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)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All Best Wishes for 2011!

Does the Art Quilt exist?

As we continue to use lines to divide ourselves into parts, we lose a sense of the whole. We tend to forget that even as lines divide, they also connect. While we so readily express our differences, let us also acknowledge our common humanity." (source: Kim Schmahmann)
Since I first started to research quilts, I have had a problem with the use of the term, 'art quilt' to identify a separate category of layered and stitched textiles that fall within the broader category of quilts.

As a starting point I would like to suggest that there is not such category and draw attention to  
two exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum:  

  • Quilts In Common was the opening exhibition for the IQSC in 2008. As the curators It took a unique approach to the quilts by making connections between the various quilts in terms of individual marks, design, shape, technique, symbolism and by displaying the quilts alongside other objects

  • The second was  South Asian Seams, an exhibition of quilts from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  I had the opportunity to see this exhibition for myself at the Textile Society of America conference in Lincoln, Nebraska this October--the quilts were vibrant and completely in context within the gallery context.  

I intend to explore this issue in future Posts--and would appreciate any comments on the topic!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Evolution or Revolution?

A friend asked if I'd seen the program Virtual Revolution, aired recently on the ABC. I hadn't and she sent me the link. It looks very interesting. I shall be exploring it in more detail (and there's innovative ways of doing this on the website, it's called the 3-D Explorer).

Monday, November 15, 2010

A flying lesson

A Frogmouth owl mother and her chick have taken up residence on the tree outside my studio window. As I started taking these photographs,  the adult started bobbing and stretching first one wing then the other then, to our amazement, the chick mimicked the adult's movements. 
Could this be the first lesson in learning to fly?

As I write I can see the adult owl still sitting within the crook of the tree. It is pouring with rain.

We have a number of owls in our area: the Boobook, Frogmouth, Powerful, Barking and even a Sooty Owl which perched outside the dining room window one November night. Generally we recognize each by their call: the Boobook with its two syllables which make up its name, the Frogmouth's meditative 'oom' , the Sooty Owl's descending whistle. Most often the call of the Barking Owl is also linked to its name and is something between a cough and a dog's bark, then at others ti can be can be altogether different.

One night I awoke to such a scream of such terror, I was convinced murder was taking place beneath my window.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quilted Out Of Space: Postcards from Lincoln

Quilted Out Of Space: Postcards from Lincoln : first some images--we intentionally arrived four days before the conference started and spent our time walking around the streets of Lincoln getting a feel for the place. Our focus each days (and all the days we were there) was the train station. The long goods trains were continually passing through, travelling slowly and sounding their low mournful horn (day and night). We also soon discovered and frequented the 'Indigo Bridge Cafe'--the best coffee in town! Also a bookshop and staffed by students, it also has a fantastic atmosphere.

Postcards from Lincoln

Indigo Bridge Cafe & Bookshop
(the best coffee in town)
The Train Station, Lincoln Nebraska

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'On' and 'another' matter

Postcard #3
(From Postcards from a Past'2003)
by the author

I can’t remember the sandpit but there is a photograph of me playing in it, left hand held high as I run towards the camera. Look at this, a daisy-chain, a fairy-chain, a strand of time.
Mention sand and I think of another time years later. Lying on my back staring up into the night; the sound of waves in the dark stars above: stars upon stars upon stars drawing ever upwards dissolving boundaries pondering the possibility of endlessness. There are shapes and pattens within the constellations but I do not countenance identification it tells me nothing of the possibilities above me as I lie in the still-warm slight-damp sand. I struggle to comprehend impose meaning while considering the possibility none is possible.
Infinity offers no explanation. It attempts to label the unnameable, beyond number beyond limit beyond being and by doing so ends up by limiting itself. It is labelling the known unknown (which in the act of naming must itself become known, it is the unknown unknown the other possibilities which lie beyond the horizon of knowing which draw me). 
The universe may be considered a fabric of reality knitted together in dark matter he tells me. The stars are visible points formed of light matter, dropped stitches within the dark cloth, loose networks of filaments stretching across time and space. Knit one purl one knit one purl one a binary code in repetition which shifts evolves in errors the hesitation dropped rhythm of stitch. Chaos theory string theory or loop quantum theory with space and time made of coiled ribbons, once tangled become particles. The many strands of time entangled enfolded envelope me.
It is this repetition of stitch and not the single stitch itself which offers consolation. The knitted stitch, one needle through the stitch on the other, strand forward and looped around the needle, stitch pulled through. Knit stitch, purl stitch, increase, decrease, cast off but not the universe.
(From 26 Object Project, 2008)

The arrival of Edgar Levensen's paper, 'The Enigma of the Unconscious' (2001) last Wednesday provided that leap of understanding that perhaps, just perhaps, the questions I had been asking early in this project about 'space' and within that the void and more recently the workings of 'smooth' space could be answered by the notion of  'hyperspace'. 
Levensen's paper is about the unconscious, and the role of the analyst in the process of treatment yet I believe he manages to open up all sorts of intriguing ideas which include D&G's concept of 'smooth space'. He states;
"Conscious thinking follows the rules of Greek logic--deduction, categorizing, inferring--our Western cultural heritage. [a form of 'striated space']. In contrast, unconscious thinking seems closer to free-ranging hypertext...where words and concepts are pursued to their most unexpected implications ['smooth space']. (p247--my emphases) 
The resulting text he points out, ' a self-regenerating process'. Levensen then goes on to state:
 I think the brain is individual but mind is a field phenomenon, a network, a web. (p250--my emphasis)
It is that glimpse of possibility that the use of 'smooth space' can be helpful in generating new ways of seeing, new ways of hearing. An interactive 'cabinet of curiousity'

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's midnight in the garden

Midnight in the Garden of Academe (2004)
Judy McDermott
102 x 76 cm
Silk. Cotton Batting. Machine quilted with cotton thread.
Knots are hand-dyed silk.

