggle against gentrification collected by architect and urbanist Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty and a film programme addressing Mumbai’s cotton mills, including Occupation Millworker by Anand Patwardhan. An important question in developing Social Fabric was how to stage a complex history, and put research on display in a way that could be experienced by the viewer as sensorial and formally engaging, as well as informative and politically located. Hence there was a need to strike a balance between rigour and fidelity to the facts on the one hand, and on the other, to affirm the subjective nature of the account and allow for the possibility of imaginative connections to take place. Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty already gives one possible method for doing this and was an inspiration for the exhibition overall. Importantly the work of another artist Céline Condorelli provided the exhibition with a structuring device, or archival system, in the form of a primary red and yellow metal architecture – Support Structure, Red (2012) and Support Structure, Yellow (2012). This constituted a network of vitrines and wall panels that drew the heterogeneous material on display into a composition without over-regulating its eclecticism (see Plate 18.2).

UNPACKING THE SOCIAL FABRIC ARCHIVES The archive has become a recurring feature of contemporary creative practice as artists, curators and critics alike succumb to what Hal Foster identifies as the ‘archival impulse’ (Foster 2004: 3). In an article of the same title, Foster draws primarily on the work of



Thomas Hirschhorn, Sam Durant and Tacita Dean to demonstrate a move by international artists to expose and utilize the inconsistencies and gaps within the archive as a portal through which lost or obscured histories and life experiences might be retrieved. Hirschhorn, a Swiss artist working in Paris, utilizes the ‘stuff ’ of everyday life, such as collections of discarded fizzy-drink cans, newspaper photographs of cluster bomb victims, used cardboard, cuddly toys and duct tape to make political statements rooted in his Marxist politics and his interest in such philosophical thinkers as Antonio Gramsci. Hirschhorn’s bricoleur approach and at times cluttered aesthetic both reference an impulse to archive, to commemorate and to memorialize. Sam Durant, a Los Angeles-based American artist, makes multi-media work that questions American history, focusing on such varied topics as the Civil Rights Movement and Southern Rock music, challenging thoughts on what might be deemed worthy enough, i.e. of enough historical value, to be stored in a national archive. Tacita Dean, an English artist based in Berlin, creates contemplative works primarily using film; every film, as Enwezor notes, is ‘a priori an archival object’, since the camera is literally an ‘archiving machine’ (Enwezor 2008: 12). In addition, Dean’s work with found photographs and old postcards purchased from flea markets has an archival quality that speaks to the way in which history is written. Foster notes that the work of these ‘archival artists’ is as much ‘preproduction as it is postproduction: concerned less with absolute origins than with obscure traces . . . these artists are often drawn to unfulfilled beginnings or incomplete projects – in art and in history alike – that might offer points of departure again’ (Foster 2004: 5). The installations created by them suggest ‘other kinds of ordering’ (Foster 2004: 5). Creischer’s Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty exemplifies this. Foster’s phrase ‘other kinds of ordering’ is useful in unpacking Social Fabric’s two archives (Foster 2004: 5). But first it is important to consider the complex meanings and use of the term ‘archive’ itself. What might the concept of the archive mean today? How might textiles be used in this context? Jacques Derrida in Archive Fever writes that the arkhe is a place of origins, the place from which order is given, the place where order and knowledge based on ‘official’ records are to be found (Derrida 1995: 9). Received history, public memory and memorial are partially generated, regulated and maintained as ‘true’ by the documentary evidence hidden within its walls. As Carolyn Steedman observes, The archive is made from selected and consciously chosen documentation from the past and also from the mad fragmentations that no one intended to preserve and that just ended up there . . . in [the archives] quiet folders and bundles is the neatest demonstration of how state power has operated. —Steedman 2002: 68–69 Similarly, Foster, drawing on Michel Foucault’s The Archaeology of Time (1976: 129), describes the archive as representative of the system that structures the discourse of a particular historical period (cited by Foster 2002: 82). Hierarchies of power and value rooted in such discourse are inextricably bound to the process of archiving. Foster writes, ‘an archive structures the terms of discourse’, but also ‘limits what can and cannot be articulated at a given time and place’ (Foster 2002: 82). The gathering, demarcating and preserving undertaken by the archons (those who come first, or at the head: the leaders) that dictate the guiding principles underpinning this process, naturally involve the obverse, i.e. losing, misnaming and neglecting. Hence there are always inevitable



