Fashion, Photography, Storytelling & Textiles
Extraordinary Worlds: “Excavating” Poetic Narratives from Garments
University for the Creative Arts, UK
clothes, emotion, personal narratives, poetry, poetry reading, workshop
Wardrobes are secret doorways to fabulous worlds, suggests the narrator in Terry Prattchett’s book Sourcery (1988: 22). Even though Pratchett’s writing belongs to the fantasy genre, there is no doubt that our personal wardrobes can unravel extraordinary stories. There are few everyday material things that are quite as intimately entangled with our personal narratives as clothes. While clothes quite literally absorb traces of our physical presence, some clothes also become imbued with emotions and memories and can open portals that lead us on journeys of our inner emotional world.
The proposed contribution draws on my current research on evocative garments and observations of how some garments may contain ‘hidden’ narratives that can be accessed through poetry. Poetry is the language of the extraordinary – both in its broadest definition and as a literary genre. It provides an imaginative and emotive form of expression that allows us to transcend things we take for granted and discover truths that are not accessible to us through conventional language. As poet Allen Grossman (2007: 141) says, only poetry can contribute to human life what the human will cannot otherwise reach.
This conference contribution would comprise a short 10/15-minute introductory talk with a reading of poems ‘excavated’ from items of clothing, followed by a workshop that invites participants to excavate poetic narratives from personal garments that are meaningful to them. Rather than writing about garments, the aim of this workshop is to use clothes as access points for poetic contemplation. Participants will be invited to explore their garments through creative deconstruction and metaphor to uncover things figuratively hidden within the garment – almost like a kind of emotional archaeology. The workshop outcomes could also potentially be compiled into a small post-conference poetry collection.
Grossman, A. (2007) ‘On Communicative Difficulty in General and ‘Difficult’ Poetry in Particular: The Example of Hart Crane’s ‘The Broken Tower’ In: Chicago Review 53 (2/3) pp.140–161.
Pratchett, T. (1988) Sourcery. London: Corgi Books.
Textiles in Text: Text in Textiles
University for the Creative Arts, UK
crafts, textiles, performance, curator, inter-disciplinary, knowledge, creative writing, process, trauma
This audio-visual presentation intends to deepen the understanding of contemporary curatorship as a mode of research and develop new interpretations of relationships between established disciplines.
Specifically, this paper discusses the exhibition Beyond Trauma (2021) which aimed to communicate different manifestations of trauma. The intention of the curator was to create a link between creative writing and crafts. The decision to select a textile artist was based on the etymology of the word text which relates to texture and textile. Walter Benjamin highlighted that the Latin word for text, textum, means a web, something woven, referring to words and sentences woven together (Benjamin, 1968:202).
The exhibition focused on the collaboration between creative writer Dr Lynn Hamilton working with PTSD and textiles artist Tara Kennedy responding to trauma. The curator identified conceptual links between Kennedy’s practice and Hamilton’s stories.
Kennedy was selected based on her emphasis on process, the performance of making rather than the outcome. Her feelings of despair at the suffering caused by conflicts between different cultures and religions was Kennedy’s drive to communicate messages of acceptance, empathy, and hope. Hamilton was selected for her short stories communicating the multidimensional perspectives of PTSD, beyond the battlefield. For this project, Kennedy created “Trauma” about Hamilton’s story, “That was Yesterday”, and in turn Hamilton wrote a story about Kennedy’s “Hope Emerging”. Hamilton had never collaborated with a visual artist before, and the outcomes of the joint approach as a research and creative method are analysed. She has, for example, begun to look at other areas of illness and mental health as a source for writing practice (Hamilton, 2022).
This paper discusses the role of the crafts curator and provides a process of exposing how the practice of curating develops new perspectives by offering space for collaborations, and connections.
Knitting and Everyday Meaning-Making
University of Nottingham, UK
Knitting, crochet, amateur fibre craft, everyday, meaning-making, literacy
Textiles have a long association with meaning-making and across history, textile practice has played a role in what Dissanayake calls ‘finding system and story’. Over time, the value of everyday textile practices in meaning-making has, however, been usurped in many societies by the privileging of print-based media. More recent times have seen a proliferation of ways through which people can communicate, and these forms emphasise the interaction of modes and materials, and affective and aesthetic engagements involved in making and sharing meanings. For many people, amateur fibre craft has remained a significant resource for active and creative meaning-making and, as was often reported during the pandemic, many others have also discovered how the making, wearing and gifting of knitted and crocheted items can play an important role in the stories of their everyday lives.
This paper will explore the role of amateur fibre craft in everyday meaning-making today. By thinking through the process and product of a piece of knitting, I will draw together interdisciplinary approaches to meaning-making, including from anthropology, aesthetics and literacy studies, alongside insights from interviews with contemporary amateur crafters about what knitting means to them and how it works to make meaning. I will illustrate the deep-rooted connections between knitting and meaning-making activities conventionally understood as literacy, as well as how knitting works to make meanings through the entwining of material, social, cultural and political factors.
Looking closely at the materiality and textuality of knitting reinforces an understanding of meaning-making as connection to others and to the world around us. It re-opens perspectives on knitting as an important meaning-making activity in its own right and, in so doing, it re-centres voices and practices which are marginalised by the dominance of reductive views of the meanings that matter and how they are made.