Completed in 2004, Midnight in the Garden of Academe was exhibited first in the US and then in Germany after Judy's death in 2005. I didn't have the opportunity to discuss this quilt with Judy but her husband told me that just as A Real Pretend Wagga for Paul Klee (1998)--selected for 'Quilt National' in 1999--was all about 'colour', Midnight in the Garden of Academe was all about 'texture'.


The titles of Judy's works are important, even if it is  now up to us to decode them the best way we can. She loved language--puns, double meanings, to cross-reference her quilts to poetry, to literature. Some, like Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie (2002) were named after a song title which she told me she had heard on the radio after the song itself had been played...Judy's daughter explained that Love Will Nail You to the Cross (1995-1997) was also named after a song: 'Nail You to the Cross' by John Ewbank. I have a recording of Jeannie Lewis  made in 1995 ('Tango Australis', Sole Music). The words and music are powerful, the message hard-hitting, it's message of inevitability: 
"Love's going to nail you to the cross/Love's going to nail you to the cross/It'll go right through you/It'll flatter and fool you/It'll do you good and nail you to the cross."
And the quilt itself takes that message even further: it is the private made public, looking being made visible, the quilt can both reveal and conceal, it is reversible (the narratives to be understood from both sides), it enfolds. To work with Judy's quilts is to continually uncover alternative meaning, uncover new stories.

The art quilt as a medium of expression draws on the tradition of the utilitarian quilt and, as such, is associated with home and family. Placing the quilt within the gallery allows these conventional narratives to be re-assessed and the opportunity for other, even 'hidden' meanings to emerge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wonder (4): connections--the cabinet, the blog

Bureau of Bureaucracy (1993-99)
Kim  Schmahmann
various wood veneers & hardwoods, mother of pearl,
gold leaf & brass

I saw this cabinet of curiosities ('...of Bureaucracy') in the Renwick Gallery Washington DC  when I visited in 2007.

Made by Kim Schmahmann, the workmanship is exquisite, personal yet universal--the lower drawers contain Schmahmann's birth certificate, marriage certificate and death certificate (not yet filled out).


The more I think about it, the more connections I can find between such cabinets, the blog and the quilts. And returning to the Macquarie Chest, these become quite specific:
  • Lost birds: the bird depicted (or 'noticeably' absent) from this series of small quilts is the Glossy Black Cockatoo. These are becoming increasing uncommon due to the felling of their food source, the casuarina (she-oak, or Botany Bay wood) tree. Identified by the early colonists as being particularly good for making furniture, it was used to make a number of the early cabinets used to store scientific collections. The Macquarie Chest, however, is made from Australian Red Cedar and Australian Rosewood (rose mahogany) both found in the Lower Hunter district (of NSW) but now quite uncommon due to their early popularity. The Red Cedar and Turpentine trees on the property where Pamela now lives was felled in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The logs were brought out along snig tracks that form the basis of many of the walkways today.
  • It was the convicts, transported from England, who worked the lumber yards in the early days of the colony, among these were cabinet-makers who also took on private commissions such as the Macquarie Chest.  (A connection to the 'Big House' series).
  • The Callan Park estate was first settled by John Ryan Brenan who arrived in Sydney in 1834, only thirteen  years after Macquarie's time as Governor of NSW ended.
  • It is their 'secret' histories that make these objects so intriguing--the personal details of the collector's life, the reasons behind the selections that make up the collection and, what has happened to the object in the years since. Each of these quilts bring to light histories of various kinds--of a particular site (the Gorge, Callan Park), of the 'others' in society (the mentally ill, those who have broken the law) and even the quilt itself, too often overlooked as a medium of personal expression and work of art.  
As I write this and search for even more connections (feeling certain there are some). I realise the obvious-- it is not the works themselves which are making the connections but my own mind. Just I choose the individual pieces of cloth to make a quilt, I am making connections and putting together stories that link the three quilts which make up this project. Thus a 'cabinet of curiosities' can be a metaphor for the mind, and this blog becomes a reflection of the way mine works...a performance of 'smooth thinking' (see my Post, 'Smooth Thought' dated January 19 this year). 

