Sonia Boué’s new blog “The Museum for Object Research” is making me think.
I kicked it off myself, with a piece about The Bra.
I love the way other people’s thoughts and working practices link with mine. The object prompts memories which sprout new ideas. Or they prompt the imagined narrative, which sprouts new ideas. The Object is a focus for the ideas. To me it provides shortcuts, clues, analogy and allegory.
Sometimes I work directly onto the item, sometimes work around it, draw it, draw from it.
The latest post, an abridged version of Philipa Perry’s article for the Independent, about the transitional object – the phrase coined by Winnacott – concerning a child’s attachment to an object such as a teddy or a blanket, has got me going again.
Sometimes, when faced with a phrase or theory I like the sound of, I apply it to everything to see if it sticks in any way. Sometimes the “stick” is completely false, and takes me down cul-de-sacs for a while. Sometimes things stick a little longer. Long-time readers may remember my obsession with Aristotle’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”? This one still sticks… I bend it to my will, and peel my work into constituent parts, and layer up the fabric and the meaning to make something more. Yep… Aristotle can stay. Deleuze’s rhizomes have stuck a little too… ideas pop up unexpectedly in new areas, I think they are new, unconnected, but blow me down, three months later, I see the rhizome lurking beneath the surface. Or someone else does. Cool… that bit of Deleuze can stay (I don’t care if you think pick and mix philosophy is unacceptable. It’s my work, I’ll do it how I want!)
Anyway… Winnacott’s transitional object reared its head a few years ago when I was making work about the over-protection of children.
I made a straitjacket… a really soft, comfy, quilted, lovingly embroidered straitjacket. This was a transitional object, but one that didn’t transition… the parent tied the young adult in.
The transitional object is a wonderful thing, and a useful thing too, allowing the child to feel safe when venturing out into the world. The problem happens when the object stays, and the child doesn’t feel safe without it. It’s the job of the parent to wean them off, not tie them in tighter.
Easier said than done, but for the most part, successful. The item is still loaded with meaning and affection, but shouldn’t be used as a crutch. In Perry’s article, she speaks of how the same transitional teddy gets taken to university. It now provides a sensory link to home and love, allowing the adventure to continue, the child still feeling the presence of parent and home, wherever they are.
“Stitch him a quilt for wherever he goes, a portable mother to comfort the woes”
So… bringing the concept of transitional object up to date, I think about these bras. They are old and tired, and I have speculated on why they have been held onto and worn for so long – economic necessity? Lack of time? Lack of interest?
But…is it conceivable that they are just another sort of transitional object? If I am a mother, losing parents to illness, infirmity, senility and ultimately death: and losing children to university, employment, partners and their own lives and ultimately their own children (not necessarily in that order), is this garment the object I cling to to make me feel safe? The new bra doesn’t feel right, smell right…
At the moment I have no idea if this one will stick, but it will be another angle to think about when I am stitching.