Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Art of Joan Schulze Poetic Licence

A few days ago I asked my husband if he could give me an example of something that was obscure, his reply: "the way you look for connections between things when there aren't any".
But here is an example of something that has definite connections with this project. In November 2008, Joan visited me and asked me to write an essay to be included in a catalogue to her retrospective exhibition to be held in February 2010. By June this year the catalogue had become a book: The Art of Joan Schulze, Poetic Licence which will be published at the end of January and it will contain my essay, 'A Poetics of Cloth, Paper, Stitch and Line'.
But I know I still haven't explained how this project is connected to the overarching subject of this blog which focuses on a study of interconnections and the work of three quiltmakers: Judy McDermott, Pamela Fitzsimons and Emma Rowden.
In September 2000 I visited Judy in the old gold-mining town of Hill End, where she was the artist-in-residence at Haefligers' Cottage . Early the first morning and over a cup of tea, Judy asked me if I had seen the work of Joan Schulze (Judy had visited the States earlier that year and had bought a book of Joan's work, the first volume of The Art of Joan Schulze). As we looked through images of Joan's work together Judy suggested I could contact Joan as part of the research I was doing for my masters.
I 'googled' Joan when I got home and finding an email address, sent her an email. Within a couple of hours I had a reply and from Joan herself...And so a dialogue began: emails and letters, a first meeting in San Francisco when I visited Joan in her studio. Joan visited Australia the following year and Judy, Pamela and I (plus others) were in a workshop she gave at Lake Keepit near Tamworth.
Joan later selected an essay of mine to be included in another of her catalogues but this is the first time I have work published in a book , one with hard covers (although it is also to be published in softcover form).
So one thing leads to another and I have Judy to thank for introducing me to Joan's work.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How can I keep my thoughts together?

I plan to write a post on my blog most days but my time gets scattered, int erupted, distracted and, thought unlike fragments, which can be collected and joined together again (I could say 'pieced' but I would give myself away here) to form a whole, if one that is incomplete and different from that first envisaged. An element of despair here--how ever will I keep myself together?
I have been thinking about 'embodiment' and this has more to do (at the start anyway) with issues raised for me in Emma's project on the Callan Park site. Emma recently sent me a draft of a paper she was to give (and has now given) at the University of Lincoln on 'Architecture and Justice'. Her PhD explores the concept of the 'virtual court': a system of justice which at its extreme could result in the business of 'the court' taking place in cyberspace (but I am not doing her considerable work justice here and I hope to explore it on more detail and, more accurately with Emma herself or perhaps she will do it for me!).

In her paper, she explores an individuals "embodied experience" in a court of justice unmediated by communication technology in comparison with the court mediated by communication technology: what she terms the "situated body" versus the "dis-located' body.

I see (well, definitely intuit) a connection between the court, the mental hospital (Callan Park) and the gaol (Long Bay--I had written 'of course' but even that needs further explanation) and thus Emma's quilt and those in Judy McDermott's Big House series...Connections with quilts in their material form and the idea of their structure being related to concepts of smooth space and the structure of cyberspace...And the blog as a series of fragments on similar and disparate topics. And remember I am looking for connections that are disparate, as well as, similar. Perhaps it is 'disparateness' (interestingly the spellchecker wants me to write 'desperateness' here, it may well have a point) which offers greater possibilities (certainly initially). But then one can never be certain.
I find my thoughts ricocheting between mind and body, concepts of sanity (losing ones mind), even the thought of posting a blog (that is writing something somewhere in the nothingness of cyberspace, or is the the something-know-not-what of cyberspace) but then letters get lost too.
Image: from my '26 Object Project' (2008)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quilting the Blog/Blogging the Quilt

After two months of experimenting with the process of blogging I realise that whereas cyberspace may well have share similarities in structure with the quilt, the process of writing a blog is a linear one and therefore does not offer the possibilities of a rhizomal structure as anticipated. I was also finding that this blog (quilted-out-of-space) is more of a journal of my thoughts and day-to-day encounters than explorations of the specific quilts which form the basis of this project.
This is where the idea of inter-linking a number of separate blogs comes from, thereby giving me, the writer the possibility of cross-referencing ideas in time and space between the different blogs.
So, I have set up: quilted-out-of-gaol, quilted-out-of-time and, quilted-out-of mind together with this first blog site, quilted-out-of-space.
Each of the three new blogs will focus on specific work by the three artists as well as seek out connections in terms of similarities and disparities between them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

By Coincidence

I find myself collecting all those small fragments left over from a quilt, fragments too precious to throw into the bin beneath my work table. The pile grows steadily until it starts to encroach into my working space, then a pile of plant-dyed wools gets mixed with the fragments and, here before me, by pure coincidence and little else, I have the making of a quilt--my 'parallel journeys' quilt, named in honour of an emerging and unexpected (coincidental?) collaboration. I choose my words with care. Already 'pure' unsettles me, questions arise in my writing mind ('honour' seems appropriate it's how I feel, honoured that such actions, those of collaboration seem to be emerging of their own volition into the light).