When I looked around Kim Schmahmann's website, I noticed the following statement and perhaps I shall use it as an epigraph to this project:
"We have become a planet filled with lines, lines that have become essential to our existence. We are so dependent on these lines we cannot imagine a world without them. We use lines to create countries, towns, time zones, production lines and deadlines. We live and die by these lines, and yet none of these lines exist except in our imaginations and through our actions. That is the power of lines.
As we continue to use lines to divide ourselves into parts, we lose a sense of the whole. We tend to forget that even as lines divide, they also connect. While we so readily express our differences, let us also acknowledge our common humanity." (source)
Elizabeth Ellis, 'Rare & Curious'--for details of the Macquarie Chest

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wonder (3)--a response & more thoughts

I'm writing this in response to Ruth's comments to my Post, 'Wunderkammer/Wundernet' (August 28). Ruth asked certain questions which have helped me clarify my thoughts and the reasons why I made the link between Pamela's Lost birds series and the wunderkammer/cabinet of curiosities and here are some of my answers:
  • When I opened the 'Spectrum' section of the week-end Sydney Morning Herald at John McDonald's review of Curious Colony, it was the image of the open Newcastle Chest that caught my eye--in the centre of which was Louise Weaver's Area (2010):
Louise Weaver: Melbourne-based artist Louise Weaver has responded to the Macquarie chest’s drawers and trays of taxidermied birds. Weaver’s drawer installation includes a native budgerigar, a zebra finch and a rainbow lorikeet, united by a wreath of wattle made from crocheted handblown-glass orbs. Weaver’s birds are ‘taxidermied from the outside’. Mummified in brightly coloured crotchet, they call into question our historical treatment of nature and our frenzied collecting and museumising.

 Louise Weaver Arena 2010

Louise Weaver Arena 2010

hand-crocheted lambswool over taxidermied
zebra finch (Poephila guttata), budgerigar
(Melopsittacus undulatus), rainbow lorikeet
(Trichoglossus haematodus), hand-blown glass,
wooden beads, cotton embroidery thread, gold
leaf and mono filament, 8.2 x 47.0 x 36.0 cm
Photography by Mark Ashkanasy
courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

[Image and text down loaded from the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery's website, 1/9/2010]

  • That 'leap of connection with Pamela's Lost birds series was initially probably figurative, a visual connection with the subject matter (birds) but then I believe it goes deeper than that--it's that sense of the 'unexpected'and 'wonder' that I feel with both Pamela's and Louise Weaver's works
  • And yes, the wunderkammer as an object intrigues me too, that sense of discovery. And yet I also associate it with a sense of 'loss'--and this is where early memories come in
  • Memories of the museums from my childhood...the taxidermied animals, often rare, sometimes extinct; various bits and pieces, sometimes whole organisms, preserved in formaldehyde, the fusty bottles/jars carefully labelled in copper script handwriting. These museums were very different from the museums of today, they often had poor lighting and crowded shelves [I had already made this connection when I asked Pamela if I could use her Lost Birds in this project]
  • my own boxes of objects precious--related through their perceived value to me personally rather than to each other. And as Helmut Lueckenhausen (quoting Milhaly Csikszentmihalyi) points out:
"These patterns, and many of the others that emerged from the data [his research], suggest that (at least in our culture and in the present historical period) objects do not create order in the viewer's mind by embodying principles of visual order; they do so by helping the viewer struggle for the ordering of his or her own experience." (p36)
This also leads on to a point I touched on in an earlier post. I believe the Lost birds series is different to other work by Pamela in certain ways:

  • it contains figurative references (albeit silhouettes, chalk outlines of a body at the scene of a crime) 
  • while it, as her other work, is linked to a profound sense of place  (the Bow Wow Gorge) and the process of time, it is a of a more recent 'time' (even to the present, the glossy black cockatoo is still around, if uncommon) than many of her other works which reference the Permian, a period in the earth's history 245-360 million years ago . It connects to the scientific work Pamela does as a conservationist; Pamela keeps a journal which documents the plant and bird species, and records rainfall as she returns most days to explore the creek, caves and ridges. 
Lost birds #4 (2006/7)

Pamela Fitzsimons
[scanned image]

Another work by Pamela Fitzsimons:

Rock fissures (2005)
77 x 85 cm
plant dyed wool, layered and hand stitched

I find the nature (or essence) of 'wonder' in and of itself most difficult to put into is an encounter which surprises in its 'unexpected', if not in it's completely 'unknown' nature.

[During the writing of this post, I have realised another coincidental connection with Yann Mantel's book, 'Beatrice and Virgil'--the main character, a writer called 'Henry' meets another character, also called 'Henry' (interesting 'doubling' here) who is a taxidermist. 'Beatrice' a donkey and, 'Virgil' a howler monkey are both taxidermied animals: Post August 8,  Blogbook August 2

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spring is on it's way!

This is a pot of lavender outside my  studio, if you look carefully you might find a bee on one of the flowers. They have arrived only in the past few days. Spring starts officially on Wednesday--the first of September. It's been a cold winter and today still feels cold but the sun is shining! (We've had a lot of rain, we use the rain off the roof--our only water supply, so are very aware of the amount of rain that falls. The plants also show how much rain we've been having).
I have included this as my studio was the inspiration for the name of this blog (as I pointed out in one of the first Posts). The plants growing in pots which I pass on my way from the house to my studio are an ongoing source of inspiration.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