Dissanayake, E. (2000) Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began. Seattle: Washington University Press
This paper will present research funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (RF-2021-458)
‘We banquet with King William’s Ghost’: Protestant Appropriation of Linen Damask in Eighteenth Century Ireland
Deborah M. White
Ulster University, Ireland
Linen, Damask, Eighteenth century, Ireland, Protestant, Napery, Culture, King William III
In recent years, emerging scholarship on materiality has helped sharpen our understanding of the political, social and cultural contours of Hanoverian Ireland. Attempts to forge a common Protestant patriotic identity amongst a people physically and psychologically uneasy were more often constructed around a shared occasion, be it cock-fighting or the May pole. Given that a notable feature of Irish life was its lavish commensality, textiles remain a surprisingly silent and overlooked witness.
This paper examines the role played by linen damask napery in the homosocial culture of Protestant associational life. In an age when Mr. Gout marched the country and a single course consisted of no less than seven dishes, the repast was a significant trope in the lived culture of Protestant eighteenth century life. Linen damask featuring swagger portraits of King William III on horseback formed a backdrop to lavish dining and liberal toasting; an important visual spur to collective bonhomie, a welcome reminder of a shared history, and a focus for a common set of goals. Fractured by social station and pedigree, amidst an overwhelmingly Catholic population, Protestants found strange comfort in a ritualistic consumption where the ghost of King William III was ever present. A ghost that was made real in the linen damask napery on which they ate.
No Ball Games: Embellishing Hidden Homophobia in Football Through Fashioned Poetry
Northumbria University, UK
homosexuality, tribalism, football culture, embellishment, crafting, process
No Ball Games forms the basis of my current practice – based research. An evolving dual exploration which aims to connect common narrative threads across two liminal activities I have undertaken across my current study on MA Creative writing and the construction of a collection of perverted football strips and accessories. My crafting of garments is borne out of a visual exploration of tribally gendered garments, toxic masculinities and the unpicking and reassigning of heteronormative sports motifs and identities. The ultimate resulting photographic images will challenge the conventional representation of contemporary sports deities.
The reimagining the traditional sports clothing in a world where football is flagrantly homosexual and crafting strands of protest poetry alongside these garments combines both visual and auditory motifs, the spoken subject and the stitching are intentionally subversive., I embrace the notion of craftivism and acknowledge the ‘queering (disrupting the normative readings of) needlework. (McBrinn, 2017; Turney 2012, 2009)
These exploratory, embellished experiments in fluid, but exaggerated craft practice will be transposed and combined into a written format. Text will be combined with the visual language and materiality of the traditional football chant, or songs sung in the terraces, transferring processes/practices from a different craft field to written form. Repetition, experimentation and sequential distortion with embroidery and applique will echo the repetitious nature of the homophobic chants and abuse in soccer to offer a new experimental methodology exploring protest and equality
The First Male Influencers. Stars Born Under the Camera Lens
Independent Scholar, Italy
body, fashion, gender, influencer, Instagram, men, model, nudity, photography, sexuality
In today’s world, the web is like a magic door to celebrity which anyone can access. It is where people can offload the burdens of their ordinary lives, exhibit their physical attributes, reveal only certain parts of their personality or even present a different version of themselves, and ascend to the throne of celebrity by becoming influencers: those who are anointed by the Internet community to dictate opinions, desires and needs of other people. From a capitalistic point of view, they are the Gods. For the fashion industry, their Midas touch is a guarantee of profit and sales. Photography and the exposure of the body play a fundamental role in the fashion influencers’ transition towards a legendary status.
Over the last two centuries, showing off their naked, muscular bodies has progressively become one of the main ways for men to communicate who they are and define their power and success. Photography contributes to the creation of the icon, spreading images of the cult object but, above all, proselytizing, certifying and crystallising a virtual identity. But long before the era of the internet and the extensive presence of naked men in our contemporary visual landscape, men with a pioneering entrepreneurial vision and a lot of courage had offered their naked bodies to the photographer’s eye, proposing an aesthetic and behavioural model to be followed or creating a fantasy about a possible encounter. From Eugen Sandow to the Ritter brothers, from Tony Sansone to Joe Dallesandro, this essay tells the stories and lives of the first influencers. These male icons became stars thanks to the photographic image, which they used to brand themselves and charge their own bodies with sex appeal, making their followers dream either of being them or being with them.
Love-Clothes: A Sensory Exploration of Clothing as Objects of Love
Northumbria University, UK
love, worn clothing, embodied dress, affect, consumption, feminist phenomenology, material culture, sensory ethnography
In this paper, I will present my ongoing research linking clothing and love. Based in feminist phenomenology, I will focus on an exploration of the term and a categorization of clothing I call ‘love-clothes’ (clothing attached to narratives of love), which seeks to use love as a lens to understand social and radical ideas about everyday dress and consumption. By theoretically exploring these words in tandem—as both ‘love’ and ‘clothes’ have been historically assigned as superficial, feminine pursuits—this approach to fashion research changes mainstream perceptions of clothing and how to understand and utilise ‘love-clothes’ to allow space for the multiplicities of narratives stored in clothes people preserve. This framework allows for the researcher to access ‘dress stories’ (Weber and Mitchell, 2004) about love and to look for the reciprocal affective relationship between the owner of the ‘love-clothes’ and the ‘love-clothes’ themselves.
