"Stitch in Time" Accounting

At the Dunlop Art Gallery, inside of Reginal Public Library Central, in the downtown of Saskatchewan’s capital city, the people who wander into the gallery are welcomed by artworks that invite their involvement. A part of the “generator” series, the Stitch in Time exhibition and its programs are expected to reach audiences that include art viewers as well as library visitors who regularly pop into the space, which is opposite the check-out desk. “All libraries should have art galleries!” Lori Weidenhammer and I concluded at the end of four interactive sessions commissioned by the Dunlop curators Wendy Peart and Blair Fornwald (or was it that we thought, “all galleries should be inside of libraries”?).

Libraries and art are indeed well matched, from the perspective of Slofemists. Active (from time to time) since 2013, Slofemists reflects the way both Lori’s and my art practices have settled on the kind of “social practice” that aims to emphasize issues affecting our participants. In Slofemists we bring relevant topics like feminisms and ecology “to the table” and use art or craft processes to focus the discussions and enable the kind of connections and sociability needed to understand our shared challenges. As one of the groups featured in Stitch and Time, we spent four long workshop sessions in the gallery with visitors.

After we left Mindy Yan Miller and Suzanne Miller, next in the Stitch in Time series, presented the performance Needle and Thread. The components of Needle and Thread were on display while we were there, as if in-waiting for the artists to make them come alive. A circle of clothing stitched together was lying on the floor, ready for one of the performers to take her place in a waist-sized opening in the centre, and another to work on the periphery where more clothing would be attached. Behind this large disc of used clothing, a video projected names from the archives of Yad Vashim (The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre) up the wall like a movie’s final credits. An evocative sound work by Allan Paivio repeated this list of first names with softness and intensity. It was both a haunting and soothing accompaniment for the handwork and conversations that we shared during our sessions in the gallery.

I understand that tonight in the gallery the artists Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand will be presenting the piece Neighbours as their part of Stitch and Time. The gallery’s notice describes how today’s workshop is aiming to “provide newcomers to Canada and its citizenship a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada.” When we were in the galley, Neighbours was shown as two incomplete “blankets” of textile pictures on the wall: one set made by newcomers to Canada and the other by Indigenous people. Many of the newcomers’ panels displayed Syrian signifiers like red boats commemorating people lost at sea--as was pointed out to me by one of the Dunlop Library’s staff members who was herself from the Middle East. The centre of the Indigenous panels was a dividing line made from three fabric strips in purple, white and purple. Owing to the generous teachings of Haudenosaunee hosts from Four Directions Indigenous Centre who welcomed me at events on the campus of Queen’s University (during recent studies), I recognized these horizontal stripes as likely representing the Two Row Wampum, or Gusweñta--a beaded belt recording a 406-year-old treaty of mutual respect between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers. Two ships represented by the purple lines are on parallel but separate trajectories. Above these unfinished panels, the words of another document of respect and responsibility, the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada: Call to Action #93, formed a heading text for the entire display:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.

It was very humbling to sit and embroider—one of many survival skills inherited from my newcomer grandmothers—under this call. Many of the visitors to the gallery were themselves newcomers and the handwork of Neighbours gave us an opportunity to talk together about the Truth and Reconciliation commission, and the way it included newcomer neighbours through Call to Action #93.

Following Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand’s support of newcomers with information about Indigenous people and histories, the final artwork in Stitch and Time will end the series by supporting Indigenous people themselves. Stacy Fayant will later this week present Hand-Sewn with Love, a session for friends of this Métis artist to receive “comfort and medicine” through traditional skin stitching.

During our Slofemists time in the gallery, visitors were invited to consider how and what in their world needed mending while they sat quietly on or near Slofa, a patchwork created in similar gatherings during the years 2013 to 2016. In a nearby “Menditation Station” small boxes were set out to receive their handwritten mending descriptions and intentions for change. The Slofa’s embroidery patterns were wall-mounted in the space, as was a new pattern we had designed for Stitch and Time: Famished Road Ecology: for 25 Million Refugees”.

