I just love junk shops, especially the ones that have textiles and clothing. That might seem obvious given the sort of work I do. The other day I found a new one in Cambridge. I had my son with me… otherwise I probably would have spent at least another two hours in there. Ferreting around in other people’s discarded clothing that has been held in suspended animation for decades probably. What I do is look at everything, literally everything, waiting for it to speak to me. I found one thing… it is pinned up on the wall in my studio now, and my husband says it’s freaky.
It’s a really old bra… all cotton, reinforced with circles of stitching around each cup, but the disturbing thing is that each cup has been stuffed with foam. Totally stuffed. At the moment I am unsure whether I want to use the bra with or without this. I can see me stitching text around the concentric circles, but not sure what. Again, the significance of stitch is blurring the line between my collaborative/ joint work with Bo, and my own work. The stitches on this garment are crucial to its form and function. Bo accused me of “overt interference” as if it was a bad thing! But actually, the accusation is a useful one, that has caused me to think about why I do it…
(he often manages this, goading me into some sort of coherence)
I could go into any of these junk shops, charity shops and so on, grab a few items, any items, then hang them on a wall, or on a mannequin of some sort. The nature of the item means that they would have resonance with people… some people. They would say “My Dad had a jacket like that” or some such comment. And that would be it.
The point is I don’t just grab the first items on the rack. I select, carefully, I listen, fondle the fabric. I note an emotional response to what I handle.
I could then do the same with these items, just hang them up for people to see. The difference here is that I know what they mean to me, but my viewers have the same reaction as they did before “My Mum had a blouse like that”. All I did, for the same reaction, was waste my time looking more carefully.
By overtly interfering, I hopefully hold a gaze for a little longer, present perhaps a more complex item that requires thought, a question… even if it is “That is a perfectly good tweed jacket, why would you wreck it by cutting holes in it?”
My problem, and the point I am always searching for, is the point of ambiguity. Interference, but interference that says as little as possible, to enable those viewing to see as much as possible.
The significance of the single stitch is to be considered… it really is possible to go one stitch too far, one stitch can throw ambiguity through the window… make everything blatant. The viewer then says “oh yes” and walks on… it hasn’t spoken to him at all, and in fact, has spoken less than if I had just left well alone.