In her book Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, Sherry Turkle writes that acknowledging ‘the power of objects has not come easy’ and that there is a reticence in examining objects as centrepieces of our emotional lives. According to Turkle, more value is placed on formal, propositional ways of knowing and thus, abstract reasoning becomes synonymous with knowledge altogether.
Yet, objects (and for me, textiles) are rich and underestimated sources of thinking and feeling. They are ‘active life presences’ according to Turkle. They are companions to our emotional lives and are provocations to thought. Objects and in particular textiles are grounded in our life experiences. They can become signifiers of a relationship and emotional connection and can exert a holding power because of the particular moment they come into one’s life or they mark a transitional moment in the passage of life. We are so over familiar with some objects that we take them for granted.
What I find interesting, are the stories we consciously tell with and about objects and that often these are the stories we like to hear. They rationally confirm us in our ‘comfortable ways of thinking’.
When I make textiles it is as if I am scratching beneath these ‘comfortable ways of thinking’ and letting thinking and feeling surface. I am always surprised that something that I am not explicitly aware of emerges when I have finished a piece of work. Amazingly, what starts out as one thing becomes something else. I find that all the time I give a piece of my work a ‘working title’ only to re-name it once I’ve finished. A case in point is the piece of work I finished yesterday.
I made this cloth from scraps of linen left over from another project. It was bricolage, a combination and recombination of a closed set of materials left around. What was it about? I was just using up some small pieces of frayed red and natural linen from cut up domestic cloths.
When the work was complete I realised that I had started making the work the day after my son broke his leg and he couldn’t return to Switzerland where he works (I thought it is interesting here to note that the Swiss flag is of a red cross). We were worried about having to repeatedly go to the hospital because of Covid. He also had to stay in the hospital overnight in case of the need to operate. Increasing numbers of Covid cases and deaths were reported in the news at the time and in the midst of the reports was the fact that the UK had left the EU (more emphasis on flags).
So what was my bricolage of fraying red and white linen scraps with some crosses and jagged edges about? Can I say that it is about one thing or a collision of ‘intensities’? Was it about what I was thinking and feeling then, in that timeframe? I could have left it untitled but I’ve decided to call it January, 2021.