As described on the “Famished Road Ecology” pattern, our topics for this visit to Saskatchewan were broad but surprisingly interconnected. We wanted participants to sit with the biggest of our world’s problems by embroidering a hungry road with stitches representing refugees and ditches filled with threatened ecological diversity. Generously, Lori had also designed and brought materials for participants to make indigo eye masks filled with a soothing mix of lavender seeds, buckwheat, and wheat; and covered with sun-printed shadows of native plants. These were needed when the heaviness of the topics required an inward turn to meditation or rest.

Now that a couple of weeks have passed since Lori and I were stitching and getting to know newcomers to Regina, I am thinking about how the exhibit gathered artists and craft practices to count and be accountable. Needles and Thread by Mindy Yan Miller and Suzanne Miller recited a large number of historic names and processed a large volume of used clothes to mark a much greater number of lost lives—forever grievable. Another project of Mindy Yan Miller, Six Million Stitches, also memorialized people lost in the Holocaust with counted stitches that the artist made with human hair onto blanket fragments and counted on paper during public performances. Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand’s Neighbours demonstrated for me how the TRC’s Calls to Action need to be read expansively. Majury and Chartrand's action to inform newcomers, in an art setting, goes well beyond the TRC call for the government to take on this responsibility. In this way they are demonstrating how the Calls to Action are expected to be enacted in spirit, not just in words or in literal interpretation of the words.  

With the library in the background—itself an ever changing storehouse of records and reading—this exhibition seemed to me like its own archive-in-progress. Soon, the curators will return to us the Slofa and the menditation boxes with cards recording realizations of brokenness and intentions to make change. Lori and I have decided that we will stage a quiet ceremony here in Vancouver to close our time with this evidence. We are also expecting that the embroidered famished roads will have collected more stitches and pictures of the problematic ecologies of forced migration and settler roadways. We will send them to Jennifer Kim Sohn to help her realize the 25 million stitches needed to make the number of refugees more real for her audiences in California. Besides the ecological losses recorded on the Slofemists banners made at the Dunlop, the stitches now also carry remembrances of genocide of European Jews in the twentieth century, and the responsibility of all Canadians to address our own broken treaties and genocidal histories.

Thank you to everyone at the Dunlop Art Gallery and Dunlop Public Gallery, particularly curators, Blair Fornwald and Wendy Peart, and Director Curator Jennifer Matotek.



The reading lists

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Semiotext(s)'s new publication by Simone Weil inspired Sunday's SlofemistS. We wondered if the entrenched economic inequity based on gender, from stories in our families' histories, could be understood as what Weil describes as an unexamined and highly desired "truth" --the stuff of religions, and adherents to political parties. In "Note on the Abolition of All Political Parties" (first published in French in 1957, and now available in English as part of the Semiotext(e) Whitney Series), Weil decides that political parties, like religious groups, are incapable of critically examining the truth... "how can one desire truth without knowing anything about it?" (20). We wondered if her logic could be applied like this: how can one desire some "truth" (like inequitable distribution of family assets based on gender, for example) when one does not thoroughly examine the justice of this truth on all of the people involved?

Weil's essay ends: "Almost everywhere --and often for purely technical problems--the operation of taking sides, of taking position for or against, has replaced the obligation to think." (30)

 Other SolfemistS highlights from Sunday:

Lexie Owen is continuing her deconstruction / reconstruction project called For All The Boys I've Loved Before, that was featured in the graduate exhibition at Emily Carr University of Art + Design at the beginning of this month.