I will discuss how to apply the concept of ‘love-clothes’ to sensory ethnographic methodologies (Chong Kwan, 2015) such as object analysis (Mida and Kim, 2015) and wardrobe interviews (Woodward, 2007). In applying a phenomenological lens to ‘love-clothes’, I aim to look at the active properties that exist in dormant clothing, looking at the paradoxes that exist to people’s relationships and to uncover new ways of thinking about consumption by centring love in garments. By interrogating worn clothing as objects of love, this paper looks to the mundane as a place to create space for alternative narratives, beyond dominant capitalist norms of feminised consumption, to seek out the paradoxical truths of slow looking and the radical power of finding love stories in everyday dress.
Reading the Thread: Cloth and Eroticism
University for the Creative Arts, UK
cloth, erotic, body, haptic, traces
The self-conscious knowledge of the body was for Adam and Eve a discovery of the Self and the Other – the world and the body as an object within the world. This was followed by an exploration of how cloth conceals, reveals and defines the Self and the Other. Thus cloth became the mediating surface for the visceral body, describing what is hidden and mysterious, a signifier of the erotic.
This presentation will discuss the role of cloth in our sensual awakening, and in so doing will draw upon the research that Lesley Millar and Alice Kettle undertook for their book ‘The Erotic Cloth’. You will be invited to reflect upon the sensation of cloth: the consideration of the drape, fold, touch and feel of cloth, and in so doing encounter aspects of the Self and the Other. The materiality of cloth allows for the nuanced, rather than direct, reading of the body: the shape beneath, the space between, the haptic narrative. Cloth in motion, the touch, sound, smell and taste of cloth is ’emotional, erotic and affective’1; it becomes the sensuous sign that ‘does us violence; it mobilizes the memory, it sets the soul in motion.’2
 Athena Belas. Twilight, texture, tactility: teen film’s sensuous pleasures
2 Gilles Deleuze (tr.R. Howard). Proust and Signs
The Great Unravelling: An Exploration of the Ways in Which Fine Textile Artists are Telling Stories of Climate Breakdown Art
fine art textiles, climate emergency, data, arts and science, weaving, stitch, ecology, audience, unravelling, materials
With reference to Donna Haraway’s discourse on entanglement and the threads that bind human and more-than-human life on our planet, we will explore how the work of contemporary fine art textile artists is contributing to the vitally important story of living through this era of climate emergency.
We will consider how fine art textile practitioners are bearing witness to the present moment, in relation to the long tradition of the production of fine art textiles as evidence of the maker’s temporal and spatial narrative.
With reference to my own textile-based practice, and the work of other artists, we will explore the methodological and material choices that fine art textile artists make as they tell their versions of this story of the ‘great unravelling’ of the existing ecological framework through their creative practice.
We will consider examples of textile artists producing work with a data driven perspective, as well as artists documenting their subjective, lived experiences of species and habitat loss and those presenting their visions of our future world.
The presentation will be followed by a round table/ discussion concerning the development of ecologically aware changes to practice taken or planned by the group (e.g., material choices), considerations of audience and intentions for work to serve a didactic or ‘story telling’ purpose (or not) and the potential of textile fine artists to work collaboratively/ collectively to amplify these issues going forward.
Note – Depending on audience size, the round table conversation will either involve a whole group open discussion, or a small number of invited delegates will be asked to respond to key points, followed by a Q&A with questions from the audience.
Slay to the Rhythm: Queer-Diva Collaboration in Grace Jones’ “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)”
York University, Canada
Grace Jones, Worldmaking, Collaboration, Queer, Gender, Feminism, Pop, Fashion, Styling, Celebrity
This paper explores an example of what I am calling the practice of “Queer-Diva collaboration” as it pertains to the work of Grace Jones. Queer-Diva collaborations are a surprisingly common yet undertheorized artistic phenomena wherein cis-gender female pop singers co-create pop art with members of the LGBTQ+ community. Through these collaborations, queer counterculture discourses penetrate and reshape mainstream popular culture.
While much scholarship revolves around the Diva and her Queer audience—namely, research ranging from Wayne Koestenbaum’s exploration of the Opera Queen in The Queen’s Throat (2001) to Alessa Dominguez’s analysis of “The Queer Pop Stan” (2017)—this paper, in contrast, draws on Charles Green’s theory of collaboration to highlight the Diva’s crucial relationship with LGBTQ+ art directors, stylists, choreographers and other music-making collaborators. Green suggests that in the process of artistic collaboration, two people with different ideologies may generate “utopian modernist sites” (Green 175) which “world-make” (Green 125) upon co-creation.