After working on the previous Post, Wunderkammer/Lost birds, I suddenly thought of a blog which could function in a similar way--the Pages and hyper-links opening up (as a drawer of a cabinet might) to reveal an object, image or text of wonder and curiosity. It was soon after that I recalled a work by Anna Munster, artist and writer, Wnndernet--a set of  four  ' virtual'  and interactive Cabinets of Curiosities or Wunderkammers. 
Uploaded onto the Internet in 2000,  Wnndernet invites the participant to explore of series of links initially classified into four main categories (which I have called 'cabinets' as clicking on the link brings one first to such an image) of exotica, historica, machina, and transgenica. From there one is drawn through a series of  hyper-links to image, sound,  text and site, 'within' and 'out with' Wundernet itself. Even the visuals are combinations of the visceral (flesh and bones), the valuable (collectible objects) and the virtual (mathematical symbols). The fragments of text lead one on to the the complete (and downloadable) original text. Melding art and science, fact and fantasy, and philosophical theory, the ideas from the (potentially)  finite content are open to (possibly) infinite variation and rearrangement.  However tempting it is to view one as the digital version of the physical object 'other', both which make connection-in-difference (and therein are of such interest to this project and its exploration of the notion of 'smooth' space), there are differences between the physical Wnderkammer and the virtual Wundernet, as Marsha Meskimmon points out:
Based on the Wunderkammer, its visual tropes, structural logic and reliance upon collection and display as navigational propositions, are from the first  a knowing projection of the past into the present. However, the connections between the digital Wundernet and the Wunderkammer are meant to produce a gap, an interval, through which their constitutive difference enables us to make experimental, conceptual leaps in thinking. (p122)  
And what I am calling 'smooth space'...

Marsha Meskimmon, Women Making Art (2003)

Reconfiguring the Wall  (2006) detail
Emma Riwden
The research material Emma gathered could have been pieced/re-pieced in any number of ways and the connections made lead to a  number of  conclusions...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wunderkammer & The Lost Birds Series

The history of the sheer magical existence of the previously unimagined and the evolution of curiosity into a quest for understanding are in part the history of our material culture. (Helmut Lueckenhausen, p30)
Writing in the week-end edition of The Sydney Morning Herald ( August 7-8, 2010), John McDonald describes The Newcastle Chest which was commissioned for an exhibition at the Newcastle Regional Gallery's exhibition, Curious Colony: A 21st Century Wunderkammer.
The Newcastle Chest sits at the centre of this exhibition which  mixes the work of the early colonial artists with the contemporary. The Chest itself refers to an earlier one--Governor Macquarie's Collectors' Chest , now held in the Sate Library of NSW but considered too fragile to travel to Newcastle for their exhibition.
Popular around the 16th and 17th centuries, the 'Cabinet of Curiosity' (Wunderkammer) was often made for a number of reasons--naturalia (to contain specimens of rare plants),  exotica (possession of  other cultures), or artefacta (to contain art works).
Helmut Lueckenhausen goes on to explain:
The Wunderkammer systematised its contents by the very fact of its existence. No matter how diverse or seemingly unrelated the parts, the physical fact of their being brought together turned the furniture [ie the cabinet] into a rationalising and probably even unifying structure. (p36)

The Lost birds #1
(scanned image)
In size (approx. 20 x20 cm), the eight panels of  the  Lost birds series (2006/7) by Pamela Fitzsimons. would fit into such a Cabinet of Curiosity. And as such, they fulfill each of  Lueckenhausen's categories:

  • Naturalia: depicting the Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynhus lathami) would have been seen regularly by the early colonialists but are now uncommon due to the clearing of woodland and particularly of the casuarinas, which form this cockatoo's source of food . Pamela is both artist and environmentalist; her work is informed by her love for the land, and: "...patterns, colours, textures, changing shapes, and nature's cycles are recurring themes".
  • Exotica: this cockatoo would have appeared strange and exotic to the first settlers, its 'massive bulbous bill' and strange whining call would have made it a subject of curiosity. Unfortunately its now 'uncommon' status means it is become increasingly 'exotic' and potentially endangered.
  • Artefacta: Pamela's work is informed by the landscape in which she lives--she explains: "Walking through the landscape, observing birds and animals, listening, thinking and meditating in the bush all provide inspiration". The colours of the plant-dyed and coloured silks and the intensity of the hand stitching  make her works objects of wonder.   

 Helmut Lueckenhausen, 'Wonder and despite: craft and design in museum history' in, 'Craft and Contemporary Theory' Sue Rowley (ed)
Pamela Fitzsimons, artist's statement from the catalog to the exhibition, Changing Places Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery (2007)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Textile Fibre Forum arrived in my postbox yesterday. As I opened it, images of tea-towels pegged to a  line extending toward the horizon at sunrise sprung off the page. This was Windwash, an installation of 201 hand-printed tea-cloths hung across the surface of Lake George (Weereewa) north east of Canberra, in March  2010. 
[And I've found the link to the full article (click here) and you'll see what I mean!]
The installation was organised by Megalo Print Studio + Gallery as part of the Weereewa Festival this year. The theme, 'Winds of Change' referred to the new wind farm on the  low hills that form  the eastern edge of the lake, and now a feature of the journey between Sydney and Canberra.
The humble tea-towel, like the quilt can be used in unexpected ways ...I'm a fan of the Third Drawer Down  company, as well as a collector of tea-towels .

Washing lines hold a fascination for a number of textile artists I know. They've told me stories of hanging the washing in groups of the same colour and show images of washing lines from their travels when they talk about their work. I particularly like to hang out cloth fresh from the dye pot and watch the colour and patterns emerge as it dries in the wind.

