Knitting and weaving are deliberate (see: slow) processes, even when digitally assisted. By translating the cartoon image into the fabric, the immediate pleasure of the animated sequence is decelerated. The frames become fixed into the very structure of the fabric, yet the fabric itself is moveable, flexible. Cartoons are used because they have distinct framings, making them an easy subject matter for an interest in the mechanics of moving images. Rearticulated, fictionalised sequences reduced to key frames. Image is the structure of the fabric. Images are structure. Images are an integral part of our understanding of the world. (popular) Open images, which provide access to sites of memory – individual, collective, social (all of the past in the present). We have been produced through these image environments – television produces people. This is not an archaic practice steeped in nostalgia, but an exploration into the potential collective practices afforded by ‘common’ mediums. To reach beyond the provinces of alienation to create objects that reassure us in our ‘common’ culture. Our lives are serial. Understanding is accrued sequentially: repetitive sequences, linear and non-linear. We become our habits, unless we are fortunate enough to see the possibility to push beyond them.
Television offered some form of collective memory. Programs had time slots – the nostalgia for which is best summarised by Orin Incandenza in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest;
‘I miss sneering at something I loved. How we used to love to gather in the checker-tiled kitchen in front of the old boxy cathode-ray Sony whose reception was sensitive to airplanes and sneer at the commercial vapidity of broadcast stuff. […] I miss stuff so low-denominator I could watch and know in advance what people were going to say. […] I miss summer reruns. I miss reruns hastily inserted to fill the intervals of writers’ strikes, […] I miss seeing the same things over and over again.’ (p.599-600)
In Infinite Jest Orin goes on to argue that modern entertainment services are ‘not the same. The choice, see. It ruins it somehow. With television you were subjected to repetition. The familiarity was inflicted.’ I feel that inflicted is the important term here. The production of the subject through images is more ubiquitous than ever before. However there is a greater illusion of choice that subjugates us to greater control from alienating powers rather than towards a path of immanent liberation.
Multiple screens, now our primary mode of consumption, was once a symbol of technical grandeur as well as potential madness through isolation. The descent into alienated psychosis is marked by the presence of multiple television sets in Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth and Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In the television studio, multiple screens are used – the visual effect of so many cathode ray television planted into the walls … the control room … behind the scenes. Bertrand Tavernier’s Death Watch, Sidney Lumet’s Network, Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set … and many other works portray this surreptitious world of multiple screens. Bruce Nauman used multiple television screens in his 1986 piece Violent Incident. To see violence multiplied, repeated – therefore intensified. The television set itself holds a material presence little matched by domestic digital outputs. Gretchen Bender’s Total Recall 1987 orchestrates the commercial media landscape into a beautiful, yet critical piece. The arrangement of 24 monitors (techno-accumulation) a spectacle in its own right.
For years I’ve wanted to curate an exhibition of video art in a shop window. Akin to an old television shop display where people would watch the news through the window in films. On the BBC’s Monkey Dust, Tony Blair repeats “education education education” from the television screens in the shop window. Propaganda dressed up as choice-freedom – “great sex for everyone … even if they’re married” – and the misery of unmet yet perfectly reasonable demands – “trains, that actually turn up”, “houses people can actually afford”. Monkey Dust exposes the bleak reality of the televisual mantra faultlessly. The beginning of the ‘emancipatory’ choice reflex (it’s your fault, you didn’t work hard enough to do well), rather than a critique of structural misery. Art cannot be confined to the inside of institutions – counter messages need to be on the streets and in communities.
We derive comfort from personal attachments, aesthetics, utility, touch. I posit that textiles and television are a natural combination in the field of domestic comfort (and conceptualisation of identity). Textiles have a strong sentimental value, and they play an important role in developing social and individual memory. Watching the television wrapped in a blanket, sat on the sofa with some pillows. There is a rich material culture constituted by textiles which is often only acknowledged popularly through clothing. The textiles that furnish our homes and bodies feel good and present us to the world and ourselves. I have spoken previously of the collective nature of watching, and as I’ve grown more familiar with textiles processes like knitting and weaving, I have begun to recognise the communities that take great pleasure in swapping skills and making together. I think there is great value in these community practices. Sewing, darning, weaving and knitting all have a value far beyond ‘hobbyist’ – they can enrich lives and are a sustainable practice against overconsumption, particularly when the ubiquity of textiles is recognised. It is an anti-alienating practice. Class difference is subtle but noticeable in commodity textiles, as quality correlates with price. In austere times, it is empowering to know how to repair rather than replace. From Mike Kelley to Rosemarie Trockel, textiles has a place in art; challenging notions of comfort and familiarity as well as shifting social expectations regarding class and gender.
I was a member of a film group called really off – we were working on a project about Milton Keynes. The soft drink Rubicon, produced in M.K, inspired the topic. One of Rubicon’s advertising slogans is “believe in beach” – an ironic statement for a drink made deep in middle England. From this starting point, we intend on creating a docu-fiction. We feel that a fictional Milton Keynes is particularly interesting as it is a relatively new city that can potentially facilitate our partial memories and fictions. We’ve developed a camera that always points in the direction of Milton Keynes. We’re looking forward to using it.
Overall, I believe in transversality – the intersectional spaces that constitute our experiences and the potential interactions contained within and between these sites. Television is a hybrid medium, traversing space and time, sound and vision, experience and non-experience, actual and virtual. Now the internet perpetuates an unhealthy ‘connoisseur’ relationship between subject and object – a false individuality potentially more universal and insidious than anything we could have imagined to come from television. The topography is different now, but it is still possible to achieve intersectional distributions of communities.
The transference of familiarity and comfort upon the art object – transference rather than sentimentality or nostalgia. I want to use the potential contained within these subconscious emotional registers. Regions that promote stability, acceptance, familiarity and comfort without inducing sentimentality nor nostalgia. An affective register. Bergsonian nodes. The working title for a textile work is How I Learned to Stop Worrying – a nod to Kubrick’s satire of state coping mechanisms and an acknowledgment of these innate desires for stability – immanence – in the world. Manoeuvring these desires without succumbing to regression is what I intend to explore further in my future practice. Prioritising exteriority through both sensation and image cultures developed through machinic processes to provocate immanence. To move beyond the discontinuous cut off of identity to a continual uniting connection through materiality and image.