Kriss Boggild dug into her archive and brought along three issues of Makara: The Canadian Magazine by Women for People circa 1975-78. Coming out of an office on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, Makara's editorial policy was "'Canadian general interest alternative magazine by women for people.'... some art, some fiction/poetry, some politics, some humour, some health news, some children's features, some book reviews... We want to reflect the growing, moving, changing times, without making things appear impossibly dismal, because we believe in possibilities, and people who are working for new ideas, new approaches, new lifestyles. Do we sound fussy? We are!" (Vol 2, #4, page 10)

Jem Nobel brought a family story about the important but unacknowledged economic contribution that his mother had made in his extended family. He used the SlofemistS time and supplies to do his mending.

Margaret Dragu was completely delighted by the hazards the heavy weather had presented to her en route... I was so glad she made it!

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At the Contemporary Art Gallery last week visiting curators from Germany reminded me of this very common German suffix. When Verein is appended to its subject, it describes the inherent sociability of that subject. It means something like an active membership or association or group working together.

Kunstverein is something like the more established artist-run institutions in Canada in that they are art institutions that have been built up from a community of active members. Bart van der Heide, the director of Kunstverein Munich, described how he had come to love his institution's verein: a group of lovable and loving mostly middle age or elderly women who continuted to act as long term members, donors and champions of the institution.

Mostly, I remember hearing the words neiverein and frauenverein - the sewing groups and women's groups that my grandmothers eagerly attended on at least a weekly basis. I can hear these words spilling out of their mouths repeatedly, so much as to accumulate in mounds on the scrubbed surfaces of both their kitchens. Verein, verein, verein, verein was affectionately cited in almost all talking - it was creditted for gossip and for tragic news and for brilliant insights and all manner of resolution and restitution in one's local and larger universe...

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screen shot - "Frauenverein" image search, Google, 20140521


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Lisa Anne Auerbach - Video

In this video Lisa Anne Auerbach explains how her art works in the 2014 Whitney Biennial are meant to be examples of alternative publishing. By this, I think she means that her knitted items can carry around and display a legible narrative, by way of text and symbol. Using a knitting machine, she makes garments that record her chants & rants ("keep abortion legal"), her past times (food and drink are represented with readable symbols), her collections (an archive of psychics' predictions makes up a large banner). Also, to make the publishing theme unavoidable, she has included in the show a "megazine" -- an oversize publication that documents her research into psychics at work.

In the video she comments on her self-sufficiency in the works' production. Really, it is her use of studio-sized industrial machines that makes her self sufficient. The oversize colour printer is pictured, and the knitting machine cannot be too far away. I find this intriguing: her work refers to DIY culture (yarn bombing and 'zine culture), but through the works' materials and processes, she has forced this aesthetic through industrial processing. Is she claiming a creative territory in the rapidly expanding world of rapid prototyping? What does the "maker" culture think of her work? What is retained from the DIY in her large-scale, quick-copy publishing?

Her work is well placed in this iteration of the Whitney Biennial since so much of the selected work concerns the "complex relationships between linguistic and visual forms," in the words of her curator, Stuart Comer. I thought the exhibition in its enormity displayed the complex relationships between visual forms and just about everything else. Much of the work situated art practices in other worlds, and situated other worlds (publishing, archiving, narrative film...) inside the world of art.


"SLOW", here.

Here is a new zine published by the alumni, students, and faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. In their introduction, the editors suggest that each issue will be featuring a geographical as well as thematic focus. To start, the region featured is "La Frontera," the Mexican north / the US southwest; and the theme is "slow." Pam Calore, an alumni of VCFA who lives and works in San Deigo, sent me a link to this zine because her contribution to it features a photo that she took of one of the blankets made by way of my project Comforter Art Action. Pam delivered that blanket to a shelter for deported migrants in Tijuana. She fittingly paired the blanket photo with one she took of a protest sign at the Mexican/US border: "No Militariza[...] La Frontera" | "Angeles Sin Fronteras". The sign is partially obscured by drying clothes, evidence of the daily and personal costs of the militarized border. This edition of here ends with a manifesto by Faith Wilding that works by chronicling a day well spent in mindful attention to its pleasures, including its delays.

