Editorial 48: Fabric

Editorial 48: Fabric

Welcome to #48: this is the FABRIC issue.

FABRIC, as in:

  • a cloth, typically produced by weaving or knitting textile fibers
  • an underlying structure, the fabric of society
  • an act of constructing or making up, to fabricate
  • the arrangement of physical components in relation to each other

In this issue:

Cover photographer Lorenzo Triburgo is interviewed by feminist artist Sarah Gottesdiener. In conversation, they explore Triburgo’s photographic project, Policing Gender, which examines mass incarceration from a queer perspective. Triburgo deliberately creates a lack or absence of his subjects. Rather than supplying a presence to the viewer or presenting his pen pals in their most vulnerable states, Triburgo cloaks them – literally – from the viewer. This challenges photography as a medium that lends itself to voyeurism and surveillance. As Gottesdiener offers in her introduction, the project is remarkable in its breadth of thematic engagements that include freedom, imprisonment, absence, systemic oppression, and the Western canon’s engagement with the subject.

In On Latex, Melanie Garcia employs sheet latex as a medium for mixed media collage. Latex is manufactured into a resistant material as milk extracted from the rubber tree, as a defense or barrier: condoms, rubber gloves. Latex provides an occasion for multiple readings. It can also be made into sheeting – fabric-like – into clothing and second skin garments that amplify and fetishize the body. The series Garcia shares with NMP examines latex and its texture in relationship to skin, sex, and the body. But it is also an artist’s exploration of controlled and gestural uses of ink, paint, and pen in the construction of an open-ended narrative.

In Détourner: L’histoire de l’art et le tissu, art historian and educator Daniel Fiset considers the theme ‘fabric’ as it has traditionally been interpreted in art history. As Fiset explains, the fabric of daily life is only acutely observed and welcomed into the canon when it is deemed exceptional. Fiset, in defying the expectation, explores two creative workshops designed by Moridja Kitenge Banza and Olivia Boudreau at DHC / ART exhibitions, and puts forth the potential for a different art history, one based on manipulation and diversion.

Jess Dobkin and Moe Angelos had brunch at Pictou Lodge (Nova Scotia) with Claudia B. Manley and Liss Platt, a.k.a. Shake-n-Make, the Hamilton-based queer art collective. In July, the group discussed the unrefined contours of art, craft, and women’s work, and the ways in which Shake-n-Make asks the viewer to reexperience the seemingly familiar and mundane: nostalgia, childhood fragments, and faded, and at times, prosthetic memory. Dobkin and Angelos extrapolate from Shake-n-Make the rhythms of their collaborative output, offering an intimate and brief glimpse into the creative processes and inspiration propelling a body of work that directly cites the 1970s, while also elevating craft and subject matter beyond kitsch to align with our present historical moment.

Through anecdotal snippets, non-sequiturs, and confessions, Ummni Kahn presents to us an autoethnographic experiment with playing dress-up. In Taking off the Layer, Kahn delves into such matters as the transformative power of books, normative passing, racism, exotification, ambivalent patriotism, immigrant-settler colonialism, sexual shame, furtive pleasures and life-callings. In between the layers of fabric and identity, Kahn explores struggles, pleasures and overlaps in subjectivity, and ultimately, the epistemic possibilities of playing dress-up.

Christine Quail invites us to share with her some preliminary observations that underlie a larger project on online/offline quilting, craft tourism, and gender and labour in quilting. In [Not] For Sale: Quilting Contradiction in a Craft Economy, Quail takes us with her to Fogo Island, Newfoundland, where a new branding effort focused on ‘return on emotion’ has fundamentally restructured the cultural and economic value of the quilt as an object, but the practice of quilting as well. “This return on emotion concept”, writes Quail, “easily lends itself to a marxist read, where use value is transformed into exchange value through commodification of emotion attached to cultural experiences and material goods that will fill emotional needs.” Quail’s contribution delves further into the contradictions of value, related to gendered domestic labour in transition, as well as the intersections of new economies, tourism, and craft.

In We Touch the Same Stuff: Queer Feminist Craft Praxis as Soft Circuitry, Melissa Rogers begins her speculative essay with the following question: “With what methods and materials could we undertake the work of crafting something whose shape has yet to be determined?” In response, Rogers documents the construction of a huggable vibrating pillow created using found textiles, hand embroidery, and soft circuitry. “We might think of queer feminist crafting as a soft circuit,” reflects Rogers, “a technological pathway or schematic for feeling our way toward newly habitable worlds and ways of being.” Drawing our attention to the work, “I Don’t Know You/Anna Mae”, Rogers invites us to ponder the work as an homage to feminist fiber craft and queer domestic labour, calculate relationships between unknown artists across time and space in performative acts of repair, and sense the intimacy of touch and technological connection.

We are eternally indebted to Tamara Shepherd (our amazing copy editor), to all the NMP regulars, contributors past and future, and to readers and supporters of the project in so many ways.

Andrea Zeffiro, M-C MacPhee and Mél Hogan