Jemima Wyman on the magic of fabric
24 August 2012
Hi Jemima, your piece for Liverpool Biennial 2012 will be a brand new commission, can you tell us what to expect?
The project Collective Coverings, Communal Skin has
developed out of a culmination of interests in alternative
architecture, DIY techniques, working with recessional materials
(second-hand t-shirts) and an investigation into the ideological
history of fabric.
With the help of the Liverpool community we will transform garments used for violence (uniforms/hunting and camouflage t-shirts) into psychedelic hula-hoop weavings- basically transforming objects of conflict into objects of comfort. These weavings will then be used to build a large-scale communal architecture within FACT.
You use fabric a lot in your artistic practice, why is this material of particular importance to you?
Fabric is just so amazing with all its potential as a source material for making as well as all of the ready-made content it can represent in a work. Depending on the project, fabric can be used to emphasize different conceptual investments- anything from the economy (the rag trade) to the politics of pattern.
For a very long time I have been interested in the politics surrounding the representation of the body and an embodied experience of subjectivity. There is the metaphoric potential of fabric as a 'writerly skin', a removable skin, a communal skin, an interchangeable skin; a skin that incorporates complexities, contradictions, self-reflexivity and humor, depending on the print and design mapped onto the body. Also I became interested in the ideological arguments around patterned fabric and how it has been articulated throughout the history of western art. Traditionally within the west, patterned fabric is pathologized as decorative and feminine. Camouflage fabric is a direct contradiction to this idea, because the military uses patterned fabric as a functional device. I'm interested in these contradictions. Also fabric is the perfect material to literally link bodies to architecture. A garment is micro architecture; and architecture made out of fabric can be a giant nomadic communal skin.
The people of Liverpool have been invited to be part in creating this installation. How will they get involved?
There is a number of ways the community can be involved. They can contribute by making one or more hula hoop weavings. They can also donate t-shirts to be used in weaving. We really need t-shirts that are within the palatte used in camouflage (any greens, greys, browns, yellows, blacks or actual hunting or camo shirts). To fill the lower level of FACT with the weavings we will need 2000 second hand t-shirts!
What do you hope that participants will take away from being involved in the project?
They will learn a basic weaving technique that can be used to make rag mats. Also, it is an opportunity for people to be together engaged in a communal activity within FACT and have an effect on the architecture. They will be contributing a to an analogue map of their community that they can visit and meditate on for the duration of the biennale.
How will this artwork change the interior of FACT during the Biennial period?
The hula-hoop weavings will join together to form a giant canopy (or floating ceiling) over the ground floor. This structure will start at the back entrance (by the café) and slowly grow throughout the exhibition towards the front entrance. With all of the camouflage colors I imagine the weavings will transform the hard industrial architecture of FACT into a soft organic psychedelic skin. All the weavings are double-sided so you will be able to look up from the ground floor or down onto it from the second floor.
What are you most looking forward to in this year's Biennial?
I'm mostly based in Los Angeles and have followed both Fritz Haeg and Suzanne Lacy's work for sometime. It will be great to see the most recent iterations of their work and how they separately deal with the politics at play within the community through their respective social practices.