gaps, silenced subjectivities and overlooked histories. However, like Foster’s ‘archival artists’, as creative practitioners we scour archives precisely for these gaps; it is the absences and disconnections, the fragmentary nature of these collections that inspires us to produce work. Okwui Enwezor, in his Archive Fever (International Center for Photography, New York, 2008), presented works by twenty-five contemporary artists who lever open such cleavages to interrogate questions around identity, history, memory, and loss. The artists included Christian Boltanski, Tacita Dean, Harun Farocki, Glenn Ligon and Hans-Peter Feldman. Enwezor’s aim was not to generate a theory of the archive, but to show the way in which Foster’s ‘archival impulse’ infuses current work, producing ‘counter-archives’ and therefore ‘counter narratives’ (Enwezor 2008: 22). The notion of the ‘counterarchive’ foregrounds the concept of the archive as an active producer of knowledge, as opposed to the archive as a passive receptacle in which knowledge resides. It also suggests a critique of received knowledge and/or history. It cross-examines the representational politics of the public archive. Yet such use of the archive is not new. Much has been written on the ‘archival turn’ in contemporary art as in the example of Foster’s work cited above. Put simply, the phrase, when used in conjunction with art and curatorial practice, references ‘the increased appearance of historical and archival . . . artifacts, and the approximation of archival forms’ (Simon 2002: 101–102). The ‘archival turn’ characteristically involves the repositioning of materials that would ordinarily sit outside an art context into a gallery setting. Whilst acknowledging that the ‘archival impulse’ has intervened in visual art practice since the invention of photography, Enwezor’s historiography opens with Marcel Duchamp’s La boite-en-valise (1935–1941), in which reproductions, or ‘photographic facsimiles’, of his complete works provide a commentary on the museum archive as institution and art as artifact. The 1960s ‘archival turn’ corresponds to the need to remember and reconcile the trauma of the Second World War in Europe and is distinguished by the use of serial systems, or inventories as a discursive tool. The renewed interest in the archive during the 1990s coincides with Derrida’s presentation of Archive Fever at the Freud Museum, London, 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the kinds of materials being stored and the concept of storage itself had shifted. The digital era saw an emphasis on the virtual, or immaterial, and on flow and exchange, which in part heralded in the democratization of the archive (Guasch 2011). In contrast, Cheryl Simon writes of a contemporary shift towards materiality: ‘emphasis is now placed on the forms of institutional discourse and the objects they frame’ (Simon 2002: 104). Simon’s analysis of the most recent ‘archival turn’ suggests a middle ground; a space between the concern with the critique of the relationship between knowledge and power represented by the public archive, and the fetishization of the object. Here the archive is viewed primarily as a site of exchange in which artists’ interventions, like Creischer’s, which reframe archival artifacts, act as catalysts for dialogue and the reordering that results from it. But surely the flow of ‘data’ did not only occur in today’s digital age? Dialogue must always have taken place as the archives’ ‘quiet folders and bundles’ were metaphorically and physically opened up (Steedman 2002: 69). This relates to Foster and Enwezor’s notion of the archive as a place of creation where the critical engagement with archival documents becomes a form of knowledge production. It also underlines the allure of Creischer’s piece and our subsequent motivation to draw on archival methods in Social Fabric. Sven Spieker, discussing today’s art practice, defines the archive as



