After the Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina Saskatchewan) earlier this month, I took one of the three panels started in the Stitch in Time exhibit with me to Winnipeg Manitoba. I left it with my sister, Joan Baker, who took it with her to work where students visiting the Niakwa Place School Library got involved! Thank you, Joan, for explaining the project and urging students (Kindergarten to Grade 8) to learn about forced migration through hand work and textiles.
At the Dunlop Art Gallery, inside of Reginal Public Library Central, in the downtown of Saskatchewan’s capital city, the people who wander into the gallery are welcomed by artworks that invite their involvement. A part of the “generator” series, the Stitch in Time exhibition and its programs are expected to reach audiences that include art viewers as well as library visitors who regularly pop into the space, which is opposite the check-out desk. “All libraries should have art galleries!” Lori Weidenhammer and I concluded at the end of four interactive sessions commissioned by the Dunlop curators Wendy Peart and Blair Fornwald (or was it that we thought, “all galleries should be inside of libraries”?).
Libraries and art are indeed well matched, from the perspective of Slofemists. Active (from time to time) since 2013, Slofemists reflects the way both Lori’s and my art practices have settled on the kind of “social practice” that aims to emphasize issues affecting our participants. In Slofemists we bring relevant topics like feminisms and ecology “to the table” and use art or craft processes to focus the discussions and enable the kind of connections and sociability needed to understand our shared challenges. As one of the groups featured in Stitch and Time, we spent four long workshop sessions in the gallery with visitors.
After we left Mindy Yan Miller and Suzanne Miller, next in the Stitch in Time series, presented the performance Needle and Thread. The components of Needle and Thread were on display while we were there, as if in-waiting for the artists to make them come alive. A circle of clothing stitched together was lying on the floor, ready for one of the performers to take her place in a waist-sized opening in the centre, and another to work on the periphery where more clothing would be attached. Behind this large disc of used clothing, a video projected names from the archives of Yad Vashim (The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre) up the wall like a movie’s final credits. An evocative sound work by Allan Paivio repeated this list of first names with softness and intensity. It was both a haunting and soothing accompaniment for the handwork and conversations that we shared during our sessions in the gallery.
I understand that tonight in the gallery the artists Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand will be presenting the piece Neighbours as their part of Stitch and Time. The gallery’s notice describes how today’s workshop is aiming to “provide newcomers to Canada and its citizenship a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada.” When we were in the galley, Neighbours was shown as two incomplete “blankets” of textile pictures on the wall: one set made by newcomers to Canada and the other by Indigenous people. Many of the newcomers’ panels displayed Syrian signifiers like red boats commemorating people lost at sea--as was pointed out to me by one of the Dunlop Library’s staff members who was herself from the Middle East. The centre of the Indigenous panels was a dividing line made from three fabric strips in purple, white and purple. Owing to the generous teachings of Haudenosaunee hosts from Four Directions Indigenous Centre who welcomed me at events on the campus of Queen’s University (during recent studies), I recognized these horizontal stripes as likely representing the Two Row Wampum, or Gusweñta--a beaded belt recording a 406-year-old treaty of mutual respect between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers. Two ships represented by the purple lines are on parallel but separate trajectories. Above these unfinished panels, the words of another document of respect and responsibility, the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada: Call to Action #93, formed a heading text for the entire display:
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.
It was very humbling to sit and embroider—one of many survival skills inherited from my newcomer grandmothers—under this call. Many of the visitors to the gallery were themselves newcomers and the handwork of Neighbours gave us an opportunity to talk together about the Truth and Reconciliation commission, and the way it included newcomer neighbours through Call to Action #93.
Following Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand’s support of newcomers with information about Indigenous people and histories, the final artwork in Stitch and Time will end the series by supporting Indigenous people themselves. Stacy Fayant will later this week present Hand-Sewn with Love, a session for friends of this Métis artist to receive “comfort and medicine” through traditional skin stitching.