'Pure' is by definition: unmixed, unadulterated but 'coincidence' (occurring or being together) blends those that occur or be together, creating other meaning, symbols or memories. As a noun it lacks the dynamic self which lies within it, while 'coincide' in its verb form appeals to me more--by introducing both time and space into the equation (huh I seem to be arguing my scientific self here, losing the spontaneity of a coincidence, that leap of thought to somewhere until then unknown).

I had set out to make a list of coincidences but instead I find it is coincidence itself which appears to be a dynamic of this project. I have Francis Ponge and Ruth to thank for this insight. A book of Ponge's selected poems sits next to me as I write and I had lifted it absent-mindedly (my mind coincidentally elsewhere concerning itself with Nick's un-wellness and need for chicken soup) and read it before I started to type out this erstwhile list.

Water's restlessness: sensitive to the slightest change of slope. Jumping downstairs both feet at a time. Playful, childishly obedient, coming right back when you call it by shifting the incline to this side (FP, Selected Poems, p59).

And a poem by Mark Tredinnick included in this year's "Best Australian Poems": for I am also marked by the moon, my vision occluded.

On Coincidence

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Smoke?

No, I'm not advocating the benefits of taking up smoking but I did come across an interesting article in a rercent issue of 'Cosmos' magazine (#29) entitled, Why Schizophrenics Smoke (p16).

Statistics suggest over three times as many people suffering from schizophrenia smoke when compared to the population as a whole (the short article quotes work done by psychiatrist Ruth Barr at Queen's University Belfast, so I suspect the numbers are based on the UK population). It had been thought that the benenfits of nicotine were assosicated with overcoming the symptoms of smoking/nicotine withdrawal (I take this to be studies using nicotine patches to help smokers quit). Whereas this study investigated the link between the high incidence of smoking and the effect of nicotine on the symptoms of the illness and suggests it helps attention span, memory and reduces impulsive behaviour. So it may go at least part of the way to explain why so many people who suffer from schizophrenia smoke (...and help their family more understanding of their smoking...well perhaps!).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Postcard from MAD

This posting is the sort of postcard you carry home with you and send to a friend once you've returned--it doesn't have the authenticity of one sent from the distant destination, and so may elicit a certain disappointment in the receiver but it's a message from afar nonetheless:
We visited the new Museum of Art and Design on Columbus Circle, New York on October 13. The museum is so new it felt as if they were still unpacking the collection but check out the building (I'll put the website at the foot of this posting)--it's impressive and what is more, it's dimensions are people-friendly! We started at the second floor and walked up to the fifth or sixth (I think you're meant to take the lift to the top floor and walk down, never mind). Here are some of the things I saw and wanted to tell you about:
City Slicker (1987) by Susan Shie, I've seen her work in photographs but never before in the real , it's even crazier, 3-dimensional--pockets, cloth animals and figures attached to the surface of the quilt! I liked the idea of pockets on a quilt most of all. When I turned around from gazing at Susan's quilt, a small textile object in a case caught my eye: Tennessee Valley Authority Applique Quilt Man with Crane (1934) by Ruth Clement Bond, you can see it on the MAD website (search 'collection') I couldn't help make the connection with Kara Walker's work 70 years later! Finally (I must be running out of room if this is a postcard) Grandmother's Treasures (2008) by Vika Mitrichenka (I think this may be also known as "Tea set "Victoria: no. 12 in the collection): apparently Vika made this work in memory of her grandmother who always repaired broken china (as mine did) but as her eyesight failed she mixed and mismatched the fragments, I really like this work it appeals to my sense of the quirky. See you soon, Love from me xx

Image: New York reflected (taken by me while walking around Manhattan)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Uncanny

When I first thought about doing this project, a major attraction was the possibility of exploring other ways of looking and writing about quilts (Freud and his theories were the focus of my master's thesis). From a position of ignorance I thought Deleuze and Guattari would represent a new starting point for my ongoing work. I already knew Felix Guattari was a psychoanalyst so why was I surprised to find that no, this was not to be a new starting point but more of the next marker along the way!

But I have entitled this post, 'The Uncanny' (a reference of course to Freud's essay on the subject) so I will now explain why:

Tidying the kitchen table yesterday I came across my recent copy of 'gleebooks gleaner' which I had already read but hadn't noticed the small ad in the bottom left hand corner of the back page for a workshop to be held at the NSW Writers' Centre on December 13th: Prof Robin Hemley of Iowa University is to spend a day 'Exploring Creative Non-Fiction', the very thing that drives me forward...and I know about the Iowa Writing Program (it's famous!).

