Journal March 28 - June 15, 2007
47 x 200 cm
Hmong hemp stitched with silk and cotton threads, bordered with silk,
machine pieced, hand stitched throughout, cotton wadding
Logbook: a book containing a detailed record or log (OED) or, in the case of this blog--an informal record of thoughts and ideas as I go
Comments can still be left at the bottom of the page.
Wednesday, October 4
Yesterday I wrote a new post--'A Hard Bed To Lie In'--about the installation by Helen Gray and Emma Rees. I spent time with both Helen and Emma in Mollymook at the beginning of August. I'd met Helen briefly at the opening of an exhibition in Fairfield in 2005 and had written about the work in a review and also in my thesis. Mollymook was the first time I was able to sit with both Helen and Emma and talk about the work. Both live in Canberra and Mollymook was where they were on that fateful Saturday the fires took hold, they told me a friend was one of the first to lose her house and visiting the family the nexr day they decided to make and take a gift--the first of the small houses that were to be the basis of this work.
When I first saw the work it was the number of houses that made a deep impression, then n n closer inspection it become apparent each house is different from all the others. On that Saturday when the news of the fire started to come through we watched on in horror--we were experiencing what was to be ten years of drought and each summer bush fires are a ever present threat. When I first saw this work (and as I continue to think about it) all the images of the devastation, fragments of news reports photograhs and commentary in the newspapers from that time, came together in one plac--it is a hard bed to lie in and yet tht's what we do and the country we live in. Each bush fire season we ask ourselves: would we stay or would we leave if a fire threatened, and what would we take with us? Yet the worst anyone could imagine is to lose a life.
I am really grateful to Helen and Emma for the approval to write about their work and include the imeages that Helen sent me on this blog.
Tuesday, October 3
Thinking about poetry: I attending Mark Tredinnick's poetry workshop on the first weekend of November. It'll be the third time I've attended and each time brings suprises and inspiration. I'm hoping a friend will come too. I looked up Mark's website and found a link to some recent poems on an on-line magazine Eureka Street, I'd recommend a look (you can also listen to the poems being read. I have to decide which poems of my own to take to workshop, at least I know that whatever I take I'll learn more than something.
After a couple of years of experiementing with the more formal structures of poetry, I picked up Mary Oliver's Rules for the Dance, which I've had on my bookshelf for a while but been unable to find my way in to--a suprise as I enjoy her poetry. Sitting on the train to Sydney last week, I strated reading it again and I fund it throught-provoking and put it down to write the poem it triggered.
Thursday, June 7
The internet connection was made at about 7.45pm our time. It was difficult to hear the details of the questions but Deborah repeated them for me. Interestingly the questions focused :
- On the use of photogaphs in my creative work (I had shown images of my pojagi and postcards/album quilt during the presentation)--it was more a comment than a question
- A comment I had made about previously using Freudian theory to analyse quilts and the disadvantage in this of ending up with the quilt as a symptom, the sign of a pathology. Giving this as a reason for turning to the theories of Deleuze & Guattari and their ideas on space as an alternative. Instead of asking about space, however, the questions focussed on the unconscious (Tracey Emin's work was mentioned, had I heard of it? Yes, of course!). This gives me a lead for the final paper (to be included in published proceedings of the conference) as I'm still focussing on the role of the unconscious/the internet/smooth space and the lead given to me by Edgar Levenson's paper. Exploring the quilt in this way (using the concept of a smooth space), allows mw to step away from notions of dysfunction.
Friday, June 1
I am writing this as I wait for the internet connection to be made to the conference, Space-Globalization at the University of Cergy-Pontoise. It is 11.02am in Paris - 7.02pm here on the east coast of Australia.
My slides arrived both by slow mail (the courier-express service took two weeks!) and the iCloud - which I used when I discovered it was vital to sync the slides and texts accurately, so transfered the text of the paper to the slide presentation. I was able to transfer over 24 MB of data (the powerpoint presentation) via our relatively slow internet connection via a service called you-send-it. I've certainly discovered new skills while working on this project!