During our Slofemists time in the gallery, visitors were invited to consider how and what in their world needed mending while they sat quietly on or near Slofa, a patchwork created in similar gatherings during the years 2013 to 2016. In a nearby “Menditation Station” small boxes were set out to receive their handwritten mending descriptions and intentions for change. The Slofa’s embroidery patterns were wall-mounted in the space, as was a new pattern we had designed for Stitch and Time: “Famished Road Ecology: for 25 Million Refugees”.
As described on the “Famished Road Ecology” pattern, our topics for this visit to Saskatchewan were broad but surprisingly interconnected. We wanted participants to sit with the biggest of our world’s problems by embroidering a hungry road with stitches representing refugees and ditches filled with threatened ecological diversity. Generously, Lori had also designed and brought materials for participants to make indigo eye masks filled with a soothing mix of lavender seeds, buckwheat, and wheat; and covered with sun-printed shadows of native plants. These were needed when the heaviness of the topics required an inward turn to meditation or rest.
Now that a couple of weeks have passed since Lori and I were stitching and getting to know newcomers to Regina, I am thinking about how the exhibit gathered artists and craft practices to count and be accountable. Needles and Thread by Mindy Yan Miller and Suzanne Miller recited a large number of historic names and processed a large volume of used clothes to mark a much greater number of lost lives—forever grievable. Another project of Mindy Yan Miller, Six Million Stitches, also memorialized people lost in the Holocaust with counted stitches that the artist made with human hair onto blanket fragments and counted on paper during public performances. Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand’s Neighbours demonstrated for me how the TRC’s Calls to Action need to be read expansively. Majury and Chartrand's action to inform newcomers, in an art setting, goes well beyond the TRC call for the government to take on this responsibility. In this way they are demonstrating how the Calls to Action are expected to be enacted in spirit, not just in words or in literal interpretation of the words.
With the library in the background—itself an ever changing storehouse of records and reading—this exhibition seemed to me like its own archive-in-progress. Soon, the curators will return to us the Slofa and the menditation boxes with cards recording realizations of brokenness and intentions to make change. Lori and I have decided that we will stage a quiet ceremony here in Vancouver to close our time with this evidence. We are also expecting that the embroidered famished roads will have collected more stitches and pictures of the problematic ecologies of forced migration and settler roadways. We will send them to Jennifer Kim Sohn to help her realize the 25 million stitches needed to make the number of refugees more real for her audiences in California. Besides the ecological losses recorded on the Slofemists banners made at the Dunlop, the stitches now also carry remembrances of genocide of European Jews in the twentieth century, and the responsibility of all Canadians to address our own broken treaties and genocidal histories.
Thank you to everyone at the Dunlop Art Gallery and Dunlop Public Gallery, particularly curators, Blair Fornwald and Wendy Peart, and Director Curator Jennifer Matotek.
Tonight is Nuit Blanche in Regina! Indeed, white flakes are already starting to fill the city's windy streets that are expected to be white by evening. Otherwise, the Slofemists' part of the Dunlop Gallery's "Stitch and Time" exhibition will add colour to the night.
Join us at the Dunlop through the white night. In the gallery's warmth there will be stitching, a reading cart, a menditation circle, and a table for you to add your intentions to mend and recipes to realize that intention. Lori and Lois will be there to guide you in all of the above, and to get some slow and intentional conversation going on the many topics that they are bringing to this city's night of art: ecology, forced and natural migrations, intentions for change, feminism, textiles, time, and more.
Famished Road Ecology (for 25 Million Refugees) is a new embroidery pattern that the Slofemists designed especially for Nuit Blanche Regina 2019. The stitches laid down onto unbleached cotton panels will be added to Jennifer Kim Sohn's 25 Million Stitches--a project that is working to realize the quantity of refugees listed by UNHCR in 2016 .
