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Monday, 30 August 2010

Fill time, lose time

Too Much Stuff by Rick Poynor, an extract, in his book Obey The Giant:

"This was unnerving in two ways. The first was the more familiar sensation that it was just too much. You can experience this anywhere, in any shop or high street or shopping mall, at any time. Too much variety. Too much duplication. Too many choices to make that have nothing to do with need. Too much fantasy.
Too much stuff.

In this case, it was the highly specialised nature of Jerry's Home Store (Fulham Road, London)'s display that had jolted me into a renewed awareness of what the existentialists would have called absurdity - an overwhelming, almost physical, even nauseating sensation of the utter superfluousness of all these things. On this occasion, outside Jerry's, my queasiness was compounded by a sense that matter had come unstuck from its usual moorings, which give it some particularity and meaning (in the diners of New Jersey) and was drifting frivolously, fantastically and arbitarily through the international networks of consumption and exchange.."

Friday, 20 August 2010

UK Government Policy on Sustainability and Ethical Practice

Carbon footprint of this missile coming.

The British Trident Ballistic Missile System is revitalised in 2010 for another generation of anxiety, impotence and fear.

What does it mean to teach Sustainable Thinking & Ethical Practice in institutions of learning when nation leaders promote killing machines in lieu of negotiation and humanitarianism?

For insight into nuclear attack see what survivors experience here: White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (director: Okazaki, 2007).

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

On the Myth of the Authentic

China copied Dutch copied Indonesian wax-printed textiles designed exclusively for the West African market over a period of 350 years.

"From the 17th century onwards batiks made their appearance in West Africa. They became more widespread during the 19th century when several thousand freed slaves from the Dutch East Indian Army that had served in Java (1831 and 1872) returned to Africa dressed in batik cloth.

However, wax-print in its current version only appeared towards the end of the 19th century, at the peak of the European textile export to West Africa. Previously, with the invention of the Javanaise, the Dutch had produced industrialised
batiks for the Dutch East Indian market (present-day Indonesia) where they attempted to undercut the prices of local handmade batiks.

But the industrialised reproduction process was poor in quality as it left fine lines on the fabric that resulted from the cracking of the wax technique. Largely unappreciated by the Javanese, these signs of imperfection became highly appreciated in West Africa.

European producers were forced to conquer new markets in order to avoid the closing of European factories. It is in this context that the commercial trade networks in the Gulf of Guinea offered an opportunity for the establishment of new markets while taking advantage of commercial relations that had already been established since the formation of the spice route.

The successful transfer of batik to the West African market was engendered by a longterm process of adaptation to local demand and aesthetics, which were, in fact, very different from their Javanese equivalents. The fabric had several advantages that were greatly appreciated in the Gulf of Guinea, especially its lightness and softness and its chromatic resistance to the sun and to frequent washing. The distinctive character of the fabric's texture, differentiating each yard of cloth with its subtle lines and cracks that resulted from the manufacture process, was particularly valued.

These important local criteria provided the ground for the wax-print to enter the highly competitive textile market. In a lengthy process of making the fabric appropriate for the requirements of the African market, wax-prints's size was altered, the colours were modified, the flexibility of the cotton was improved and the Javanese patterns were adapted by incorporating Guinea coast iconographies.."

Learn more about the Chinese and Pakistan taking over the Dutch wax production and the history of business "controlled by a colonial economy and dominated by a global history of unequal exchange" from Nina Sylvanus's The Fabric of Africanity: Tracing the Global Threads of Authenticity, Anthropological Theory 2007; 7;201.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

People As Fabric or the Swarm Effect

These extraordinary images show the performers at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in China in 2008.

Although designed to be creative spectacle for visual and televisual impact, they point to a political and philosophical paradigm; one that we often feel but do not see in the West.  Statisticians sometimes show us swarming frameworks applied to crowds and their movements but it is less common to see hundreds of individuals doing exactly the same thing, choreographed, at the same time.

The effect, in addition to awe-inspiring pattern, is a visualization of the concept of people making up patterns of communal activity and their role as constituent parts of group activity,  impact and affect.

This then renders visual the role of synchronized global activity and the impact of swarming and copycat behaviours.  Cancerous cells are characterised by their repetition of the same cellular signal much like other natural phenomena such as monocultures, fascist systems, racism and mass-production.  Certainly, it makes for a powerful visual impact, however, as we can see and intuit here, it makes such behaviour vulnerable to change, difference, diversity and evolution. This then might offer a foreboding to a nation that represents itself in this way insidiously describing what it expects from its countrymen and how different behaviour might be perceived.

As a textiles group with several weavers and knitters in the mix, the notion of the group as tapestry or fabric is an interesting one.  If your organization was described as a cloth what might it look like?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Carnage over Care

On the twentieth century's measures of success.

Robert Kennedy, Presidential candidate, in 1968:

"The Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear out highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for people who break them...It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl...Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials...it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

The New Economics Foundation opens up the

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Corroded Steel Becomes Textile

We don't know the artist's name but we saw this image along with some others - all cross-stitching into old car parts - on Martine Bos's blog.

Musing over this, Kate Fletcher's words come to mind:

“Eliminating waste is a core concept of ecosystem inspired design

approaches like permaculture and industrial ecology where everything is

recycled and all waste from one component becomes ‘food’ for another.

Here what appears to be waste is actually exchange.

Exchange is a liberating idea; it helps emphasize collaboration,

interconnectedness, cycles and forward planning and offers opportunity for

checks, balances and feedback…cyclical economies and zero waste..”

Kate Fletcher, Sustainable Fashion and Textiles - Design Journeys.