weaving in, weaving out

Drawing, Essays, feminism, India, installation, Sculptures

Weaving in, weaving out, is about femininity, expression, colour, difficulty and the skills we have learnt to create homes and spaces for ourselves.
Being on a residency means having to build a temporary home in a new country. This home is made from local materials and influenced by vernacular structures. I think of architecture as how we arrange the spaces around us, including the small spaces. In India I have been fascinated by how things are arranged; the sweets hanging outside a shop, the bamboo scaffolds; bundles of flowers discarded at the end of the day.
I want to make things which have a sense of being alive, growing, exuberance, and reveal their own fragility and the difficulty of growing. We live in bodies which get broken, and I want my sculptures to be like that. Vulnerable and yet brave, scaffold, on crutches and yet still moving.

There are so many hand skills here; everyday, useful items, made by hand. Everything is arranged beautifully. The skills needed to make them take time to learn, and then become part of the body; as natural and unthinking as walking. I became interested in skills because I know they are part of a community, a culture, that we learn and do things together. Also, skills became part of how I could acknowledge my whiteness in this culture. Rather than repeat and exploit a white history of taking from a country, I wanted to see if I could transform it a little, by being humble enough to try and learn, deliberately doing things which are new to me; to make myself vulnerable.

I am very grateful to Mona for teaching me how to tie flowers, and also a new stitch; forms of structure that I have used throughout this project. Learning the flower tying gave me a metaphor for the project; weaving. At the beginning of a residency, there are no connections. As time passes, some threads become connected. With people and places, new routines begin to create form. Like making a nest; a bird choosing available materials to wedge itself into the local environment. Some threads are temporary, or need replacing. Strengthening is required, re weaving in and adding new elements. All are part of the whole.

I’d like to talk about femininity and femaleness. I have been struck by the gender difference in public space compared to what I am used to. The street seems very male to me; places where men drink tea, eat food and congregate. I wondered where my space could be, where I could express myself, and so I have made it. I have heard stories of Rangoli, and connections between femininity and nature here. I think of nature as wild, much stronger than we think, and disregarding of human control. I wanted to build this structure which spilled out onto the street, in the same way that a tree does. Putting aside the rules, boundaries and acceptable ways to take up space, trees just grow wherever they can find a foothold. This is how I made my work, and how I made connections with women here. I trawled face book groups, went to workshops, said yes to every offer of help, and slowly wove myself in to feeling like I had some threads connecting me. Rani pink threads. Through conversations, gifts of fabric pieces, and working together, I have created this show from fragments of stories in which I both learn, and recognise myself.
I am very grateful to everyone who has made this project possible. The women who have come and shared stories, time and energy with me building and installing the show; Mona, Priyanka, Varsha, Bhavani, Bindu, and Vidhna for the gift of fabric. Also to Asia New Zealand for funding this residency, and Shanthi Rd, Suresh and Sandeep for hosting me here. Particular thanks to Suresh for his wonderful knowledge of this city and materials shopping in the heat! Thank you to Shiva for your help, and constant encouragement and energy! Finally thank you to everyone who befriended me here. Being an artist on residency means I am here temporarily, and I am very grateful for warm welcomes, friendship, and delivery of food and drink while I couldn’t walk!

Title list

Immersion Acrylic paint, pigment, pastel, charcoal on hand made paper
Heap Fabric, coconut husks
Gutter flower Paper, paint, wool
Absorption Acrylic paint, pigment, pastel, charcoal on hand made paper
Gentle holding shape Onion sack, wool, net, fabric, rope, bamboo
Tied back to shelter Onion sack, wool, net, fabric, rope, bamboo
Two more female bodies (1) Pastel, pencil, graphite, charcoal on Fabriano paper
Two more female bodies (2) Pastel, pencil, graphite, charcoal on Fabriano paper
Ropes (1) Pencil, graphite, charcoal on Fabriano paper
Ropes (2) Pencil, graphite, charcoal on Fabriano paper
Flop and slump Onion sack, wool, net, fabric, rope, bamboo, paper, paint
Weaving in, weaving out (Installation) Fabric, hand made paper, streamers, glue, ribbons, bamboo, coconut rope, fabric, banana leaves, coconut palm leaves, paint, tinsel

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I be myself

India, Poetry, process, Sculptures

I be myself. I build these things to express and shelter this being now. There is no shelter, there is only being. I cannot protect myself from who I am, I can only accept it and show it. I am the storm. I am the heavy rain. I am the gentle shy sunshine. I work to make myself visible. I shed layers of shame which would numb me.
There is no shelter, only expression
Making myself visible, finding the threads
To join together in difference
Threads of the feminine
Feminine space
Weaving myself in.