Plant-dyed Cloth for Reconfiguring the Wall on the Hills Hoist (2006)

More plant-dyed cloth for Reconfiguring the Wall (2006)

Textile Fibre Forum, issue 3, No. 99 2010

Sue Lawty: World Beach Project

I saw Sue Lawty's exhibition at the V&A London five years ago. I have followed her blog for some time. AS well as landscape, I find her work has an unresistable connection with language. Her 'World Beach Project' connects the virtual with the physical.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The virtual curator in smooth space

Glenn Adamson, writing in American Craft (August/September 2010) points out how Google provides a powerful tool to the curator, as:
" curator can hope to keep up with the facts and contacts that Google produces. More and more, curators aren't so much those in the know; they are professionals who shape what we know already (or can know at a moment's notice)."(p66)
He names a number of exhibition where artists have used Google as a tool to form:
"...intuitive associations: connections ranging from the purely visual to the merely coincidental to the positively conspiratorial."
These are exhibitions at actual locations: the Hayward Gallery, the Tate Modern. The Russian Linesman  by Mark Wallinger explored borders and thresholds, and the condition of liminality and included a range of objects from museum collections as well as from websites, such as YouTube. Wallinger developed this show by searching the internet.

It seems to me that these exhibitions are curated using 'smooth space', a curatorial method that allows art not to be limited by its materiality nor the dogma of definitions which attempt to corral works into specific categories such as craft and, thus the unexpected to happen--an opportunity to open up new ways of perceiving rather than to restrict oneself to those that have been before.    

Adamson, Glenn: Google Curates, American Craft August/September 2010, 66-7

Monday, August 16, 2010

Found! A quilted out of space quilt

I found a copy of Robert Shaw's 'American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780 - 2007' in a local bookshop and, opening it at random came across The Solar System Quilt made by Ellen Harding Baker in 1876 and now in the Smithsonian Museum.

It connects with many of the questions I asked earlier on and the art works I referred to.

The Solar System Quilt (1876)
Ellen Harding Baker
(Smithsonian Museum)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Casting the net

"...finally he found it where he should have looked first, on the Internet, which is a net indeed, one that can be cast farther then the eye can see and be retrieved no matter how heavy the haul, its magical mesh never breaking under the strain but always bringing in the most amazing catch...and there, in four tenths of a second, he had his answer." (Yann Mantel, Beatrice and Virgil, 2010, 170)
In a recent issue of 'Abbey's Advocate'--a newsletter from Abbey's Bookshop in Sydney, I noticed a new book, The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr. At first glance it seemed to pick up on the concern about the effect the digital could impact on the future of books as an object. But it appears to go further than that and argue that our use of the internet may be even be changing the very structure of our brains--internet search tools allow us to gather large amounts of nonlinear information from multiple sources very quickly but we risk losing our capacity for concentration, contemplation and reflection as our process of analyzing information is moving form "...the depths to the shallows" (#248).

This morning when taking a look at Arts & Letters Daily I came across a link to an article to The art of slow reading   which in addition to referring to Nicholas Carr's book, added comments from a number of academics in support of this view. The solution? Take time out for some 'slow reading' and re-reading of  they call 'physical' texts. [And for the slow art of quiltmaking...]

The structure of the mind and the internet also came up in a conversation a week or so back. We were discussing the internet and the suggestion was that the structure of the internet reflects the structure of our unconscious and explains how the experience of 'surfing the net' can elicit unexpected results and connections, just as ideas can come to mind from where we know not.   

 Cho'akpo for a Child Bride (2002) 150 x 150 cm, by Sarah Tucker (image: Fleur Shelton)

When I returned to my notes made at the beginning of this project (handwritten in a notebook I keep, if less regularly since I have been writing this blog) and I found a list of characteristics of Deleuze and Guattarri's 'smooth space': limitless, without distinction and linked with the unconscious.

Cho'akpo for a Child Bride 2002 (detail of installation, image Nick Tucker)

And so what implications does this have for this project?
I find each post is triggered by an idea/comment/image and as I write I find associations emerge which I can document via links (hyper-links) as I go, illustrating my text with images or by making connections with other texts I have found during the process of writing. The result, this weblog, is most like a lab book I might use to describe an experiment and record results, with any notes I make along the way. So I do not intend it to be an end in itself but something, I hope, which will lead to something else completely. Writing which will exist in the physical world as well as in the virtual.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

That In-Between Space

Pamela Fitzsimons, Extinction wrap 2007 
3 panels, each 110 x 150 am, machine and hand-stitched plant-dyed silk

And so what of the in-between space?

Mog Bremner's Cot Quilt For A Baby, Not Yet Born captures that moment just before a quilt comes together. While its surface design is based on an alternating nine-patch--a readily recognizable and traditional quilt block design--the layers hang separate from each other yet joined by  threads which link one layer with the others. A structure which suggests a continual and on-going such sequence of events that is, ' unique instant of production in a continual flow of changes evident in the cosmos' (DD, 22). 
In the artist's words: 
This quilt is a metaphor for an unborn baby, a potential living person. The structure is recognisable but not yet complete, and the intertwined complexity of the developing self has already begun. Imagination creates the solidity of a possible reality. (Artist's statement, catalog for 'The New Quilt 2010')
That in-between space, between self and other, a shifting space...that of performance, and also where self becomes other--a hybrid space which Homi K Bhabha calls 'The Third Space' where we may: '...emerge as the others of ourselves'.