Of course I'd love to be in Paris (the conference includes papers on a broad range of topics: from religion, literature, language and culture, atomic theory, education, and geography to my paper on quilts, Identities of the Collective and the Individual, the Material and the Virtual) yet it adds credence to my project by presenting via cyberspace. I'll comment how it went once I've done it. Meanwhile I'm attempting to wait patiently for the call on Skype!
Thursday, May 3
Family photography: there is a body of theory to draw on (Roland Barthes Camera Lucida, Susan Sontag On Photography, Marianne Hirsch Family Frames, and Annette Kuhn Family Secrets, to start), this allows me to hold the images I discovered in my mother's flat at arm's length while exploring issues of a personal nature...to look for clues/forensic traces in a search for understanding, a way to untangle conflicting memories or, at least - to place them side by side. As Annette Kuhn points out:
The struggle is now, the past is made in the present. Family photographs may affect to show us our past, but what we do with them - how we use them - is really about today, not yesterday. Those traces of our former lives are pressed into service in a never-ending process of making, re-making, making sense of our selves - now (p19)Another writer, Walter Benjamin writes:
The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to the unconscious impulses. (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in Illuminations, Fontana Press edited by Hannah Arendt, 1992, p230)Some writers suggest that photographs negate memory. My memories of the time we lived in Pakistan have always been distinct/vivid. I only came across these photographs four and a half years ago when I was clearing out my mother's flat after her death.So instead of replacing, these photographs consolidate my memories of that time. This series of photographs is important to me and I had framed the current project in terms of 'identity' for this reason (without knowing the reason why)--their discovery implies soemthing of the complexity of our relationship.
I have no idea why my mother kept these photographs taken in the mid-1950s and not those taken more recently. She knew I was interested in family photographs and would sometimes include one in a letter; but she never gave any indication there were so many from this time in my childhood. There are a large number of photographs in the collection of my parents and their friends at parties.
I don't remember the parties but I do remember picnics and travelling out out a dry and desolate landscape to what I had thought was the Khyber Pass, searching through the images I find it would have been the Khujak Pass linking Quetta with Chaman, Afghanistan (the Khyber Pass is some distance further north), we used to go there quite regularly and the number of images from this area confirm this:
My mother, brother, myself and my father at the Khujak Pass
(I have no idea who the small boy looking over my brother's shoulder could be!)
One of the many picnics from that time
My brother in the garden in front of our house
Playing in our garden with friends (I and my brother are the ones facing the camera)
Again: in the garden
My mother and myself in the Quetta market
This is the only photograph of my mother and I together with no other family/friends in the frame. It coincided with a distinct memory I have of going to collect table cloths from a women's collective in the market, and links to the table cloths identified in my previous Blogbook entry. It gave me a real thrill to find this image among those from that time. The table cloths are now well used and faded, the single napkin gives some idea of the bright colours of the embroidery thread used; most of the small circular shisha mirrors have long since fallen out and the ones that remain have lost their mirror surface. (According to John Gillow and Bryan Sentance, mirror-work embroidery originated in North West India, World Textiles (1999), p211) I also have shisha mirrors on my ralli quilt from Rajasthan.
Chai Wallah in the Quetta Market
Like the word charpoy (bed) that immediately came to mind when I saw one in the South Asian Seams exhibition in Lincoln, chai wallah is a word I have not used (heard) for some 56 years, yet it comes instantly to mind when I see the charpoy or image of the tea vendor. I can find no images of a charpoy among the photographs.
And here is another example of how the blog works for me in my writing practice--I find I can bring together what seem to be quite different (even conflicting) interests and examine them side-by-side and see what happens. Like blocks in a quilt, it can be that the more the strident colours, the more different design and the greater the chance there is for something exciting...magic...to happen!
Monday, April 30
'You should get a medal for that'...
For what...a heroic act? An act worthy of notice? Certainly something one has done oneself.
I find it interesting how family stories begin--I do remember this medal from my childhood, it must have had some significance because unlike so many things that got lost as we moved from country to country, this survived to be produced by my mother, many years after my father had died, and given to my second son who was interested in military history--so important enough to be kept but not so valuable that it couldn't be given away to an eight year old child, some 40 years later..
My father was a veteran of the Second World War who has been seriously wounded in North Africa and had walked with a pronounced limp ever since. He spoke little of his experiences as a twenty-nine year old setting out to fight for his country, but we knew he was a hero, there was never any doubt of that.
