Tuesday 17 January 2012

weave is a dance

Since starting with the interactive pieces I’ve mentioned in the previous post, 16 Knitting Pieces and 22 Garland installations have now been made in 9 different countries, across 3 different continents. Several thousand people have been involved in the creation of these works, exchanging tips, stories and experiences about making. All good! However, the odd thing is that I am not privy to any of these conversations, or very few of them at least. I facilitate them, but I am not a witness to them. I’ve never been particularly interested recording, filming or photographing the process as the installations are made. I do keep the fabric produced as a document and record of the activity and these are exhibited at a later stage, usually in the context of a new piece being created. This happened with my exhibition at the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogota in 2010, as well as nEUclear reactions at the CAB in Burgos in 2006, which then travelled to National Gallery in Prague for the Biennial in 2007. What has increasingly interested me with these works are the movements and gestures ‘performed’ by the stitchers as they go about their creative task. What I want to focus on is not just the object, nor the process, but the actions and movements required for the creation of the work.

An opportunity to investigate this presented itself when Helen Carnac asked me to contribute a piece for the touring exhibition Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution in 2009. I planned to start the making of Garland #21 included in the exhibition using a group of dancers as human bobbins. The dance stood as an invitation for visitors to add to the stitching over the course of the exhibition. Working with dancer/choreographer Cheryl McChesney Jones on this, we looked at stitching patterns and dance notation, and relied on the dancers for their input in creating the final choreographic sequences. This then led me a couple of years later to devise Stairwell Suite for my current exhibition Drawn to motion, woven in space, stitched over time at Siobhan Davies Studios in London. Stairwell Suite is an installation resulting from a performance by three dancers. I worked with Laura Glaser to develop the piece by using the stairwell at the studios and its distinctive vertical metal framework to weave on – see pictures above. This collaboration allowed me to interpret stitching patterns into a set of movements performed by the dancers to create a spiralling web-like structure while travelling up and down the staircase. Bobbin lace and finger crochet techniques were used to do this. The work was informed by Stairwell Weave-In at the Dovecot Studios, and Intelligent Trouble’s intervention at Kings College during the Festival of Materials and Making organised by the Institute of Making last October. The performance and resulting installation at Siobhan Davies Studios was an opportunity for me and the viewers to reflect on weaving and stitching processes, the relationship between object and action, and the silent negotiation between dancers, space and the materials, captured in dance.

The piece was performed at the studios this last Thursday January 12th, and will be again on February 17th, followed by a discussion between myself, Professor Patricia Lyons and dance artist Laura Glaser.

The images above illustrate Stairwell Weave-In at the Dovecot Studios, and Intelligent Trouble’s installation at Kings College. A film of the performance at Siobhan Davies will be uploaded on this blog shortly. For preview of exhibition click here.

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