Sunday, September 11, 2005

not the knitting you know

on friday i went to see an art exhibit entitled "not the knitting you know" at eleven eleven sculpture space in dc. i thought other knitters might be interested to see some of the pieces from the show.

the gallery is located in the lobby of a law firm, which caused quite a bit of controversy for the show. the strategically placed fig leaf on this work was added in response to an outcry from law firm employees against having nude crocheted figures displayed in their lobby. considering the kind of work that law firm does, i think they have a very twisted idea of what is "obscene." you can read about the controversy here.

the photo above is of a piece entitled "settlement with the monkeys" by ming-yi sung. it is made of crochet yarn, cotton and polyester stuffing, wire, and ceramic. the show featured several works by sung, all based on a theme of androgyny. she writes of her work: "Based on my personal mythology, there once existed a creature, Androgyny, who took the form of both sexes. As time went by, it lost some of its own physical identities and split into two separated sexes, as we are now. Somehow the soul within ourselves still holds the personality of both sexes. Through the presentation of my installation, I am continuing my investigation of my personal myth and creating a world of my own."

the piece on the right is entitled "audrey II," and it is by gayle roehm. you can't see it in this photo, but one of the tendrils on the right is holding a plastic chicken. the artist writes of this piece: "Remember the wonderful musical 'Little Shop of Horrors'? Audrey II is the mean, green mother from outer space who takes over the shop. I challenged myself to shape Audrey without relying on anything but stuffing, and I almost made it. In the end, I added a bent coat hanger to make her mouth stay open, and some florist wire around the edges of her leaves so they would curl menacingly. You can remove the stuffing from Audrey's flowerpot and wear her on your head -- if you dare."

i love it that roehm cites "laziness" and "contrariness" as influences of her knitting. she says: "There's laziness. I love to sit on the sofa, knitting and trying new ideas or techniques. I can sit for hours, messing with variations on an idea, so I don't have to get up and do housework. Then there's contrariness. Every time someone tells me, 'How nice, my grandmother used to do that,' it makes me so cranky that I want to knit a mean green mother from outer space. And who says knitting has to be flat? There's a real challenge in figuring out how best to deal with the fact that yarn is soft, and knitted items want to flop. I've reached an age when taking myself too seriously is no longer an option. From now on, I'm just having fun. Messing with yarn is the most fun thing I know."

the piece at the left particularly resonated with me as a vegan knitter. it is entitled "rabbit collar," and it is by blanka sperkova. it is made of zinc wire. there was also a companion piece in the show entitled "skunk collar." i hope it is visible in the photo that the "collar" is an entire rabbit -- head and ears and all -- knit in metal and ready to be draped around someone's neck. for me, the piece is both a condemnation and a tribute. on the one hand, it is a reminder of the grisliness of wearing a corpse around one's neck. on the other hand, it is a example of how knitting in alternative materials can create made objects that surpass the grisly traditional versions in beauty -- in my view, sperkova's delicate and glittering rabbit collar is much more lovely than a collar made of actual dead rabbit, and that beauty itself pays tribute to all the poor animals sacrificed in the production of traditional rabbit collars. i find it so inspiring because that is exactly what i try to do with my knitting: use alternative materials in a way that makes animal fibers obsolete.

if you'd like to see more from the show, here is a link to the gallery's website. however, now that the show is over, the gallery may change the website to reflect its current exhibits. now, i'm off to meet with my vegan knitting group!


Blogger Siel said...

I'm really impressed by both the political activism and creative knitting abilities of these women. Pretty amazing stuff -- I'd say my fave is Audrey II, cuz it looks dangerous yet cute :) How did you hear about the exhibit?

Mon Sep 12, 07:35:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger jen said...

i actually heard about it when i read that washington post article. there's nothing like a little censorship scandal to get the word out - that's why they always say "there's no such thing as bad publicity."

there was some other pieces that were even more impressive in terms of workmanship, but a lot of the pieces didn't photograph well. for instance, there was a camisole knitted out of fine red wire that was really beautiful.

Tue Sep 13, 11:14:00 AM GMT-5  

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