Some kind of relay station on the global trajectory along which documents travel, where they are exchanged, transmitted, mediated and where new meanings or combinations of the two are tested and in turn exchanged. —Spieker 2011 There is an echo of Foster’s notion of the archive as a space in which there is potential to create ‘other kinds of ordering’ (Foster 2004: 5); and the current coming together of materiality and the politics of representation that Simon observes, Enwezor embraces and Creischer demonstrates. This points to the strategic use of the archive in Social Fabric. As a team, we temporarily took on the role of archivists to suggest ‘other kinds of ordering’ (Foster 2004: 5). Social Fabric was, to a certain extent, underpinned by the deceptively simple question: how do textiles allow us to think about art, society and politics? The archive proved to be a useful tool in allowing the exploration of this question and those identified in the opening sections of this chapter to take place in an imaginative free-form way. The contents of Archive 1 included an antique chintz cotton quilt, multi-coloured mill labels, Turkey Red Manchester cotton panels, an eighteenth-century Tree of Life ‘Palampore’ trade cloth, political tracts, photographs, books and specially commissioned contemporary works. Although the aim was not to set out a history of the trade, our timeline was visually framed by Archana Hande’s Girangaon scroll. Hande’s scroll charted the movement of peoples, cultures and capital set in motion by the industrialization of cotton manufacturing outlined above. During the late 1700s, as the British East India Company grew, its employees, keen to record the peoples and customs that they encountered, commissioned Indian artists to create watercolours in a hybrid Indo-European style and palette. These stylized works became known collectively as Company Paintings. The commodities traded by the British East India Company gradually transformed the tastes of the British (McAleer 2011: 13). The foundations of the Company’s commercial success were laid on the trade in textiles with India (Bowen 2011: 45–46). Simultaneously hybrid print motifs found their way onto the textile designs, reflecting an aesthetic dialogue between the two societies. Indian artisans attempted to reproduce European patterns. In Britain, the cotton/linen industry strived to replicate Indian calicoes and chintzes (Lemire 2011: 31–32). It is tempting to become seduced by these new transcultural forms, forgetting that these dialogues and exchanges were uneven. There were colonial hierarchies of power at play; precisely the kind of hidden interconnection that reading the public archive against the grain in this way can unearth. For example, the heady mix of patterns and colour used on the mill labels displayed in Archive 1 were employed by British textile manufacturers specifically to appeal to the Indian market. As well, the John Forbes Watson Textile Books, swatch books of printed textile patterns, were aimed at informing these manufacturers of the types of patterns that would be deemed most desirable. Ultimately, as Beverly Lemire writes, ‘India’s loss was great’ as cheaper machine-made British yarns flooded the market replacing local hand-spun yarns (Lemire 2011: 97). As noted above, the industrialization of cotton production in Britain brought with it new social and political relations. The impact of this industrialization was globally felt, giving rise as it did to new international divisions in labour (Lemire 2011: 98). The Marx texts The British Cotton Trade (Marx 1861), and Crisis in the Cotton Trade (Marx 1867), drew attention to the human costs of the factory system and the social upheaval caused by the shifting fortunes of those embroiled in the trade. This connection between the ‘slavery’ of the mill and plantation workers noted by him was made visible by a small black and white photograph of African-American cotton warehouse labourers in Charleston.



Archive 2, situated in the first floor gallery adjacent to Patwardhan’s painting, similarly served to tell the human stories, to unravel the lived experiences silently woven into the history of the trade. The development of textile production in Mumbai from the second half of the nineteenth century helped to modernize and transform the city into the economic force that it is today. Meena Menon and Neera Dakar’s (2005) book One Hundred Years One Hundred Voices: The Millworkers of Girangaon: an Oral History was central to collating Archive 2. Testimonies were drawn from the mill workers themselves, political activists and trade union supporters. Their voices were brought to life within the space through sound recordings made by actors. Their stories not only spoke of the social history of Lower Parel but also gave the listener an insight into the political changes that have shaped Post-Independence Indian politics. They told a story of unrealized potential whilst capturing a community’s ongoing ability to resist. This was set off against research materials from contemporary architects and urbanists, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, alongside preparatory drawings and photographs from Patwardhan. Social Fabric Archive 1 and Archive 2 instigated a conversation between the curatorial teams, the artists, the audience and the ‘works’ that cut across cultures and histories, creating imaginative connections. There were no divisions between contemporary commissions and loans from museums or loans from private individuals. There were no hierarchical judgements made between antiques and contemporary pieces. Unique juxtapositions were thus created. As each object – painting, photograph, cloth, book, ‘apparatus’ – was re-contextualized within the space, ranges of new meanings were inferred. Condorelli’s Support Structure, Red (2012) and Support Structure, Yellow (2012), with their makeshift temporary scaffolding aesthetic, allowed each object, each image, each fragment and bundle of cloth to ‘speak’ freely to one another and to the audience. Indeed, the open-sided nature of Condorelli’s metallic maze brings form to Spieker’s definition of the archive above; its grid-like structure visually maps the openings, pathways and trajectories characteristic of the current documentary mode; it visually captures the open-endedness sought by today’s ‘archival artists’ (Foster 2004: 5). The preciousness, or near-religious way of engaging with certain public archives was further put to one side as the audience was encouraged to sit within the structure of Archive 1, to handle without gloves, and to take certain items away with them. The deliberately limited use of gallery text encouraged the audience to make their own connections. Dialogue and exchange were essential to the essayistic function of Archives 1 and 2. ‘Counter-archives’ (Enwezor 2008) such as these foreground layered interpretations and alternative perspectives; they provide a space for ‘multi-vocality’ (Jetterstrom-Sharp 2013, interview) By opening up the gaps within the public archive, retrieving and reexamining forgotten texts, weaving together complex webs of cross-cultural, trans-global connections through critical conversation, ‘other kinds of ordering’ emerge (Foster 2004: 5). The use of textiles within the Social Fabric archives is consistent with the material emphasis of the current ‘archival turn’, but what can textiles potentially do that other archival sources cannot?