A quilt is usually defined: ' a layered stitched textile with at least two distinct layers bound together by stitches throughout the piece'. It is a label attached to a work by the artist, thus some works may be stitched and layered but not quilts, while in others the layers may be metaphorical and linked by narrative.
This definition is taken from the entry form for  'The New Quilt 2010': a juried exhibition of twenty-six 'contemporary quilt textiles'  curated by Dianne Firth and held at th Manly Art Gallery & Museum, June 18 - July 25 2010
Mog Bremner's Cot Quilt for a Baby, Not Yet Born was selected for this exhibition. Unfortunately,  no image is available
Homi K Bhaba quoted in Mersha Meskimmon, 'Woman Making Art', p150

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interview with Author Yann Martel

I have added this interview with Yann Mantel having just finished his most recent book, 'Virgil and Beatrice' (see my 'Blogbook' entry for today).  The interview concerns his earlier book 'Life of Pi' but raises some interesting questions for me as a writer (and as a reader too!). I feel as if he threads a fine line between fiction and non-fiction (or does he? he certainly does for me as a reader).
'Beatrice and Virgil' is a book that has left me both shocked and deeply thoughtful. A play within a story on confronting issues.

I haven't commented on books I've been reading until this post...this time I felt I had to! And while I'm on the subject, I've also recently finished 'Stitches' a graphic novel (not about stitching!). Interestingly the most recent newsletter from the NSW Writers' Centre starts with an article on the Graphic Novel.

I'm keeping a list of (non-reference) books I've read in the lower left corner of this blog ('Books 2010'). I am forever open to comments suggestions! And the references I've used are listed under 'Bibliography'. Comments/suggestions also much appreciated!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Posts: Listen...& Journal of a Madman

Two recent posts in my associated blog, Reconfiguring the Wall:

  • Listen...July 19
  • Journal of a Madman, July 20

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Posting: The Big House

How to establish links between the four blogs sites that form the basis of this project?
I set up the three additional blogs: 'The Big House', 'About Time' and, 'Reconfiguring The Wall' because I was finding the process of writing a blog all too linear. In additional my first blog, Quilted Out Of Space felt as if it was becoming more of a personal journal and I decided to set up the additional blogs to focus on the individual works I had chosen for this project.
(These blogs can be reached by clicking on the link to each under 'Associated Blogs' in the top right of this blog.)
Now, in order to strengthen connections between the associated blogs, I will list postings as I write them to take visitors from this blog to the latest post on another, thereby strengthening the connections between all four.
Well, that's my intention!

See 'Restorative Justice' July 15: The Big House

Judy McDermott, The Big House: Go To Gaol (diptych) 1995-98
#2 75x110cm, #1 100x60cm
(Photograph A Payne)  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fragments: The material and the virtual

Some fragments, out-of-order but somehow related within the experience of blogging, that nagging question--what am I going here, and what is the blog anyway? Not only am I questioning the form (and already inferring materiality here, when a blog is situated within the internet somewhere in cyberspace) but keep finding the language itself keeps breaking down as I struggle to work out differences between the material and the virtual...I had thought it would be easy but it's not.  
  • a short article in the Australian newspaper on May 13, One click from blog to blah, blah, blah, written by 'Susan Wyndham (Literary Editor)'. She quotes Cate Kennedy (author of The World Beneath) who '...fears our addition to the internet is killing literature'. Kennedy maintains fiction requires '...quiet, slow reflection by writers and readers' and I'd agree but I can't see how the internet/blog in particular can compete with literature or even with the notebook (for the latter's convenience in time and internet connection failed yesterday when I planned to work on this post, so instead I put my ideas in my notebook, or rather the one of the many of notebooks that happened to be on my desk at that moment). Should I be worried? Will my writing process be  damaged beyond repair?
  • I spent a day at the Sydney Writers' Festival and noticed a number of session on the effect of what is termed, 'The Digital Age'. James Stuart opened the session 'Beyond The Book' by  speaking about the 'materiality of language' and his work 'The Material Poem' an anthology (Stuart is the editor) concerned with 'the material' but available on-line, so not totally committed to it...or is it?
  • 16th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial, a matter of time includes a work by Andrew Nicholls --an  image of a piece of cloth projected onto the gallery wall, Time After Time (2004 - 2006), the only piece in the exhibition to have no material form 
  • A visit to the Twelve By Twelve exhibition which opened  at the Gosford Regional Gallery at the beginning of June. This is an (ongoing) collaborative project by twelve quiltmakers who communicate via their blog to produce a series of twelve inch square quilts on a given theme. The first series (twelve of the themes) is now a touring exhibition. An example of the virtual (the members are scattered around the globe, no one member knows all the others) becoming material...
  • Recent visit to the Accademia in Florence and the series of unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo, the Prisoners the sculptures themselves seem to struggle to free themselves from the marble blocks from which they are made...these take me away from the argument surrounding the blog and to something altogether more fundamental, and that is that the virtual and the material are related through language and the process of creativity...the one preceding the other in the process of making. 
Post stared on June 5 and completed on July 6 2010 [a three week visit to Europe inbetween!]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where am I?