Building on Green’s ideas, I suggest Queer-Diva co-productions have the ability to counter, amplify and/or disturb oppressive forces and societal norms (Green, 11). As a focal point, this paper will highlight Queer-Diva collaboration in Jones’ “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You),” a music video directed by Jones, co-directed, styled and costumed by graffiti artist Keith Haring. The short film also co-stars pop artist Andy Warhol who co-art directs scenes. This paper gives particular attention to the fusion of Haring’s HIV/AIDS activism through fashion and art, Jones’ gender blending and relaying of radical racial pluralism through performance, and Warhol’s campifying of celebrity culture. Focusing on this distinctive epoch in Jones’ oeuvre, this paper examines the effects of this Queer-Diva collaboration and asks how Jones’ Queer-fueled-yet-iconographic utopian aesthetic disrupts anti-Black, anti-Queer and heterosexist discourses.
The Hidden Histories Of Women; Researching, Reflecting and Responding to our Grandmothers Histories
Self-Employed Artist, UK
History, Women, Grandmothers, Vessels, Hand sewing, Narratives, Connections
Researchers have estimated that women’s stories make up just 0.5 percent of recorded history. From great medieval queens, to writers, scientists, or even our Grandmothers who have quietly shaped our way of life today, the role of women throughout history has often been overlooked.
Our Grandmothers, through their life experiences, have built up knowledge and skills that they pass onto their grandchildren, developing intergenerational connections through generations of women which give a sense of security and belonging. We can explore the threads of these connections using textiles, a medium with a unique history closely intertwined with domestic, social, cultural and political values as much as yarn and thread.
From a previous exhibition in 2020/21, I created a number of miniature textile vessels representing histories of Grandmothers, created following conversations with other women talking about their relationship with their Grandmothers. The scale of this work encourages the viewer to pause, lean in, look, and experience the object in total.
I propose to present an interactive exhibition of miniature vessels made in response to conversations with women, using social media to make these connections, before the conference to create a larger and stronger group of miniature vessels. No matter where we live, what our work is or how we look, we all have Grandmothers and can share these narratives and make connections. Each vessel can be viewed aesthetically, as well as holding further layers of meaning that the viewer can choose to engage with.
Threads of Innovation, Resilience and Destiny: Narrating Otti Berger’s Life and Work Using Words, Imagery and Sensory Connections
SAP SE, Germany
Textiles, Weaving, Senses, Tactility, Storytelling, Destiny, Emigration, Design Practice, Collaboration, Bauhaus
Otti Berger (1898–1944) was one of the most important textile designers of the Bauhaus, next to Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl, who highlighted Berger’s work as some of the best the Bauhaus weaving workshop has produced. Yet, only in the recent years, her work receives more attention.
Berger was one of the first in her industry who submitted patents for new methods she developed. She further achieved that fabrics she designed for Swiss or Dutch companies would reference her name or her initials “o.b.”, an early approach to branding. She further published articles, e.g. in an internationally renowned design magazines entitled „Stoffe im Raum” (“Textiles in Space”, 1930), a manifesto about the importance of sensorial considerations in textile design.
While these achievements might suggest a splendid career, the reality presented differently: being of Jewish-Hungarian descent, she faced more and more oppression by the National Socialists which led to her emigration to the United Kingdom in 1937. Yet, during this time, she only was able to gain one paid assignment, with the Helios company, near Manchester. Despite warnings to emigrate to the United States as soon as possible, following a call to lead the weaving workshop at the New Bauhaus in Chicago by László Moholy-Nagy, she returned to her homeland to care for her sick mother in 1938 and could not emigrate anymore when World War II broke out. At the forced end of her life, being deaf reduced her chance of survival in the Auschwitz concentration camp, as her brother noted, where she was murdered in 1944.
My contribution to the conference uses words and imagery (both archival and current, of textiles, places or letters) to narrate Otti Berger’s life and work. It will also highlight the roots and importance of Berger’s focus on sensorial aspects and propose how these link to and can inspire other (design) disciplines, past and present.
Sewing (for) Sylvia Likens
Anne Bettina Pedersen
Aalborg University, Denmark
Arts-Based Research, Femicide, Needlework, Embroidery, Care/Caring, Textile Research, U.S. Popular Culture, True Crime, Repair, Mourning
Taking as my starting point the quote “[t]he act of sewing is a process of emotional repair,” which has been attributed to Louise Bourgeois, I examine an archive of texts based on or inspired by the 1965 torture-murder of sixteen-year-old Sylvia Marie Likens in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I pose that Sylvia’s real-life torturers as well as the artists who have constructed narratives (works of fiction as well as true crime) around her subject her to a process of (un)making, as explained by Elaine Scarry in the 1985 study The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, when they subject the victim to various forms of (real or imagined) acts of torture.
I count as the first Sylvia Likens narrative the words her torturers branded onto her stomach with a heated sewing needle: “I’M A PROSTITUTE AND PROUD OF IT!” This slut-shaming and victim-blaming phrase functions as a cautionary tale or a moral message to Sylvia as well as to other girls and women. The use of the sewing needle invokes the concept of the embroidery sampler and the role needlework has played in the social conditioning of girls and women.
To counteract the acts of violence directed at Sylvia’s body, I have begun embroidering a burial shroud for the victim, an act grounded in care and in the idea of the shroud as an embrace or a wrapping of the vulnerable, exposed, and tormented body. Thus, my needle, which engages in the process of repairing and caring, is meant to counter the image of the needle as a weapon. My project draws on Textile Research as well as Arts-Based Research to offer alternative ways of telling the stories of murdered girls and women.