HOW DO ‘TEXTILES ’ FUNCTION AS ‘DOCUMENTS ’ IN CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICE ? There is a point of convergence between the deployment of textile objects, images and texts in Social Fabric and Sarat Maharaj’s ‘thinking through textiles’, a concept that is comfortable with ‘openended-ness’ and ‘undecideability’ (Maharaj 2009). The re-reading



of the re-contextualized objects found in the exhibition archives echoes the process of creative making to which Maharaj alludes, i.e. making as a form of knowledge production; making as a form of theorizing. The construction of textiles – the doing, undoing and redoing, the stitching, unstitching and re-stitching – suggests and facilitates a way of thinking beyond fixed limits, one that resists the closure that occurs when we attempt to transcribe concepts through the written word. There is a sense of ongoing work or ceaseless questioning. This is the crux of Maharaj’s concept. Such making and critical engagement that involves repetition and revision, or indeed re-ordering, allows us to explore concepts that are endlessly in flux and to seed new ideas. In the case of Social Fabric, the close readings and creative imaginings around cotton facilitated by Condorelli’s skeletal support structures enabled hidden cultural and historical connections to surface; the relationships between art, society and politics were explored experientially through an active engagement with the archives alongside Creischer and Patwardhan’s artworks. However, the whole could be read in a number of divergent ways. The process of engagement was open-ended as was the process of ‘archiving’ itself, since the configuration of each archive shifted with each installation as the exhibition was restaged in each location – Sweden, India, Germany. So if, as Spieker suggests, the ‘interrogation of documents is essential to the production of knowledge’ (Spieker 2011), and if a document is defined as such matter that ‘provides information or evidence’, or that serves as a record, might textiles be regarded as the ultimate ‘archiving machine’? Textiles both mediate and express our social relations and cultural behaviours. They bind and separate us through their power to communicate, to convey our beliefs and values, to signify our cultural identities and map our entangled histories. For these reasons and more, critical conversations around textiles potentially provide new insights into the past, whilst offering up alternative interpretations of the present, or ‘new points of departure’ (Foster 2004: 5). The familiarity of textiles, their presence in everyday life, closes the distance between curator, artist and audience. The haptic nature of textiles, the closeness of cloth to skin, our instinct to touch, to hold, to wrap ourselves in it, creates a sense of accessibility that opens up the possibility of ‘multivocality’ on which the ‘counter-archive’ relies (Checinska 2013: 97). Textiles’ ability to document, to provide evidence, to piece together received history and lived experience, to act as a catalyst for new ways of thinking and ordering, speaks to our internal impulse to archive.

CONVERSATIONS AROUND SOCIAL FABRIC The London show culminated in a one-day conference aimed at exploring further some of the themes that emerged during the course of researching and installing the exhibition. Ultimately our desire was to allow the imaginative connections and conversations that were generated by the archives to continue in more depth. The central themes encompassed textiles, globalization, trade and resistance. Both Creischer and Patwardhan discussed the backgrounds to and processes informing their respective works. These discussions were anchored by keynote addresses from Sarat Maharaj and Janis Jefferies. The event closed with the screening of the documentary Valkyrie Trousseau (2009) by artist Joana Vasconcelos. Other speakers included Marx specialist John Hutnyk, dress historian Carol Tulloch and the arts collective Slavs and Tartars. Maharaj initially spoke to the layered meanings enmeshed in the metaphor ‘social fabric’, posing the opening question: ‘what is the fall and feel of the world we find



ourselves in?’ Exploring what tools might be used to understand the ‘processes of fabricating the world’, Maharaj suggested that we consider textiles as a form of ‘embodied knowledge’, and the contemporary moment as a ‘process of modelling’. Raising the idea of ‘mindful production’ that foregrounds constant innovation, by observing ‘process in order to innovate’, he asked ‘who is the real creator and innovator in society?’ He reminded us that, according to Marx, it is the ‘maker of the piano’, the worker, the craftsperson that holds the key to contemporary innovation (Maharaj 2012). In the context of the Social Fabric archives, could the conversation between audience, artist, curator and object hold the key to contemporary innovation, to the seeding of new ideas and new forms of knowledge production and history ‘writing’? Jefferies shared her memories of the Woven Air – the Muslin and Kantha Tradition of Bangladesh exhibition presented at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1988, setting Social Fabric into the context of the art world’s repeated engagement with textiles. She spoke of the haptic quality of textiles and the way in which cloth bears a trace of the human imprint from the body and from ‘sweated labour’. Echoing the story unfurled by the sound recordings and images in Archive 2, Jefferies observed that the social history of cloth carried the ‘odours of labou