Download pattern - Download Slofemist_FamishedRoad_Pattern
Visitors to the gallery will see that Slofemists are in the colourful and profound company of artworks representing the other projects that are part of the longer-running "Stitch and Time" Generator project. These include: Mindy Yan Miller and Suzanne Miller: Needle and Thread, Heather Majaury and Terre Chartrand: Neighbours: A Community Quilting Project, Stacey Fayant: Hand-Sewn with Love/kashkwaykashoon a maen avik shakihitowin .
This week, the Slofemists (Lori Weidenhammer and Lois Klassen) are stitching and menditating at the Dunlop Gallery. Come to stitch and menditate. After Nuit Blanche other activities will take place including stitching menditation masks and menditation circles:
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 7:00 - MIDNIGHT
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 4:00 – 8:00 PM
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 12:00 - 4:00 PM
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 4:00 – 8:00 PM
When, in about 2013, Lori Weidenhammer and I came up with the idea of facilitating collective sewing and dialoguing events, we were trying to revive feminismS. To emphasize how we were demanding that feminism be accountable and responsive not just to women but to the environment, and to those affected by systemic racism and colonization and gender discrimination, we adopted a capital "S" from the text, “FeminismS Without End…”, by Randy Lee Cutler and Magnolia Paulker, FUSE (Summer 2012). Cutler and Paulker described capital S feminismS this way:
"As the crisis of late industrial capitalism unfolds and the tide of popular protest is on the rise around the world, the radical potential of feminist, gender, and queer politics must be actively engaged as the ongoing legacy of feminismS. Acknowledging the specificities of individual embodiments enables us to begin to trace and intervene in our own complicity within the multitude of repressions, both historically and at present.”
With Lori's enormous know-how and history as a bee and garden advocate, Slofemists have always included environmental accountability in our version of Slow-feminismS.
I'm recalling all of this as Lori and I are working together again. Our new project with Dunlop Art Gallery will challenge participants to make and commit to intentions to mend what is broken or wounded in their lives and worlds. This will be part of a series of events in A Stitch and Time, an event series hosted by the Dunlop Art Gallery in Saskatchewan.
With the embroidery and sewing demands of the Slofa and its beautiful cushions completed, Slofemists seem free to take up others actions and to consider other capital S specifics. Here are a couple of other events that we have been lucky enough to encounter and work on during the past 12 months.
On August 19 2019 I participated in a some-what impromptu "Stitch-In" hosted by Dawn Livera and Yoo-mi Lee inside of a public artwork, Paradise Has Many Gates by Saudi artist Ajlan Gharem. Paradise takes the form of a small mosque through chain-link fencing which Gharem has used as material for the walls, ceilings, towers, and even a few sparse decorative details. According to the description from this work's hosting organization, Vancouver Biennale, Paradise is expected to make passers-by and users of the space think about the intensification of fences and borders that are limiting people's mobility and are intensifying intolerance of asylum seekers and immigrants. With those themes, it was a perfect setting for Livera and Lee to get us to put stitches onto fabric panels which will be part of the project "25 Million Stitches" by the artist Jennifer Kim Sohn. Sohn expects that it will take 2000 panels (15x30") filled with hand stitching to demonstrate the volume of 25 million--the number of individuals that UNHCR estimates are currently refugees on the globe. It is important to note that the term "refugee" is only one category in the larger number of nearly 71 million "forcibly displaced" people. I have trouble picturing 2000 stitched fabric panels, which Lee and Livera thought would fill a gymnasium, but I can picture a single stitch which is one or two millimeters, depending on the skill or style of the sewer. Lori and I hope to integrate "25 Million Stitches" into our events at the Dunlop Art Gallery. Stay Tuned!
December 6 2018 Day of Action
Back on December 6 2018, and then a few more times since, Slofemists joined a small but determined Status of Women Committee to host sewing and rubber-stamping events in the library of Emily Carr University to mark the annual National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Along with Ana Diab (Librarian) and Elizabeth Mackenzie (artist and Faculty Member) we set up space for people to collectively create a banner marking the people whose lives have been lost as a result of gender-based violence. Many people were involved in the research and design of this project. The resulting banner is beautiful, and--most tragically--unfinished. It is hanging in tribute to those named, at the foot of the stairs in the Ron Burnett Library + Learning Commons at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada.