“she touches herself in and of herself without any mediation”. Irigaray,1997: A Reflection on the Silent Knowledge of Trauma
Royal College of Art, UK
silence, weaving, materiality, interstice, emotion, memory, trauma
Time, space and labour frame the materiality of cloth. This materiality is more than the agglomeration of matter interacting with one another to form a whole. It is the physical conveyor of the memory of making, holding and wearing, and is capable of capturing a moment of emotion. In 2021, I wove Silence a series of six wall hangings exploring the small spaces in between things: interstices or what I experienced as moments of ‘quiet’ knowledge. Threads of fine silk and paper yarn move under/over in a tight/loose interlace. Their journey creates floats, unwoven sections quietly jumping over the original structure. Light, air, and silence passes through the transparent layers and recount the intimate, unknown proximity and emotional connection of human/material exchange.
Drawing on Irigaray’s (1997) This Sex Which Is Not One, this paper explores the intangible space a thread creates at every crossing point, one that “touches (it)self without any mediation”. My thinking is informed by Nora Bateson’s theories of aphanipoeisis which ask “how do we let seeing change in unseen ways?” as well as Catherine Dormor’s writings on a fold and its ability to simultaneously touch and be touched (itself and by itself).
Playing with transparency and opacity, Silence explores weaving beyond its visual and tactile aesthetics. Engaged with the embodied sense of trauma, the piece opens a critical dialogue around my practice. The ‘silent’ knowledge that weaving and trauma share interrogates unknown and unseen data. What is in the unseen? And in answering that question, what is being revealed? This paper explores and suggests that encoded emotions might live in the ‘small spaces in between’, spaces that reveal the silence of elusive traumatic memories passing through.
Sustainability is not a Moral Choice: Addressing Issues of Sustainability and “Fashion Violence” amongst Marginalised Teens
Gayle Cantrell and Victoria Coutts
Northumbria University, Birmingham City University UK
sustainability, teens, marginalised, fashion violence, micro aggressions
The shift of a widespread confidence in teens shopping second hand is in the dominant domain of the privileged, with issues of aesthetic acceptance and sustainability not being documented, understood, or addressed amongst the kids without privilege and the fortuitousness of cultural capital, “… performative reduction in consumption, or choosing to only consume in certain ways, is one of the most gratuitous displays of privilege out there, and to frame it as in any way a moral choice is … offensive.” (Fagan, 2017)
In recognition of this, our research focuses on state secondary schools as sites of disparity in socio-economic backgrounds and cultural capital, allowing us access to the kids excluded from mainstream fashion commentary and current academic interest.
Von Busch’s recognition of ‘fashion violence’ and ‘microaggressions’ led our research in the direction of attempting to understand how the issues we are concerned with addressing; the privilege of sustainable behaviours in fashion and identity discourse amongst marginalised youth could, seemingly be linked, and that to address just one of these issues would require us to address them all – consumption, sustainability, identity, and fashion violence are all connected through the teenage need to belong.
This presentation will discuss how accessible, inventive, and approachable modes of engagement must be the priority for consideration to attempt to dispel materialistic values through a socially engaged project that empowers the participants, engages fully with them and their interests and considers the current social climate.
Otto Von Busch. A typology of Fashion Violence
Terhi-Anna Wilska. Youth and Generations in Consumption
The Materialisation of Testament: An Embroidered Response to Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia
University of Canberra, Australia
textile art, reparative aesthetic, artist-as-witness, materiality, embroidery, beauty, subversion, clothing, shame, trauma
Catholic ecclesiastical clothing is undeniably symbolic. It is emblematic of an organisation where authority and hierarchy go largely unquestioned, and where even in a secular world, the clothing, accoutrements, and symbols associated with the Church are extremely recognisable. My PhD research responds to the testimony of hundreds of victims and survivors who were subjected to abuse in Australia. Taken largely from the Australian Royal Commission report1, de-identified survivor narratives and journalistic non-fiction, my creative intention is to make a series of textile works that shift survivor shame and guilt onto the institution responsible for the crimes and associated trauma, largely through the subversion of ecclesiastical garb.
Using a reparative aesthetic2— an approach to art that confronts shameful social histories without adopting the more common anti-aesthetic style — my work uses the Church’s rich textile traditions as the basis for an elaboration of the mismatch between material expressions of honour and faith, and the antithetical behaviour of individual religious figures, the church hierarchy and in some cases, the broader Catholic community. The use of clothing as visible indicators of authority and status, augmented by a range of accessories used within religious ceremony and pastoral duties, provide the basis for the subversion of visible expressions of the Church.
The intention of the reparative aesthetic is to hold the viewer’s attention to the artworks, without introducing feelings of guilt or shame that might cause them to disengage with the difficult subject matter represented. I examine how the characteristics of a textiles based reparative approach can simultaneously disrupt church authority and foster ongoing conversations around painful events. I also explore the deployment and effectiveness of beauty when making work in this genre, and the ethical responsibilities and concerns of the artist-as-witness. My research (currently at the half-way point) will deliver a body of creative textile works intended to engage audiences in considered contemplation and discussion of this chapter in Australia’s recent history.
