Getting closer to appreciating textile art

Researching cultural tourism I have often come into contact with textile artists and for some time I’ve been making an effort to broaden my interest in the arts and crafts, to include textiles and today is one of those days of a small leap, with two vastly different papers on textile crafts of sorts that came into my scope.

The first an entertaining review of Dale Roberts’s exhibition, “The Two-Souled World of Dale Roberts and The Gallery of All Sorts” full of fun and frivolity, and some, not to distracting, side stories into art historical cross dressing. From this review I was left with the sense that a good time was to be had at this show.

The second: “Making Polychronic Objects” called for a much deeper engagement and complex processing, but was highly rewarding, if infuriating at times. This deeply art theoretical paper makes some interesting points, but on a literary level is typically academic in its density and not one that ascribes to the idea that to explain complex issues using simple language is successful academic writing.

The paper is built around the notion of bringing together diverse materials from different time periods in the crafting of rudimentary bowl forms, and has produced some very inviting objects. It situates its theoretical base in an understanding of “polychronic” as the ability to attend more than one event at the same time, or multi tasking, and then extends it to the objects in hand, or the materials they are produced from, suggesting that this uncouples the material and the viewer from time. The author then suggests, with the aid of video artist Hito Steyerl that this leads to a dizzying perspective as we soar to an aerial view, become dizzy and enter a dreamlike state, hovering above the world through Sat Navs and Google Earth. The next move is most interesting in that the author brings to our attention that such a view, is a paused animation and amounts to a radical shift “in the possibility of an ahistorical map of materials that pulls everything into the present.” which then leads to the availability of formerly unrelated materials and the meeting of different materials across time and space: an overlapping aerial perspective of visual culture – enter Deleuze and Guttari and Serres, quickly followed by the more directly applicable and on track Althusser and the idea of the necessary object and an odd perspective that certain materials when brought together represent a failure of the object, such a felt and resin and the elegantly put example of a meeting of concrete, nylon and rubber, Italy 300 BCE, USA 1935 and Mexico pre 15th century respectively. My difficulty here is that I don’t perceive that materials are fixed in time.

Norris then discusses the casting of these curious little bowls, with beguiling textures, and seems to claim a breakthrough in that using plastic bowls as a form around which to cast the objects “suggests an iteration, that is a development from plastic mass manufacturing, a different generation.” which “repositions the plastic bowls as a valuable tool rather than an end product, having generative value rather than being just a consumable object.” This is an often explored and utilised approach by artists, see my own modest paper- Wu Song: The Age of Plastic for example. But that is a minor quibble and there are many, more expert and invested that arena than I, to quibble further.

The author’s final move is the introduction of Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) and here she raises an interesting issue in that assessing a range of “different ‘material time’ within an object offers a new paradigm for both making and consumption.”

There is a great deal to debate in this, at time infuriating, but ultimately thought provoking paper, while an actual tactile engagement with the well illustrated objects would be a treat.

From my own perspective I feel that, on the subject of crumpling together time and then time and space, combined with the dizzying aerial perspective, there is a strong relationship to the gaze of the cultural tourist, who seeks, albeit briefly, live experiences of historical periods that have long since passed in his or her domestic cultural environment. That in doing so that such subjects crumple the aerial map. This aerial perspective is certainly related to the classic western landscape view, from a great, although, earthbound height, surveying all that is below, and the accompanying notions of ownership - colonialism - tourism, or knowledge power and wealth, and is there much difference between the disturbing dizzying perspective and that of Romantic awe. Lastly that the objects collected from such visits, often combine materials and skills that have developed during different historical eras, wood carving, ceramics and electrical light fittings, as one simple example. Unless, from some artistic ivory tower that represents a failure of one or other media.


Jane Norris: Havering College Making Polychronic Objects Making Polychronic Objects

Yvonne Owens, B.A., M.A. The Two-Souled World of Dale Roberts

and The Gallery of All Sorts The Two-Souled World of Dale Roberts and The Gallery of All Sorts

David L Hume: Wu Song: The Age of Plastic Wu Song - The Age of Plastic

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