Paragraphs and Borders conceptually stems from reading textiles as texts, and the transmission of language. The piece is a photograph of a handwoven piece of cotton cloth, stretched, compressed and zoomed in digitally until it is visually not recognisable as a textile any longer but resembles an abstract print. A distance is created between the intensive labour processes that had been produced to create the hand woven cloth, and the viewer. To reimagine a cloth imbued with the expected labours of a South Asian textile artist and manipulate the medium to throw it out of context, as commentary of the continued cycle of globalised racialised labour expected to continually meet demands of the consumer, or viewer. An unreadable text(ile) that re contextualises how the textile can be read. The piece is rooted in examining exhaustion, art production as labour, and the very physical labour of hand weaving and it's relationship to my disabled (queer brown) body. The labour processes are distilled into a sound piece instead to convey not the final piece of cloth, but the vast labours needed to produce and fashion a fine woven cotton fabric.
XANA http://xa-na.com/ Sound Artist based in London. We collaborated together to create a layered sound piece taken from the abstracted sounds of the labour involved in weaving a handloom woven cloth.
"The literary roots of postcolonial studies mean that debates about voice and, crucially, voicelessness, are familiar concerns. But it may be worth asking if it is fair to ‘read’ the textile in the same way that we might treat a piece of postcolonial literature. On the one hand, text and textile share numerous linguistic connections. It has, for example, been noted by scholars that the root of the word ‘text’ is shared with ‘textile’, essentially ‘to weave’.
The construction of texts share similarities with that of the textile. By this I mean the building up of small increments (words, threads) into a larger whole (sentences, paragraphs, cloth). As a result, there is a structural familiarity between the two disciplines that has been explored by scholars who observe that the knowledge of one discipline may then be transferred to another. "
Post colonial Textiles – Negotiating Dialogue – Jessica Hemmings Cross/Cultures: postcolonial studies across the disciplines
“Asking the viewer to look again, read the hidden text and listen to the silent language that sings” This is a quote from the poet Raman Mundair, and it explains the crux and concept of how my work relays ideas exploring invisible identities, the oxymoron, and codes of language.
Being invisible yet visible, the South Asian woman who is lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, is often an identity that is, silenced, hidden, and un believed. Yet as a racialized woman; her body is coded and certain fixed ideas about gender and assumed heterosexuality are projected onto that body, and a shade of visibility that is so often held onto raced bodies.
Where the language of ‘queer’ is read as implicitly White, it erases South Asian queerness in the process. This work is a process of revealing language, and reading queerness differently, in order to look beyond the surface by applying race to that identity.
That notion of what it is to be queer and what it is to be a South Asian woman, are seen to be identities that do not overlap. Where South Asian diasporic communities see LGBTQ identity as ‘other’ and as ‘western’ creating historic amnesia from the histories and culture before British colonialism. LBTQ women in India/South Asia do exist, and in the UK in the diaspora there are South Asian/Muslim queers and they are a part of our communities.
This is a piece of visual textile art, that incorporates themes around the experience and visibility of the self identified South Asian Queer woman.
How as a minority, is that existence erased and hidden from representation? How do we then navigate these invisible identities and challenge the expectations placed upon the identity of the South Asian woman, and the conforming ideals of gender, sexuality and morality?
By contrasting differences and encoding hidden patterns, then gradually revealing them within woven fabric – cloth becoming the metaphor - this work tackles in/visibility, being unrecognised, unacknowledged, unseen, and the violence that comes with being a South Asian queer woman. The duality, intersectionality, and corporeality of South Asian queer female identity.
Using the woven cloth to embed hidden motifs created out of letters from the Bengali alphabet, poetry is underwritten within the cloth. Thus employing a ‘loose thread’ embroidery technique (that emerges out of the extra weft figuring) which singles out specific letters within the cloth, enabling individual letters to be woven in with contrasting colours, and allowing the poetry to reveal itself within the cloth and subvert the conforming pattern.
A line of poetry translated into Bengali will be woven and hidden within the pattern of the cloth – “Lift the veil, and see our silenced language”
By encoding the fabric with hidden patterns of language that can only be read if you understand the code, it becomes an exercise in learning and reading queerness in relation to race, and the highlighting of differences and struggles in carving out a South Asian queer female identity.
This video documents the supporting work, drawings and woven piece as work in progress, as a showing at the RichMix gallery for International women's week in March 2013.
This is the main image I'm working from. To make sure the undertones stay a little on the edge, I'm going to work with leather, and avoid silks and chiffons, maybe perhaps combining them together in the end? I've discounted printing on to leather, and have been experimenting with creating lace structures/patterns directly on to the leather fabric. Free style embroidery, and leather cutting work.
Your skin, is your first defence to the outside world and it's the first contact with the outside world, with its touch sensors and pain receptors, everything you experience externally, it is sensed first through your skin...it's tough, it protects you, it regulates your temperature, it's adapted to shield you from harmful UV rays, and it's also the largest organ in your body. It renews itself continually, constantly multiplying, dividing, growing, and replacing.
Human cells, The constant transition between the growth, renewal, division and death of the cell..... our skin cells, regenerating, the old shedding, the new replacing. Each cell containing the information of our identity and history.
I would like to use skin as a visual metaphor for the armour we need in our daily lives, the psychological armour, armour that isn't just "skin deep", the armour we build around ourselves to protect our internal vulnerabilities, the armour we use to prepare ourselves mentally for the outside world. Society seems fractured as ever. The more connected we are virtually and electronically, we lose sight of real human contact and relationships and how to reach out to other human beings. In order to integrate as a larger community, barriers need to be broken down. The armour needs to be taken off
Looking at cell structures, and patterns and potential textures will be the basis of my textile, the theme of transitioning cells growing and multiplying - perhaps in a cancerous way - to be worn around the body, symbolising the extra layers of "thick" skin, providing you the armour needed to survive the suburban jungles of London and the hellish roller coaster it can be.
Experimentation with bulbous surfaces, structural knits, bonded fabrics, and stitched methods of connecting pieces.
I want to use a colour spectrum of either natural skin colours, or delving deep into the zoomed in views under a microscope.
When drawing for textiles, you need to be able to break down whatever it is you are drawing into blocks of colour and line.. Which can then be interpreted in stitching, knit or weave constructions. The elements of what's taken away is key here; you are transferring information onto paper from what you see, but it is necessary to choose which elements are drawn - this is important in any design/artistic drawing. At this point you are not designing, but by drawing a subject matter you get a feel for the colours used, how to use them and what the objects/figures feel like to draw, you are exploring what the imagery says to you and ways you are able to interpret it. I've used texture and line together here, and broken down the images into textured areas of colour. Whatever you do, don't use a paint brush. I've used nails, screw drivers, plastic forks, sticks, feathers, pins and pipettes to draw these first drawings..! You may think they look very painterly, and rough mark making.. But the more marks you make, the easier it will be later on in the designing process - drawing for print is entirely different though!