I remember this medal, which was given to him while he was an instructor at the Military Staff College, Quetta. He was not permitted to wear it with his other medals (except I think in the presence of the president of Pakistan), so it had been put away. I believed he had 'saved the day' when there was an attack on the college (remember I was six years old at the time and had a vivid imagination)...
There is a date on the reverse of the medal, which I noticed for the first time when I cleaned it to take this photograph: 23rd March 1956.
This morning I did a search on Google to see what information I could find (but to be honest, not expecting much to come up). To my surprise 23rd March 1956 is the date of the establishment of the first Constitution of Pakistan.A significant date indeed but not what I had expected!
So now I may rewrite the story as a Military Parade (not battle) to celebrate the event, during which a medal was given to those present.
This, in an about way, places me as a witness (if an unreliable one) to a milestone in the evolution of Pakistan's identity as an independent country.
A collective rather than an individual act.
Friday, April 27
I have two weeks until I submit the images for the Paris paper (on Ralli's and identity), I usually write a paper first then work on images so it'll be a different way of working (for me).
I've been looking for a particular book with a particular reference about the telling of stories, the quote seemed to be important to me but I didn't quite know why. For days (maybe even weeks) I have been unable to find the book, then yesterday, and out of the blue, there it was sitting on the shelf where it should have been (...and of course, was).
The book was Craft and Contemporary Theory, a series of essays edited by Sue Rowley (published by Allen & Unwin in 1997). Now this book has personal significance as it was Sue Rowley, then professor of Art Theory at CoFA (UNSW) who encouraged me (a science postgraduate with no fine arts background) to apply to do postgraduate work in art theory (the university made it not so easy as it sounds by adding a number of hurdles I had to cross, yet I got there). And secondly, this book was the first reference book I purchased, I can't remember how I came across it first, maybe on the internet somewhere.
Before I even got this far I had decided I wanted to work on quilts and the stories surrounding them, so Sue Rowley's essay in the book, 'Craft and Narrative Traditions' seemed the place to start. And returning to the essay all these years later, it still has resonances for me.
Let me start with the quote, I had remembered it as: we know who we are by the stories we tell. An adage. To return to it in its entirety and I find it states much more than I had remembered:
In the light of these observations about oral traditions, what can we say about the insistent and recurring presence of craft objects--domestic artifacts, garments, treasures and trinkets--in our cultural stock of stories? Let's begin by noting that the rationalist-utilitarian ideologies and assumptions of modernism--the master narratives of histories of art and technology--are subverted by stories which accord to objects of everyday life a central role in the systems of cultural value and meaning. In our stories, objects and the actions associated with them--making, giving, keeping, losing, finding, stealing, using, breaking, coveting, bequeathing--take on a cultural significance that has tended to be repressed in the discourses of art and modern technology. If it is the case we know who we are by the stories we tell, then we must conclude that our relationship to out 'things' is integral to our constructs of collective and personal identity (p79). (My emphasis)As I had set the Ralli project within a context of personal and collective identity (see the 'About this project' page of this blog), I have been researching concepts of identity (the premise for setting this project within identity was a hunch, it felt right at the time but I didn't know if it would work, perhaps it's my background in science (although a true scientist may disagree)--I set off into the unknown...into space without really knowing where I'm heading, hoping I have enough food and water for the trip and I'll get there in the time allotted...ie to meet the deadline for the paper). Here I find, by a stroke of luck, a link to the question I'm asking and where I feel quilts fit--in that interstitial space among a collection of other mundane and familiar objects, overlooked by master narratives. Now thinking may have shifted since Sue Rowley wrote the essay (and ideas outlined in a book like Jane Rendell's Site-Writing would tend to confirm this) but I still find I get a puzzled look from many people when I tell them about my interest in quilts (oh yes, my mother/grandmother made them is often the reply).
When I asked my son, a psychologist, to explain 'identity' he suggested I look up theories of social identity and as we talked I suggested identity could be associated with a sense of belonging and he agreed (he wasn't so enthusiastic when I suggested that identity could also be envisaged as a smooth space and made up of a collection of components, some similar some disparate...perhaps linking it so definitely to a specific theory was pushing it too far, yet I still think it works conceptually).