- The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2012-2017)
- Drawing on Susan Best’s seminal book Reparative Aesthetics: Witnessing in Contemporary Art Photography.
Introducing the TEX-KR Project: Exploring Cambodia’s Textile Material Culture of Conflict
Magali An Berthon
Center for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Cambodia, silk, textiles, conflict, loss, materiality, trauma
The TEX-KR project explores textile production and dress practices in Cambodia from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, especially examining the years of the Khmer Rouge totalitarian regime. The dictatorship claimed nearly two million lives between 1975 and 1979. During this period of political unrest, textile ancestral crafts were heavily impacted by displacing farmers and weavers, thus halting sericulture, silk and cotton weaving, and skills transmission. Valued silk textiles worn for ceremonies were looted and traded in exchange for essential goods. The conservation of museum textile artifacts was disrupted, with the National Museum of Cambodia closed until 1979.
The limited number of silk pieces found post-war in this major Cambodian institution has significantly diminished the knowledge that could be drawn directly from historical artefacts. On the other end, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was established in 1980 on the secret Khmer Rouge prison site S-21, where about 18,000 prisoners were killed, leaving behind about three thousand textiles and garments that have been recently conserved and reintegrated into the museum’s collection.
How to devise the non-military history of the Cambodian civil war and dictatorship through textiles, facing limited sources, testimonies and objects? This paper will present the scope of TEX-KR, the proposed methodology, and the specific sources it aims to explore. This project undertakes a multifaceted approach that combines object-based study, archival research, and experimental methods. TEX-KR aims to reconstruct a fragmentary material history that encompasses lost practices, missing textiles and found artefacts as crucial evidence of Cambodia’s late twentieth-century history. In doing so, this methodology centering on materiality, emotions and memory to study sensitive textile artefacts in a Cambodian context may also inform how to navigate textile studies in other histories and geographies of conflict.
Trauma, Textiles and Technologies: Towards a “Continuum” of Reparative Praxis
Northumbria University, UK
trauma recovery, electronic textiles, e-textiles, boundary object, research through design
This paper explores the ways in which electronic textiles (e-textiles) making might enable multi-faceted reparative processes in trauma recovery. Integrating research into fibre arts across health and wellbeing, art therapies, community intervention and activism, I present a provisional and exploratory “continuum” of e-textiles practice in relation to trauma and recovery. I draw on sociocultural models within an interdisciplinary approach to trauma studies in order to work with a dynamic definition of trauma that accounts for the biopsychosocial contexts of individual and collective experience.
Using a research through design process, the five interrelated aspects of the continuum: body, self, felt-sense, other, and world, are represented in the contiguous layers of a weighted blanket. Connections between these aspects are explored though the integration of textiles practices and electronic components, engaging digital technologies to centralise sensorial experience in processes of change. The weighted blanket is offered here as a boundary object, an assemblage of parts; through a series of samples, the blanket becomes a container for metaphors and materials, theories and fictions. The blanket enables an exploration of creative and hopeful modes of working alongside histories of traumatic experience that are embodied (body) as well as personally (self), socially (other) and politically (world) situated. The felt-sense layer explores meaning-making in relation to trauma recovery, materialising the myriad entanglements of textiles thinking, forms and vocabularies in epistemological and ontological concepts. The integration of electronics within the layers creates expanded possibilities for multi-modal connections and encounters.
Through the material metaphor of the weighted blanket, I explore alternatives to cathartic interventions – the dynamics of retelling and revelation associated with the uncovering of traumatic contents – and attend instead to modes of recovery through socio-technical praxis. In this paper, I therefore offer an emergent, responsive and contingent framework for thinking through etextiles practice in relation to trauma.
Redefining Chinese Aesthetics in Fashion Photography: An Interpretative Approach
Magnum Lam and Layla Regan
Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Manchester Metropolitan University
Chinese fashion photography, creativity, fashion representation, qualitative research
This paper examines how a group of contemporary Chinese fashion photographers understand the impact of their heritage and culture on their work, and how they creatively redefine Chinese aesthetic through mingling the eastern and western cultural symbols in their creative practices. We challenged the conventional understanding of chinoiserie that informs a prescribed orientalist imagination and representation of Chinese fashion identities. The notion of Chinese aesthetics is dynamic, fluid, and constantly changing as found in the work and photographic practices among Chinese fashion photographers. As part of a larger study investigating modern Chinese aesthetics and contemporary fashion representations in photography, this research employed interpretive methods to understand the creative process and photographic techniques adopted by Chinese fashion photographers. We conducted 15 in-depth interviews with young fashion photographers in China and examined their photography collections to understand the flow of their creative process, from the source of inspirations, design rationales and theme development, techniques and symbols applied in the work, and their manipulations and interpretations through photography. Our findings show that Chinese fashion photographers are creative agents, who are constantly resisting such cultural fixation and representing a contemporary Chinese aesthetic through exploring alternative expressions, techniques, and design characteristics as in their creative photography collection. We identified 4 themes, namely 1) the color red, 2) cultural nostalgia, 3) the everyday, and 4) distortion. This paper contributes to providing a new design perspective to the complexity of modern Chinese fashion photography, in particular, the importance of how contemporary Chinese fashion creatives explore new alternatives in fashion photography to resist and escape from the prescribed and restricted notion of “Chineseness” and “orientalist”.