So I rang this morning just before 9am. Yes, there are still places but another person (Julie) will phone me back, the workshop is for experienced, published writers working on a creative non-fiction project and will I qualify?
(Please, please yes!).

So what is uncanny about this, you ask?

The NSW Writers' Centre is located in the grounds of Callan Park, now Sydney College of the Arts. It is 'Garryowen' the very house John Ryan Brenan, my great great great grand father built in 1839!

I grew up thinking it was family mythology that we once owned a grand house on the banks of the Parramatta River (by this I mean wishful, fanciful, after all my grandmother also thought I should marry Prince Charles...), a family story which also claimed the house and grounds were lost in a card game by 'wicked Uncle Joe' (John Ryan's third son, born 1824).

All this was changed when Em started telling me about her final year architecture project, 'Reconfiguring the Wall'. I had laughed telling her my grandmother had believed the family had one owned the property and when I mentioned the family name, Em had replied yes--her research in the Mitchell Library confirmed the family story!

What is more, it is the subject of one of the quilts this project is all about and the connections are now only in the distant past but reach forward into the present, dance around us, encircle us. It may be chance, it may be fate but they are indisputable and unbreakable.

Phone call: I'm in to the masterclass!!

Notes: Sigmund Freud's essay is to be found in volume 14: Art and Literature of the Penguin Freud Library1985, p335-376
An image of the house can be found on the NSW Wriers' Centre website
The image at the beginning of this post is another taken during the process of rebinding Meadow's book

Sunday, November 8, 2009


A month or so ago a friend asked me if I would re-bind a favourite book of nursery rhymes which had belonged to her son, now father of a daughter, her grand-daughter. The book duly arrived and I spent the next month fearful my inexperience in the art of re-binding books would damage what was obviously a book of great personal value. Yet the book itself was in need of repair: it lacked a spine and the covers were falling off. So I went ahead, first dismantling the book then repairing the individual pages and stitching them back together using teal-coloured linen bookbinding thread (why use cream thread when it is a children's book and the teal seemed to match the illustrations!). When I reassembled the pages and found I had reversed pages 21 and 22, I vacillated over whether to correct my mistake (which would mean re-cutting and turning the pages potentially damaging them further) but ended up leaving them as they were (reassured by an email leaving the decision up to me). I made the casing out of green buckram book-cloth--similar to the original--and finally a dust cover.

The whole process was a joyful one, the book is full of full of rhymes, some I remember from my childhood and some I don't, and the illustrations by Helen Oxenbury are quirky.

Why am I including it here--well, it started me thinking what connects/binds us?
Friendship, time and place, interests, personal story/the stories we tell and, in terms of this project: institutions (asylum/prison/notions of home) the edge of a quilt is bound, so are we.
Details of the book: "Cake and Custard" Children's rhymes chosen by Brain Alderson and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, published by Heinemann: London, 1974
Images: Top right: book re-bound, top left: dismantling the book

Monday, October 12, 2009

New York, New York

I am writing this in New York, it's just before 6am--the trials of jet lag, we awoke around 4am. Our first morning we took a cab to see an exhibition by Farida Bartool, 'Maa Tuje Salaam' (Hail To Mother) at the Aícon Gallery . The connection: she was doing a masters at CoFA the same time I was and we got talking on the first day--our topics were seemingly unrelated but there were already a number of other connections: I had lived in Pakistan (where Farida is from) as a child but even apart from that there was always lots to discuss. After finishing her masters, she returned to Lahore, married, gave birth to a son and continued working and we have kept in contact. She is now in London studying for a PhD (another topic we discussed regularly), and when she sent a notice of this, her first exhibition in NY I found the last day of the exhibition would be our first day here.
Why do I feel all this is a topic for this blog? I think it has to do with connections of disparate and similar people and places (D & G's rhizome), across time and shared experience. Her message is quite overtly political but carries the personal and private anxiety of a mother (her son's image appears in a number of the works overlaid with confronting images of the military and, in another work, of surveillance). She uses the photographic process of 'leticular' prints (I need to check I have the correct term) which has the effect of making the images shift from one to another and while I am not convinced with the aesthetic result I think I am beginning to understand ('see') that it is appropriate to her message.
Images: (1) from the exhibition (2) a mirror encountered in a restaurant where we stopped for lunch (--a hamburger, it is NYC!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009


There is an echo in my head. I dare not call mine 'art', or any such thing. And yet there is all of me in it. 'Re-enactment' can be 'performance', as giving voice.
There are threads of connection here, I know and admire this artist's work and puzzle the responses she gives to the poet's questions as to her inspiration. She is an artist who gives voice (and form) to those who lived their lives in places such as (and including) Callan Park.
There is more for me to work on here.
The poet is artist too, her work taps felt experience and if she is but 're-enacting' it, it is with courage which tears away the other's cloak of invisibility.
I thank her for it.

