Saturday, 2 February 2008

The Culture of Cloth Sainsbury Centre 26 January 2008

This conference was held to celebrate the launch of the exhibition Cloth and Culture Now. Lectures covered a wide range of textiles including historical and cultural contexts of cloth. The illustrations are all details of Sue Lawty’s installation Call and Response in the exhibition.

First Sandy Heslop talked about Cloth and the making of Europe. He explained that in Europe culture was considered to have begun with the Fall of man. In the Bible, Adam and Eve required clothing to show they were cultured. He told us how important cloth was in the culture and economic life of the mediaeval period. For example, many heraldic devices include motifs that are easy to achieve in cloth. He gave a very interesting talk on the importance of technology and outside influences on the development of cloth in Europe.

Victoria Mitchell then gave a talk entitled Textile tradition meets contemporary art. She described how Cecilia Vicuna uses string and thread to trace the links and unities between people, in particular by using the game of cat’s cradle. She also talked about Anni Albers, who was interested in pre-Columbian textiles, and the conflict between art and craft. In ‘Thinking through craft’ Mondrian’s art is compared with the textiles of Albers; although their work is very similar it is perceived differently. Similarly, Katherine de Zega compares Eva Hesse with Anni Albers; again their work is very similar although one paints and the other produces textiles.

In the discussion, Lesley Millar, who organised the Cloth and Culture Now exhibition, said that for this exhibition she had considered the UK tradition to be the industrial revolution. When selecting work she had not looked for people who repeated traditional practice but those who had used it as a base to move on to the contemporary. Sandy Heslop noted that the present art and craft debate may be a result of the industrial revolution because the manufacture of goods inspired Ruskin and Morris to promote the handmade.

Jean-Loup Rousselot then spoke about Chilkat robes. These are woven cloaks/aprons from the NW of America/Canada. Naoko Yoshimoto spoke about Garments worn in Japanese rights of passage. She explained that white is worn in Japanese rights of passage because it conveys the feeling of being confined. It is worn at times of transformation.
Kadri Viires talked about the Ritual textiles of the Seto people. These are woven scarves used to drape over icons in Estonia. Egle Ganda Bogdaniene discussed art therapy projects and Luder Tietz talked about Queer theory.

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