The Seamstresses of Asia Minor in Limassol, Cyprus
Pattichion Municipal Museum – Historical Archive – Research Centre of Limassol, Cyprus
Limassol, Cyprus, Asia Minor, refugees, 1922, British Colony, seamstresses
Greeks of Asia Minor developed trade and other financial activities and flourished in various parts of the Ottoman Empire. Relations between the habitants of Asia Minor and the habitants of Limassol were timeless and extensive, owing to the existence of the port, the blooming commerce and trade routes. The Armenian Genocide and the subsequent burning of Smyrna from the 14th to the 17th of September 1922 marked the outset of the violent eradication of the long-standing, prosperous Greek presence in all of the Asia Minor. 2400 refugees arrived in Cyprus from Turkey between September and December 1922.
At the time of the British occupation, the city of Limassol was an official administrative headquarter, while it had always been a trade hub and a commercial activity centre for the broader area, including the mountain parts of the Province of Limassol. Following British norms, ladies were expected to wear and display European styled dresses and influence; men were required to wear similarly styled suits. Refugees from Asia Minor used to socialize and trade with foreign merchants in the Ottoman Empire, and were largely influenced by them; upon their arrival in Limassol, their experience strengthened the local financial and commercial activities.
During the fashion uprising that coincided with the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century, the sewing machine proven a persistent ally of fashion and spread rapidly among seamstresses. In turn, these dedicated artisans would copy and reproduce dresses and garments from drawings and patterns found in women’s magazines. Seamstresses from Asia Minor were very experienced and already familiar with the trends of European fashion. They were able to create new garments themselves, easily repair or modify existing clothing. Most importantly, they would train new local seamstresses. All the above prove the great importance of their contribution to the history of fashion in Limassol.
The scope of this study is to record personal interviews and collect photographic material of the work and the life of the seamstresses of Limassol, to present some of these women, seamstresses, aides and students, to showcase the materials they preferred, the sources they supplied raw material from, the equipment they used and the garments they created.
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Fashion to Survive: Russian Influences on French Haute Couture after the 1917 Revolution
Luca Lo Sicco
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
cultural influences, French Haute Couture, Russian Fashion designers, Russian Revolution, tradition, folklore
Russian Fashion or we should say better, the European fashion worn by the Russians created an industry that was made of highly talented artisans. If Tolstoy, who liked to wear traditional Russian folk clothing both in private and public, the majority were wearing European fashion. With the toppling of the Tsarist Monarchy and the advent of the Communist regime an impressive number of the population fled the country, finding refuge in France with a strong number in Paris and Biarritz. High society, former Aristocrats and the rich bourgeoisies left together with those who were in one way or another dependent from them. Jewellers, tailors, hairdressers and artists all found themselves reunited and ruined in France.
The condition of these people as described by Orlando Figes was tragic.
“My heart bleeds for my distant and unhappy native land. It pains me to think of the torments being suffered there by my friends and relatives- and indeed by all the people” (Lvov, 1920).
This paper aims to start drawing a clear overview on the structure of the Fashion industry in Russian before the Revolution differentiating the Folk and the European styles; secondly, it will presents and explain how the émigré managed not only to find jobs in the French Haute Couture industry but also their influence on style for almost two decades. Through two Houses: Maison Irfe’ and the Kitmir, this paper will chart their influences, interaction as well as their personal relationships.
Weaving Transnational Dialogues on Gender-Based Violence through Textiles: a Comparative Study of Ireland and Mexico
University College Cork, Ireland
craftivism, gender-based violence, everyday misogyny, embroidery, patchwork, weaving, participatory arts-based research, feminism, sociology, online spaces
Textiles have been historically underestimated by society, but they are also a sign of protest, commemoration, and remembrance. Craftivism is one of the many ways in which textiles can be used, and it has the purpose of raising people’s voices on different matters. There are several examples of how women have used textile art to communicate and protest structural forms of oppression; in the very particular case of this project, we have chosen to talk about gender-based violence. As an experimental exercise, three different collectives (Refleja, Agujas Combativas, and The Bábóg Project) have been invited to collaborate in a virtual and transcultural dialogue about violence against women between Mexico and Ireland. In the last few months, we have been carrying out online workshops to encourage conversations of our personal experience on everyday misogyny. Such dialogue has the purpose of resignifying the use of textiles and understanding how our experiences shape our understandings of violence to build bridges among two very different contexts.
In the following presentation, I will discuss the steps to establish these workshops. The presentation aims to show the issues that have arisen and how textiles have been a vital element of these conversations. I will also discuss preliminary results of ongoing research. Collaborating with three different collectives has been very important for recognising their work and activism. These groups are involved in grassroots activism that uses textiles to talk about political and social issues that affect us all. The importance of creating spaces for people to interact and share their experiences through a pandemic has been highly relevant to understanding and proposing different ways in which we can dialogue across the distance.