I started this project in response to a call for abstracts for the next conference of the Textile Society of America, Textiles & Settlement: From Plains Space to Cyberspace. I saw this as an opportunity to investigate the quilt medium from a different angle.

I have chosen three quilts by three Australian quiltmakers: Love Will Nail You To The Cross (1995-1997) by Judy McDermott, The Lost Bird Series (2006) by Pamela Fitzsimons and, Reconfiguring The Wall (2006) by Emma Rowden.
Each of these quilts is associated with a specific site: 'Long Bay Gaol' (Sydney NSW), the Bow Wow Gorge (lower Hunter Valley, NSW) and, 'Callan Park Hospital for the Insane' (now, 'Sydney College for the Arts', Sydney NSW). For this study each quilt is also linked with a blog site: The Big House, About Time and, Reconfiguring The Wall. Three blogs which are are stand-alone but also linked to each other and to this, the original blog set up for this project.

Just as I have chosen specific quilts by three quiltmakers, I am focusing on Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari's theory of 'Smooth Space' outlined in their book, A Thousand Plateaus. Their theory prefigured but can also be used to describe the structure of the internet (boundless,without distinctions, blurs differences, rhizomatic, connective, open ended, generative).

Thus the use of the internet is also fundamental to this project. D & G use the patchwork quilt as an illustration of their theory of smooth space, so my question is not: does the structure of the quilt resemble smooth space? but can their ideas open up other spaces for conceptualizing the quilt and the processes of quiltmaking? And testing this through the use of the process of blogging.

I see myself not as objective observer but as an active participant in this project. It is for this reason I have framed the project in terms of 'performance': a 'frame' that is not fixed but shifts - more conversation than statement - just as this blog seeks to open up other connections rather than arrive at a definitive answer.

Images: (Top) Love Will Nail You To The Cross (1995-1997) photographer A Payne
               (Middle) The Lost Bird Series (2006) photographer D Barnes
               (Bottom) Reconfiguring The Wall (2006) Photographer E Rowden

Friday, May 7, 2010

So Be It

This morning I opened Robert Dessaix's book, Arabesques, (at random) and came across this quote on page 255:
...I've made up my mind to write at random. It's not an easy undertaking because the pen (it's a fountain pen) lags behind my thoughts. Now, it's vital not to foresee what one is about to say, that's true. But there is always a bit of play-acting in it..If I feel like contradicting myself, I shall without a qualm. I won't strive for 'coherence'. But I won't affect incoherence either. Hidden away beyond logic is a way of thinking that is more important to me at this point...I aim to amuse myself here...Perhaps at this age it's permissible to let oneself go a bit. Amen. (Which means, I believe: so be it!)
Andre Gide, on the first page of his last book,
So Be It or The Chips are Down. 
Siri Hustvedt explored this process in detail in her recent book, The Shaking Woman (she doesn't mention Andre Gide!) and I've come across it described by other writers too. I've tried it myself and it's not easy, my internal critic interrupts me again and again (I can only attempt it if I tell myself it's writing not to be read by anyone else, illogical but that's how it is).
I sense this process at work when I read Thousand Plateaus. perhaps I could call it in Deleuze & Guatarri's terminology: 'nomadic writing' (or perhaps 'haptic writing' but personally I like 'nomadic' better). And perhaps also when I read Helene Cixous --writing I love best to listen to.
Maybe it's the kind of writing that sits somewhere - in a space - between prose (what I keep trying to call writing-writing) and poetry. Mark Tredinnick calls a poem (in a recent essay on Robert Gray), "...a sculpture of meaningful sound. It's an architecture of voice".

Images: Top 'Haptic Writing #1 ' (SET 2010) 21x30cm handmade book with plant-dyed paper,
       Bottom 'Haptic Writing #2'

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Language and the coming into being creatively

On Sunday I finished reading the poet Gregory Orr's autobiography, 'The Blessing'. On Monday I started reading Siri Hustvedt's 'The Shaking Woman (or A History of My Nerves)', also autobiographical.
Orr's narrative tells how he became a poet--when I first read his poetry, I found it difficult to withstand the unresolved grief at its centre--I could not 'face' it.
He had shot and killed his younger brother in a hunting accident when he was 12 years old, the book tells the story of what followed in luminous text, not a word is superfluous, not a word out-of-place (it is indeed a telling set in 'place': the two houses where he grew up, the hairy-scary outings with his father, the family's year in Haiti, Orr's time in Mississippi  as Civil Rights activist, his moment of revelation in a field of iron statues). His coming-to-be-the-poet.
And when I moved from 'The Caged Owl' poems which had threatened to undo me--to his more recent 'Concerning the Book That Is The Body Of The Beloved', I not only sensed the shift but began to see the sense of it.

In his words:

You lost the beloved.
You thought: her page
Is torn from the book
Of life. You thought
It's as if he never lived

How wrong you were:
Loss writes so many
Poems in the Book,
Writes until its hand aches,
Till it's exhausted
And can't write anymore.

Then it sings a song.
(Gregory Orr, 'Concerning The Book That Is The Body Of The Beloved', p194)

And now I am two-thirds through Siri Hustvedt's search for an understanding of her shaking condition. She documents a journey through neurology and psychiatry, through the history of philosophy and psychology. It is a narrative of her search through 'space', not 'place' and yet she continually brings the theory back to her personal experience, her own body within that space. It is more extended essay then narrative, more a coming-to-language itself.