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I’m building a palace

Essays, India, Sculptures

When people ask me “what are you doing?’ I’m starting to say, I’m building a palace. A cane palace, he asks, and I say yes, and there will be paper, and fabric, and shiny parts. It’s kind of amazing how what I am making really is what I wrote in my proposal. A shelter, an expression of identity, an external showing and letting in. I’m starting to feel comfy up there, even though my arms get sore. I built that platform real strong, layers and layers and triangles like my dad taught me from looking at bridges. I’ve tried all the structural parts with coconut rope, and then I’m adding Rani pink wool. Rani means queen I learnt and Suresh and I both laughed. It’s the colour my hair used to be when it was freshly dyed; a real bright, fuchsia pink. My sweetheart calls me their queen, and it’s not about ruling or staking claim. It’s something to do with femme identity, queer identity. I see it in the gender queer folk here; walking tall and proud because that’s the space you’ve got, so work it. It is making an offer, but not compromising. It is showing with pride the vulnerable as it grows. It is accepting ones nature. All of the people who ask me what I am doing are men. I tell them you see how the street is so male, people like you? Well I am a woman, and this will be something feminine coming into the street. It’s a humble palace, built by one, to house one. It’s an externalised body. The lower deck is the size of a single bed. The boys who come to see after school twitter like birds all talking at once. They get it; Auntie Auntie! It’s a house Auntie!
Down the road is a real bamboo palace; built over three storeys high I reckon, delicate and strong and extraordinary. There’s no platforms on it, just bamboo poles which deft and confident feet balance on, treading the high wires to keep on building.

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Your uncontained movement has opened a new room in me

Poetry, Queer, Sculptures, Uncategorized

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Feb 2013

Feb 2013

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Tree 2

tree

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emai4

Tree 6

Tree 5

Tree 4

Tree 3February 2013 – with Sandersons Gallery, Parnell, Auckland http://www.sanderson.co.nz/
Your abandoned movement has opened a new room in me will explore how we create open and yet private spaces to protect and encourage queer intimacy, identity and play.
This sculpture is a kind of human nest, a shelter which rests, holding onto a tree. Contingent, temporary and fluid, it is a shelter which opens and closes. Buffeted by the weather, it reveals its raggedness at the same time as its beauty. Built in various directions, with pockets, platforms and a myriad of spaces, it explores how we are presenting and finding space for identity at the same time we are creating and living it.

I have these fantasies. They go like this:
I will draw one thing
I will concentrate
I will fit one thing, on one piece of paper
It will be even
You will be able to read it
And as I am squinting at breadfruit and looking for where the shadows lie and what shape they really are, something shifts and I am shoulder against the paper, breathing green. I tell them think of it like falling in love, make your looking obsessive, don’t let go. They look at me like a wild thing, and when she shoves a rubber in fury towards me with her wrist I say YES, THAT! Put that on the page.
And it spreads, and I can’t help myself
It’s like when you write the word bed to me
It’s like when it finally rains here
Something opens anew, and it is not a room, but it feels like home, like remembering perfect sense
Things shift, catch and other, hold, spread and swarm.
She says I can only write by looking sideways and I say yes, they are all contained here, if we can only find trust enough to reach them
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I have been called many things in my life. And then lately someone called me a peacock. I only knew from half dreams what they sound like. They made me screech and perform on a street corner, dancing on kerbs and feeling my spin stretch and lift sky proud, shimmering feathers, showing off.
Their butch found my femme, and there was joy and terror in it. Terrified of revealing, showing, wearing skirts which have always felt absolutely like sex to me. Of not being queer enough, political enough. If I care so much about expression and beauty and process and art and I don’t know the right words for anything, but I want to, is that enough? And if I can’t walk in high heels or write as well as I want to or build bridges to you or burn them in fury, is that enough?
And if what I want to do when they tell you ugly things in your ear and threaten you

and block my path is smother them with colour is this enough? And if when they make me fear to walk my own town without a big black coat if all I want to do is make an army of glittery dripping soldiers who flood bigness and love and wash the streets with shiny paths is this resistance enough?

We are in this together
I read you walking and stumbling eyes wide taking it in trying not to trip over curving roots and wishing to fall directly into soft places where hardness grows
Be slammed up against this backless place and push in return

Can we be more flexible?
These things they are my vents

I am looking directly now actually searching
I am looking directly now and there are many
I must create a space with safe open walls and you ask to come in?
Tell me your story
Open your mouth

And I say to you
Ride me home and my hips fit all the way up to my jaw and you say
I am the wind and I made the sound

This is not a note this is a stake
This is not a performance this is as best as I can say

Trust your instincts
Give them their space