A Poem

A poem sent to me by a friend this morning (I have her permission to post it here):


After the gallery talk
I approached and asked
if her life inspired her art
(it seemed important at the time).
but she said 'no',
she liked it to be 'cold'
and not a 're-enactment'.

Hers is a noble art,
she gives voices to the silenced
gleaned from archives and research,
unlike mine which I now see
has broken a taboo.
To bridge aesthetic distance
is verboten
and I have crossed a line.

Work made to save one's life
enters into territory
too discomforting and difficult,
too vunerable and fragile,
too self-revealing
to call Art.

VK 19.2.09
Today is not a day for blogs, this morning I have attempted to post two poems (a friends and my own plus one written at the time and I thought now lost:

I have a voice
A cry
lost in
deep space.

Or not.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Balance

Last night at yoga we spent the session concentrating on balance and, as I was having particular difficulties maintaining my balance, I thought there must be a message in it for I started with the quilt and the concept of 'balance' in aesthetics and design. All three of the quiltmakers I am interested in have a particular way of approaching 'balance' (to which I add, in my opinion to all points, of course!):

  • as an architect, Emma Rowden would bring a very special set of precepts (whether conscious or not), her training and tendency would be a 'balance in terms of the spacial arrangement' the units or blocks making up the quilt surface (I need to remember this point when exploring 'space' further)
  • Judy McDermott was a potter before a quiltmaker and her surfaces bear the mark of her experience in moulding pots. Many of her quilts are large and weighty--I had a personal experience of this when hanging her exhibition, there was no way many of the larger quilts could be hung single-handed! J was cognisant of the theory but would often challenge it intentionally with the result that the viewer would be put 'off' balance, a potentially unsettling experience
  • Pamela Fitzsimons has a strong commitment to aesthetics and design in a work, whether it be hers or someone else's. Her works are evidence of this and very beautiful (and satisfying) to look at i.e. balanced in a visual sense

Then there are considerations of balance in the narrative sense:

  • by definition a quilt is one-sided, some makers use both sides, as in both points of view. Em and Judy utilise both sides (I make this statement and start to think of one does!)
  • can terms such as 'narrative arch' be applied to quilts, I need to think more about this, particularly in terms of my examples
  • does 'binding' add balance (resolution)? This is where quilts confront notions of 'smooth' space which is un-bounded

There are the linguistic uses of 'balance', for example:

  • if I am 'unbalanced' I am unstable, off my head. with relevance in terms of one quilt's connection with the site of a mental hospital and potentially another series with a gaol...I am getting ahead of myself in this blog as I realise I still have to set out the parameters of my use the vernacular and say someone is off their block...
  • does justice aim to be 'balanced' i.e. fair...allow both sides of the argument to be heard?

Now I am looking up the various definitions of 'balance' in the OED (there are lots!)

  • apparatus for = an object, let's use a quilt as the central pivot
  • counteracting force
  • regulating device
  • harmony and proportion (ref, art as above)
  • in the... in dispute, uncertain
  • strike a ... moderate course, between anecdote and theory perhaps

Images: Judy McDermott, 'Love Will Nail You To The Cross' 1995-7 (200 x 140 cm); Pamela Fitzsimons, installation shot (details to come)

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Studio, The Project (part 1)

First up where does the name for this blog come from? A few years ago, before my studio was built I dreamt I was standing in the doorway to my (to be) studio above which was a sign: 'Quilted Out Of Space' and when I was deciding what to call this blog, I remembered the name and, since my project is all about space or, more correctly, 'smooth space', it seemed to fit!
Today (and yesterday and the day before that and before that) seems to have been spent chasing the red dust around and around.
So, to my current project, I've called that (and yes I love namimg things): Preforming the Quilt, From the Block to the Blog and Back Again. It has started as 'Bog' instead of 'Block' because of an early reference to my great great great grandfather who first built a house on a the site associated with one of the quilts I am interested in as part of this project. He was an Irish Catholic who arrived in Sydney (Australia) in 1834. Studying his story it seems as though he encountered his share of prejudice from the 'establishment' because of his background as 'bog irish'. He was a barrister and appointed coroner but missed out on the job as superintendent of convicts which would have secured the family financially.
(To be continued...)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hi I thought I would attempt to sign-in again and it works, so by tomorrow I hope to have set up more information on my blog!
Hi, this is the first time I've set up a blog so this is a 'test' (in more ways than one). I am hoping to post regular blogs on my project--quilted out of space--and hoping to get as many comments as possible .
So, fingers crossed, here goes...