The quote from my lost-now-found book works even better I think. After all, I am exploring links between Ralli quilts, a collection of photographs from a specific place (Quetta, Pakistan) and time (mid-1950s) and identity (collective--the quiltmakers, the personal--myself). In placing this within an academic context, I am hesitant about the personal but the discovery of Jane Rendell's book gives me a precedent--not only does she position her work in relation to Freud, Mieke Bal and other writers I have explored but her description of her childhood growing up in Afghanistan is uncannily similar to my experiences of living in Quetta and she makes extensive use of her own story within her writing and art.
From a personal point of view, I think it is aspects of belonging that I find difficult to make sense of...the who-am-I-and-where-do-I-belong sort of questions and thinking about these quilts (the Ralli from North West India plus my memories from Pakistan aged about 5/6 years old, now consolidated in the stash of photographs I discovered when clearing my mother's flat after she died). so what stories shall I tell of that time and, what objects shall I link them to? Our nomadic lifestyle (moving every two or three years...Germany, Pakistan, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Jordan, Belgium, Italy, China...) means I have few objects to accompany my stories as childhood processions became dispersed with each move.
Now I have the photographs, two table cloths with a single napkin, a badge from my father's military uniform at the time (an owl perched on crossed swords, the insignia of the Staff College in Quetta), a medal--to which I can add more recently acquired three Ralli quilts: the first from the exhibition at the IQSC Lincoln Nebraska, and the other two from a visit to Rajasthan in January 2011.
Table Cloths & Napkin
hand embroidered cotton
6.5 x 5 cm,
machine embroidery on cloth
inscribed on back: '23rd March 1956',
striped grosgrain ribbon (dark green, red, black and white)
Tuesday, April 17
I am sitting with a book of black and white photographs beside me as I write this. I've spend the last three days reading Patricia Stoddard's 'Ralli Quilts' and finding my way around the exhibition. I can find no image of a charpoy..when I entered the South Asian Seams exhibition, I was viwing quilts within the rarefied air of he gallery setting:
|Entrance to the exhibition|
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Lincoln, Nebraska October 2010
|Inside the gallery, quilts displayed on the wall|
these are quilts as artworks, their surfaces to be scrutinised and marveled at (however much one knows or studies the traditions and respects the medium, putting something in gallery and exhibiting it as art causes a shift in perception).
Wednesday, February 2012
I am back and I believe, in earnest to this blog. Last year may have been a down year and this one will not (the advantage of the New Year, resolutions aside!). And, what is more, I have a good reason (maybe two)--first the number of individuals who continue to visit my blog (I thank you) and secondly, I have been contacted--by reason of this blog--to prepare an abstract for a paper on the quilts I saw in Lincoln at the International Quilt Center and Museum on Indian quilts (and a post I made on the subject). I will post details on the page, About This Project.
The conference is: Space/Globalization, to be organised by SARI and CICC at the University of Cergy Pontois on 31 May and 1 June, 2012
Wednesday, November 23
I have just added another book to my list for 2011. I think I have omitted one, yet can't remember what it was--the very reason I started keeping a record on this blog in the first place, to keep a record of the books I have read during the year, fiction that is and it's really for my own use.
I checked the sitemeter (bottom left of blog) once I had added the book. I ckeck the map and location of recent visits now and then. I have a visitor from Mountain View in California, possibly the most regular visitor I have and I wonder who they are, what interests they have and what draws them to look at the blog...very rarely do I get comments on posts, somthing I had hoped for when I first had the idea of a blog...the imagined conversations that would occur, yet have not.
If you are reading this and have any ideas, please, please let me know!
If you don't want to leave me a comment on the blog, you can contact me on:
email@example.comThank you (in anticipation) !
Saturday, November 5
OK so where has all that time gone? A misspent maturity. Things I'd like to call myself: writer, poet, stitcher of thread and words. Then feel I'm mistaken.
I am sitting at a small table in my room in a convent--in Burradoo for two nights doing a poetry workshop with Mark Tredinnick who lives, conveniently, two doors up the road.