The Culturally Dislocated Cloth – Elusive, Resistant or Interruptive
University for the Creative Arts, UK
cloth, cultural dislocation, postcolonial, place, stories-so-far, whitework embroidery, indigo-resist, installation
This paper imagines an interstitial interruption and translates a cultural dislocation metaphorically located between two symbolic and culturally significant cloths. Dislocation as a medical term is described: “to force a bone suddenly out of its correct position” this implies a sharp, violent shift. Applied to culture and meaning the second interpretation is: “through which all meanings are dislocated.” The medical term heterotopia emphasises a tissue developing elsewhere resulting from trauma. Other word associations are: upsetting and destabilising, unsettled and disrupted. What might this feel and sound like? Visually this could be interpreted as – a shift and re-arrangement, an instability and flux. The whitework embroidered cloth and an indigo resist-print cloth originate from the mid 1800s. Both share a complex heritage influenced by British colonisation and decolonisation of Indian and South Africa. Both cloths have been centrally located in migrated domestic space and are rooted in traditional transnational stitch craft and textile dye traditions.
Third space or “interstitial” cultural space is understood as a liminal space for belonging and as a legitimate space to create in. Walter Benjamin’s writings on translation, are formative in Homi Bhabha’s suggestion that artists working at the margins of culture are translators contributing cultural fragments that make cultural meaning visible. This view and transnational textile culture inform the lens view chosen to imagine both cloths stories. Perhaps both dislocation and heterotopic can be understood as dislocated tissue in-between cloth, culture, and thread. Barriers, common threads, echoes, and shadows are translated through cloth, stitch, thread, and light into two cloth stories-so-far. Photography and printmaking processes record the work.
“Man of the Cloth”: Expressions of Creativity, Ritual and Protest in Jamaica’s Revival
The University of the West Indies, Jamaica
Cloth, Creativity, Revival, Ritual, Sacred, Expression, Protest, Performance
For centuries, the practice of colonisation in the Caribbean involved policing the deployment and creative use of expressive materials such as cloth within African-Caribbean religions. Thus, cloth among religious groups in the African diaspora has been instrumental in the fight for freedom. In particular, Revivalists have accommodated, manipulated and modified Western cloth in the enactment of their agency through the creative imagination and performances of ritual identity. Revival is a post-modernist African-Jamaican folk religion, that emerged in Jamaica during the early 1860s in response to colonialism and oppression.
While a historiography of Caribbean cultural studies reveals an engagement with material culture studies, sparse readings are available on the use of cloth in African-Caribbean religions such as Revival. This paper pulls on the phrase “man of the cloth”, used in reference to a priest within mainstream Christian denominations, to an interpretation of the “man of the cloth” in the context of the Revival church. “Man of the cloth” has been used as a point of departure to first understand creativity as an act of agency through the modification of Western cloth by Revival priests, then to examine the function of cloth in rituals of healing and spirit possession and finally, to explore the performance of ritual identities in the “Thanksgiving Tables” of Revival as expressions of protest.
Using primary data from participant observation and in-depth interviews, this paper furthers the theoretical contributions of Clinton Hutton, Steve Buckridge, Bibi Bakare Yusuf and Shelley-Ann McFarlane. The subject of this paper adds to the dimension of the sacred in Caribbean cultural studies; as well as it brings in focus the use of cloth in expressions of creativity, ritual and protest within the African-Jamaican religious landscape.
Legendary Textiles and their Stories of Continuity
asmita (A Stage for the Manifestation of Indian Textile Arts), India
Storytelling; Indian traditional textiles; Hand made textiles; Kanjeevaram; Phulkari; Block printing; Zardozi; Brocade weaving; Gujarat embroidery; Kashida; Heirlooms; Vintage textiles; Antique; Retro
India has always mesmerised the world with its uniquely handcrafted textiles and has the reputation of being one of the world’s greatest producers of hand-made and hand embroidered textiles. The tradition of passing down these valuable textiles from one generation to the next is rooted in Indian culture. Hence all Indian families may have a few textile heirlooms as treasured keepsakes. Besides these, most everyone can also have some textile objects, self made or bought, which are beautifully crafted and timeless.
We tend to develop an inherently emotional connect with these over time and would like to pass them on to our successive generations as they may hold deep associations with our lives, possessing individual and family memory. These handcrafted personal textile possessions can serve as a means of reuniting families with their past and can become symbols of family identity for successive generations. Layering these treasured textiles with each owner’s personal memories and experiences, can bring a new lease of life in them and make them more interactive. Our treasured textiles keepsakes can serve as testimonials of brilliant craftsmanship and may hold great significance in future. It’s high time we understand that legacy is more than financial inheritance.
We must recognise the time invested in completing one exquisite handmade textile and the artisanal essence in them which makes them worthy of documentation and preservation. Needless to mention holding on to these heirlooms and valued timeless textile pieces can help us create sustainable wardrobes. This paper is an endeavour to document some exquisite Indian textile pieces lying unsung in the closets of select Indian families. Technical documentation combined with storytelling will present the textile objects in the broadest context for a wider audience that includes both scholars and general public. An earnest attempt will also be made to document the reinvention initiatives (if any) taken by their owners.
 The famous embroideries manufacturer