"Don't let speed control you. The slow body's pleasures and pains are part of your radical subjectivity." Faith Wilding, "Manifesto for the Slow Body-Mind," Here, VCFA (2014)

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Embroidery Event - February 22, 2014 (1-4pm)


Slofemists will be embroidering again next Saturday (February 22, 1-3pm). For this event, Cindy Mochizuki has graciously agreed to tell us about her grandmother's practice in the Japanese art of Bunka Shishu (or thread painting). Everyone is invited to bring feminist stories, as usual. Embroidery supplies and equipment will be available. No prior experience needed. If you have your own project to work on, bring it along, otherwise, Slofemist Patterns will be available for you to work on.

Note: This gathering will move out of the Yukon Studio, for this time only, and take place in The Textiles Institute, an itinerant project space created in Emily Carr's Abraham J Rogatnick Media Gallery by Lexie Owen. Owen is an Emily Carr University student of visual art and critical studies. This is how she describes The Textiles Institute:

Anyone with any type of interest in textiles is welcome to use the provided work space from Feb 12-23rd. The project hopes to create an opportunity for knowledge exchange between art and design, students, faculty, support staff, and the public, and proposes itself as a potential model for a topic driven post-displinary workspace. The space is a structure for exchange, and throughout its duration will host sewing bees, knitting groups, design consortiums, fashion designers, performance works, and a variety of workshops.


Embroidery Event - February 8, 2014 (1-4pm)

Slofemitsts will be embroidering at the Yukon Studio next Saturday. We've invited Elisa Ferrari to talk about her experience embroidering a Boetti panel. Bring your own feminist story... and come ready to embroider!


16 DICEMBRE 2040–11 LUGLIO 2023 (December 16, 2040–July 11, 2023). 1971

Embroidery on fabric. Each: 23 5/8 x 23 5/8" (60 x 60 cm). Private collection, Houston. © 2012 Estate of Alighiero Boetti/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

These embroidered squares were the first works Boetti had fabricated in Kabul, on his initial visit to Afghanistan. He supplied the dates to hired embroiderers without further direction, and he was pleasantly surprised when the texts came back surrounded by ornate borders. Boetti was interested in the idea that an artwork might be produced by different parties without collaboration or discussion—a form of authorship that is split rather than shared. The dates had superstitious connotations for Boetti: December 16, 2040, will be the hundredth anniversary of his birth; July 11, 2023, is the date he predicted for his death.


Upcoming Slofemists Events - [[MORE Details & Date Changes!]]

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 5.40.52 PMWe are excited to offer special guests at our upcoming 2014 Slofemists events.

We hope you can make it to one or more of these studio embroidery circles in Vancouver, Canada:

Saturday, February 8, 1-3pm = Special Guest, Elisa Ferrari will talk about how she came to embroider an Alighiero Boetti textile. We hope to bring a feminist frame to his iconic textile work.

Saturday, February 22, 1-3 pm = Special Guest, Cindy Mochizuki will discuss her grandmother’s practice in the Japanese art of Bunka Shishu (or thread painting).

Saturday, March 29, 1-3 pm = Special Guest, Lexie Owen will talk about why her projects (The Collaborative Embroidery Society, and more) bring critical theory alongside handwork like embroidery.

These are small, free events that take place at the Yukon Street studio near the O. Village Sky Train station. No skill or equipment is needed (but you are invited to bring your own embroidery supplies if you have them.) Please send an email [loisATloisklassenDOTcom] to reserve a place, and to get details on the location.

[[Note the change of dates from previous posts.]]

"Notions of Participation and Collaboration in Art..."

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The new SOMA Summer 2014 call for applicants is in circulation right now. Each year the theme and faculty change. This year the program will be 8 weeks, and the topic holding it all together will take up "Participation and Collaboration." From experience, I would call it an intensive summer immersion into contemporary art and sites of Ciudad de Mexico! LK

Download SOMASummer2014InfoSmall