The landscape is so very different here--green, lush in an English-sort of way--hollyhocks, roses, lupins, deciduous trees, yes even hedgerows. Even the sounds are different here: other occupants of the convent may be in silent retreat but surely not the birds as well? (Although a squadron of corellas flew past during our lunch in the garden today and broke the spell.)
The other participants are accomplished poets, published with awards to their names. I have suffered in silence for six months it seems. Then I find poems tucked in the pages of books; poems I have no memory of writing.
Today I have come away with four new books of poetry (plus a list of new poets to check out). Two books by Meg Mooney (yes here amongst us): for the dry country, a collaboration with Sally Mumford (Meg's words and Sally's drawings), and Meg's more recent chapbook, The Gap, which won the Picaro Poetry Prize at last year's Byron Bay Writers Festival. The other two books are this year's Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology, The Wombat Vedas--the title of Mark's poem that won the prize and Completely Surrounded: Thirty Years of the Newcastle Poetry Prize 1981-2011.
And now I'm having trouble making the links as the internet seems to have slowed. It really is time for bed, if I'm going to make any sense tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 28
And so I have returned and not only to the writing of this blog but physically as well.
I have returned home (and to my studio) after what I sense and hope is a potentially life-changing journey first north though Alaska, Vancouver to Anchorage via the Inland Passage, flying north to Nome (thanks to the change and very lucky meeting with Mike who drove us from the port of Seward to Anchorage airport, a vital first stage in our journey) to Anadyr in Far East Russia to meet with Akademik Skolkanskiy, the expedition ship that was to be our home for the next twelve days. If it hadn't been for Mike we wouldn't have made our connection and would have missed the most incredible voyage south along the Kamchatka Peninsula, to the Commander Islands then home via Petropavlovsk and Vladovostock.
Along the way I met a number of people including Anton, the Russian 2nd mate who gave me a first lesson in the reading of charts/maps. I have images of the ship's log and a copy of the digital log of our journey and my own diary scribbled last thing at night. So this is where I'm thinking of starting: exploring the notion of the log and the journal, D&G's concept of the sea as a smooth space, the public, the private, the real, the digital and the virtual.
This is the digital log of our first day (Sunday September 5). We met the ship in Anadyr, flying across the dateline from Nome in a charter plane holding 12 passengers. The Russians hadn't allowed the ship to dock at a wharf and so we made our way across the bay on zodiacs in the pouring rain. To get aboard, we had to climb a ladder from the deck to the waterline (images to come), and my first challenge..I have a fear of heights but then and there I had no choice, I was wet and freezing and up the ladder I went. Interestingly, the digital log is considered these must be recorded and sent back to the Admiralty (now this is in London) who collate these changes, issue updates each month and reprint the charts when sufficient changes accrue. Each chart is stamped and dated with its day of issue. We travelled along the Ring of Fire, where the earth's surface is continually shifting at one tectonic plate moves up against and along another. The land forms with extinct volcanos (to become active further south), glacial valleys and a multiplicity of animal and plant species are reflective of this constant and continuing change. We had a geologist onboard and pressed him for explanations, perhaps the earth's core could be considered the unconscious (no one has actually be there and it's continually active, with sometimes disastrous effects--earth quakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions).
Monday, March 14
On Friday I posted a proposal to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln Nebraska--at the opening of the TSA conference they had invited submissions for international quilts to be added to their collection. I had talked about Judy McDermott's quits when I was there (in a formal presentation and also to the curator). They specifically asked for research to back any submission, so that is now in the post!
Now to get back to posts of another kind--blog posts!
Thursday, March 3
Now I need an image for the top of this page, one of the many I took of Ganesha I think.
As of this morning I now have a quilted out of space email address. I'm working out how to access it, then will put it as an email contact for the blog, it will be interesting to see if I get more comments via email.
I've been working on the theory of 'Prosody' , a term used in linguistics and poetry. I sense it might be useful in analysing the structure of quilt patterning, may/may not work.
Tuesday, March 1
The writing of the paper to be included in the proceedings of the Textile Society of America 2010 Conference left me with a quandary: should I finish with the blog--my experiment with the process over? Then, as I believed the process to be a useful addition to my research and writing practice, should I start a 'new' blog or, continue with this one?
