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)

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!