But how and why do these books concern me so? And they do.
I find myself connected to each of the texts, emotionally and intellectually but especially emotionally. And the gift of looking within--their stories, their losses, their questions. And mine.

First binding of '26 Poems I have Encountered' (2009)

Friday, April 16, 2010

A sense of wonder

For some time I have wondered why I studied science first and only came to the arts much later (there are 30 years between my M Science and M Art Theory!). I had thought that it had to do with the 'framework' offered by scientific thought but recently I have realised the two are connected by a sense of 'wonder'.

Emma suggested I look at the website information is beautiful and it was there I did I found another link to a website with images of marine animals: 'New species in Antarctica'. And here was an example of my 'link' to understanding a part of how I came to be where I am. That moment of wonder--when I have no need of possession or of explanation, only a wish to recall the essence of the moment (Trinh T Minh-Ha also makes this point in When the Moon Waxes Red, 2991,p 23), I am still searching for Deleuze and Guattarri's view on the subject...

Yesterday I returned to a poem by Gregory Orr and found a(other) connection in the last three lines:

No wonder I go on
So. I go on so
Because of the wonder.

(Gregory Orr, Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved, Cooper Canyon Press, 2005, 83) 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sifting & Sorting

I feel the writing of a new post is way over-due and it's not because my interest in the project is in any way dimmed. Quite the opposite, I seem to have passed the initial stage--where all is new and anything is possible--to one where I am continually sifting and sorting through ideas and definitions and finding myself as lost as ever.

Continuing on from my thoughts on the void ('Smooth Thought'), I find myself looking for possibilities to explore it further. That in itself maybe a problem, am I attempting the impossible (as in searching for definitions of Deleuzian concepts, which are impossibly 'unfixed' as they are continually in a process of 'be-coming'!)--how do you explore 'nothing'? A problem of perspective, perhaps.

Take everything out of the universe and what you have left is 'vaccum'. But even in a vacuum there is something--'dark energy' (a term from astronomy I heard in an interview on ABC Radio National between Richard Fidler and Tamara Davis on the expanding universe). It seems the definition of space is  a  problem even in science. Newtonian space is external and fixed whereas for Einstein, it is mutable and bendy--space time and matter are interconnected and inter-defined.  But can space exist if there is nothing inside it? Even the astronomer can't answer. Geometry may remove the concept of 'time' from 'space'  but now space and time are linked together and considered as one 'big block' we move through; interestingly Tamara Davis spoke of it as "the fabric of space time".

Perhaps here is my problem, the words themselves are beguiling but the concepts are mind-bending (I asked a mathematician recently how she would define the void mathematically, her reply: I don't go there).

There  are a number of models of space-time, different kinds of space (and time) with different properties, all acceptable in one sense or another and so, no easy answer. To deal with this I return to a concept of space that I used in a previous project. One more relevant to this project. And thus find a way which holds onto the idea of what is a continuing process of change (temporality) that underlies this project.without rejecting the possibilities offered by the other models. Add to this the possibility of coincidence, the chance encounter and I think I am entering into the realm the 'performance'.

Meditation Square #5 (2010) detail

In The Practise of Everyday Life, French philosopher Michel de Certeau proposed an operation of language in relation to place and space, proposing 'place' to be an ordering system, akin to language and, 'space' to be a practised place with characteristics of speech and the spoken word. Hence space is unpredictable, transient and ambiguous, continually in a process of formation and never resolved.

1. This morning, while looking for another book, I came across the catalog for Space Odysseys an exhibition at the AGNSW in 2001. A friend had reminded me of it when commenting on my posting, 'Smooth Thought' but I have been unable to find the catalog until now.
Opening the catalog, Afraid? is written on the first page followed by, Don't try to understand and then, Just Believe (from Jean Cocteau's 1950 film Orphee). Good advice!

2. On a recent visit to Brisbane and the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT6) I came across a work by Charwei Tsi Mushroom Mantra--the Heart Sutra inscribed on living and slowly decaying fungi. As I was seeing this work three months after it had been installed, the mushrooms were shriveled but the calligraphy still visible. Both installation and a performance.

3. The book I was looking for (and found) this morning is about the work of performance artist, Barbara Campbell, Flesh Willow. Campbell stitched the text used to implicate the Mary Queen of Scots in her second husband's murder onto 60m of ribbon, then made it into a skirt. In her performance, Cries from Tower (1992) Campbell slowly unwound the shirt while wearing it standing high above the audience. (I saw a video recording of the performance in 2001.)
In the introductory essay to Flesh Willow , Sarah Miller comments: "...Campbell's work is never about excess. She assembles precisely what is necessary...Performance is ephemeral, and despite its documentary or material traces, chooses to inhabit the space of memory and personal engagement".

And this is what I hope to achieve!

Space Odysseys Art Gallery of NSW 2001
Flesh Willows Power Publications University of Sydney 2006

Image top: Wolf Quilt 2009

Note: Sue Pritchard in her essay 'Creativity and confinement' (Quilts 1700-2010) mentions Mary Queen of Scots 19-year imprisonment and her embroidery which makes a connection between Barbara Campbell's performance mentioned in this post and the link I make with Judy McDermott's work in my posting, quilts and prisons, in my associated blog, 'The Big House'.