I have decided to continue with 'quilted out of space' as the concept behind the name pre-dates the idea for the research project and, furthermore, I believe it has further to go (ie I like it!).
So I intend to extent it as a platform to look at different ways of conceiving (or more simply, ways of looking at) quilts and the processes of quiltmaking.
I shall start with a new text 'Buddha Mind and Contemporary Art' beside me on my writing desk.
And 'The Mind' will continue to be of interest (as well as any other ideas I encounter along the way!!
Night Writing: (The original name of this page)
The rain pummels the window pane, no time to sleep
Night is the time to write
Black on black beneath the covers.
I wake to see before me folded cloth, one
On another then more
Each brightly coloured, I have my life in my hands
To right as I write on
Night is the time to right
Yourself, buffets by wind the words
Hit the ground running
(#2 of '26 Poems I have Encountered', 2009)
I have added this page to my blog as an experiment. I will post examples of a certain type of writing that I do; writing I have given the name "Night Writing" as it is the sort of writing I do in the middle of the night, it's experimental in essence, free-form and less constrained by my (usually) ever present internal censor. I term it night writing also because I'm not sure it should see the light of day.
I don't know where to start (this story) it's 2.30am as I sit drinking tea and writing this, I am lost for a way to begin.
Seen from both sides (JM & ER), love will nail you.
(I could) write it as a letter, a commentary--Ruth's process of writing (Artlink) which brings it all alive.
Reading the cards--the spider--Arachne, spinner of tales/tails, writer of words, a web to catch ideas in as they float in the ether.
But lost is lost, final and irretrievable (yet lost in itself always holds out the possibility that what is lost may still be found again).
What what does the silhouette of the black cockatoo (in Pamela's work) stand in for?
- the black cutouts of Sally Smart and Kara Walker (which are indeed black in colour which the 'black' cockatoos in the 'Lost Birds' are not) and all they entail (or would 'entale' be more appropriate since it is the narrative aspects of the works I'm referring to)
- but the bird is absent only a trace remains--the scene of a crime, the chalk out-line of the body in forensic analysis...it was here, this is where it (the body in death reduced to its outline at the point of its life's departure
- there was no X marking the spot, suspended in space there was no possibility of 'a' place--he was missing the found but lost then and forever
The act of stitching one layer to another fundamentally changes the nature of each layer of cloth.
I could take each of these scraps of paper (an A4 sheet torn into four and on which I am writing this) and rearrange reassemble them in alternate ways--an assemblage of thoughts caught in an endless process of becoming, then fragmented, reassembled, the connections slipping and sliding (as the memory does too soon after waking). Catch me if you can, the unreliable and unstable nature of speech lost unless caught in the act of writing (Susan Stewart as always)
...then a childhood memory: we sit on the bank, a summer's evening, testing ourselves on Shakespeare for the big exam after which our lives would gradually diverge, then reconnect until she dies all too suddenly (aged 51 or 52, I am trying to remember, too soon at any age) during an operation which attempted to save her life but did not. I hear her mother's voice 'down' the phone line, across oceans and time zones, her tones of reassurance, all is not lost then, perhaps, yet she says it as one mother to another calling out across the generation gap between us I am no longer the schoolgirl sitting on the grass bank, then we had no idea of loss (even though it was 'Romeo and Juliet' we knew by and in our hearts). It is only now I wake in the night and wonder (and I know I am not alone in this--he woke that morning with a poem on his lips the poet told me, mine, i reply go missing in action yet I wake from a dream at times a quilt in my mind--a reconstitution of self whatever that may be. And sometimes love lingers from a dream and I nod my head, yes a softer touch but yes love nails me too, I seem unable to wiggle free.
Perhaps sleep will dome now my whirling thoughts connecting then disconnecting and reconnecting again now spilled onto the page a sort of love making undoubtedly.
I lost the ability to dream for two years and three months afterwards, I know the date exactly (although only now do I realise the significance of the day itself: the 24th in both). It was then my second born made and sent me a dream-catcher--I had given him one for his birthday 22 years earlier--and the dreams returned.
And so I will return to bed.
(Written April 11, posted April 16)