A metaphoric feature of Slofa that has not so far been talked about or noticed or mused over is it's skin-like function in covering sitting surfaces that are maybe not so contiguous or new or pretty. As a furniture cover it designates a sitting surface different from what is under or inside of it. Wearing all of the little stitches and knots and minor mistakes and beautiful creations of Slofemists embroiderers over several years it is not just the thing that is looked at, its skin-like function is now one of its features.
Or at least that is one of the meanings that comes from its inclusion inside of the exhibition, All membranes are porous, which is now presented at Kamloops Art Gallery. This exhibition, curated by Charo Neville, brings together works by six Canadian artists that explore dynamic conditions and phenomena familiar to human embodiment --the experiences of living as a body. In her curatorial exhibition walkabout, which preceded the exhibition opening last week, Neville led the crowd in breathing exercises and proudly described how this exhibition would be her last professional output before her own swollen body would deliver an expected baby. Fittingly, this is a project that demands that the viewer use more than just the eyes. The body is expected to maneuver around precarious foam, ceramic and felt sculptures (Zoe Kreye and Luanne Martineau), sit through psychedelic eye-popping effects (Jeremy Shaw), and experience diverse video installation spaces, where the way one's body is positioned or held, is part of the video's effect (Jeremy Shaw, Pascal Grandmaison, Sarah Anne Johnson, and Margaret Dragu). The work of the Slofemists forms surfaces for that kind of altered or enhanced viewing in Margaret Dragu's The Library Project.
Here are some photos of how Slofemists participants Rebecca Pasch and Lois Klassen experienced the exhibition and opening events. Excerpts of the exhibition notes that describe the Slofemists work is here - Download KamloopsArtGallery_Dragu001.
Congratulations to artists, Margaret Dragu, Pascal Granmaison, Sarah Anne Johnson, Zoe Kreye, Luanne Martineau, Jeremy Shaw, and curator, Charo Neville, and everyone at Kamloops Art Gallery!
Embroidery by Karin Millson
Since the fall of 2013, the Slofemists project and its many participants have slowly worked away at embroidery, feminism, self care, group care, and local ecologies --all with deliberate slackness. Not so much sluggishness as a rebellion against speed, the Slofemists project has been a methodology of feminist survival, an excuse to gather and exchange life skills and stories and to produce a pretty singular pile of embroidered creations.
Organizers, Lori Weidenhammer and Lois Klassen, are excited to announce that later in 2016, the work of the Slofemists will appear inside an installation by Margaret Dragu at the Kamloops Art Gallery (September 24 - December 31). In this exhibition the Slofa patchwork, on which so many hands have worked, is expected to designate a place for gallery visitors to view a very special collection of Margaret Dragu’s video archive. Her work called “The Library Project / Commodification of Touch” offers a profound view of people in the act of personal knowledge exchange.
You are invited to join the Slofemists in the final (intensive) production of the Slofa patchwork and other peices for this exhibition project.
The Slofemists' Intensive will take place at the Moberly Arts & Culture, 7646 Prince Albert Street, Vancouver, Canada.
June 23: 9 am to 2:30 pm
June 24: 9 am to 5 pm
June 25: 9 am to 3:30 pm
Everyone is welcome. No textile proficiency is required. This site will become an open textile studio during those times, so feel free to bring your own projects (or mending, etc.), to come and go, or just to enjoy the vibe. As usual, Weidenhammer and Klassen aim to mingle the collective handwork of the workshops with fun and empowerment: topical discussions, collective food, garden time and self-care.
IMPORTANT - Please confirm the times that you plan to come to ease in planning, especially food and supplies - [email protected]
At the Santa Fe Art Institute’s Emigration/Immigration themed residency, embroidery is infiltrating artists’ practices.
A couple of days ago, Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo organized an after dinner Mapping/Tracing Migration Workshop. In it he provided us with small stretched canvasses, thread, needles, scissors and the instructions, “describe your experiences or ideas of migration critically onto 10' x 10' piece of stretched raw canvas using needle and thread.” Our embroidered, altered, and deconstructed canvasses are now floating around the residents’ living and studio spaces here are SFAI.
As expected, the workshop generated interesting discussions –not just about immigration but also embroidery. For the benefit of Slofemists far and near, here are a few of the projects discussed:
Last summer at Neuberger Museum of Art, artist Teresa Margolles assembled a series of collectively produced textiles from various sites (South, North and Latin Americas), which revealed and produced links (knots) between the embroiderers’ experiences of violence and the textiles themselves. We discussed the way she engaged families and communities grieving the deaths of loved ones from violence in the embroidery of the morgue shrouds that carried bloodied imprints of victims’ bodies. Teresa Margolles: We Have a Common Thread. Thank You to fellow SFAI artist-in-residence, Erika Harrsch, for highlighting for us Margolles's work.
Also linking embroidery to violence, there is a tradition in Japan of embroidering pieces of fabric to protect warriors heading to war. Traced to the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) but becoming ubiquitous in the second world war, the practice of making Sennin-bari involves women preparing white bands of fabric with 1000 red embroidered French knots as symbolic protection garments to be worn by men heading to war (usually worn around their waists). Each of the knots needed to be collected from different women embroiderers, although women born in the year of the dragon were able to add multiple knots (up to 35) to each cloth. Women would gather in public spaces like train stations to collect from each other the requisite knots. The practice was known to hold a radical element, since it provided women a means of offering a contradictory message of hope for survival, when the official rhetoric of the Imperial Japanese government insisted that these men carry the more honourable duty of dying for their country. This article describes the practice, with photos - Needleprint.blogspot.com. Thank You to fellow SFAI artist-in-residence, Yoko Inoue, for telling me about this small piece of Japanese textile culture.
The elaborate portraits “painted” with embroidery by Cacye Zavaglia are inspiring. In this video, Zavaglia describes her process: https://vimeo.com/51107397
A “radical” feminist embroiderer from Halifax, Anna Taylor, was listed as “best local artist” in a recent Guardian article - An insider's guide to Halifax: 'The perks of a city, as relaxed as a small town'. Thank You to fellow SFAI artist-in-residence, Emma FitzGerald, for telling me about Taylor's work.
Admittedly tactile-ly defensive, I was a spa virgin before Lori Weidenhammer and I hatched the great idea to invite Slofemists to participate in a pot-luck Free Spa in August... These lovely feet bring back beautiful retreat memories from a beautiful summer. [Lois Klassen]
The last Slofemists gatherings happened at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre in June, 2014. Since then completed, embroidered panels from participants of gatherings throughout the year have been arriving in the mail. Photos of most of them are found on the Embroidered Panels page.
Thank you to everyone who joined us to embroider and talk in 2013/14! We've tried to list you all on the Participants and Supporters page.
Stay tuned for the next phase of the project in 2015 - when the panels become an oversized patchwork that will travel and perform!
Lori Weidenhammer & Lois Klassen
Karin Millson, Mnemonic Fingers (after Christa Dahl), 2014.
WOW what a lot of feminist news to process at the final 2014 Slofemists event last weekend...
Let's see how much I remember:
- Hillary Clinton deflecting discussions during her recent visit to Canada of the formidible possibility of her breaking through the thickest of glass ceilings;
- mansplaining, an as yet unarticulated cultural concept, courtesy of Rebecca Solnit;
- the complex and contrary messaging of #yesallwomen;
- Germain Greers's provocation - what will it be like when women are not needed to make babies? (in a lecture at the new Canada Human Rights Museum);
- ... I'm sure there was more!
Here are a couple of podcasts that were shared: