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Photo: The Parangolé, 

Irish Museum of Modern Art , Hélio Oiticica: Propositions  

Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica’s (1937-1980) contribution to physical performance was enfolded within the dimensions of the parangolés  he produced as wearable sculptures. The parangolés  were inhabited as a dwelling space for physical exploration and expression. The complex fabric dimensions of these tent like constructions embodied architectural spaces. The fabric also had associations to homelessness and the nomadic carrying of one’s own belongings. Foremost, the wearer entered into an experience which performed new sensations regarding one’s physical positioning within public space.

The parangolés supported non-conformist bodily actions. They were intended as political interventions within the social context of a military dictatorship in Brazil. The purpose of these cape like structures was immediacy during a historical period of constriction. Rather than behaviour within boundaries Oiticica proposed the wearer of the parangolé to exert an influence upon surrounding social conditions. The anarchy of wearing unstructured layers of fabric could be considered a camouflage, but also a banner. The parangolé experience was an intimate experiment, aimed at finding new routes of social movement within limiting political circumstances.

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Photos: A Forest Art Therapy Studio, Investigations of Movement

The consideration of fabric being worn as a supportive frame for physical disclosure and deterritorialization* is perhaps unusual within art therapy. The parangolé was not a costume, but a physical revelation. And still today it offers an inspiring example of how to interrogate physical presence. The wearer of the parangolé was both a celebrant and a dissident. Particularly evocative when worn outdoors, these draped dimensions of fabric facilitated movement patterns that were ambiguous and sculptural, punctuating public environments with sensory inquiry.

The choreographer, theoretician and dancer Rudolf Laban used the term living architecture to describe explorations of space and geometry through movement. By drawing the body through lines of travel, a mapping process occurs. These lines of investigation compose movement dimensions  – forward and backward, high and low, and diagonally across from side to side. Demarcating space with pathways and networks of geometry, facilitates not only the physical explorations of spatial possibilities, but also cognitive capacity. Embodying the full spectrum of environmental possibility stimulates both mind and body. By learning to move in more than one direction, the coordinates of how we travel through life are extended. We move into new places, new situations, new volumes and depths.

*Deterritorialization is a term developed by Deleuze and Guattari (Anti-Oedipus, 1972) to describe the transgression of subjectivity from its routine formations, into a state of becoming  (being in a state of flux, in process, in transition). It also refers to political and social movements, and society undergoing disruption and change.


Useful Book: Stitching Resistance: Women, Creativity and Fiber Arts by Marjorie Agosin

Maxine Bristol (2012) suggests that touching wool, felt, threads, and fabric furthers self knowledge. Such fibers act as a silent witness to experience. Our bodies become  imprinted upon textiles throughout the course of our lives. Bristow understands ‘the somatic sensuality of cloth’ (Bristol, 2012) to be like a skin, an interface between inner and outer worlds.


Photo: Eliza Bennett, A Women’s Work is Never Done

A series of photographic works titled ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done’ Using my own hand as a base material, I considered it a canvas upon which I stitched into the top layer of skin using thread to create the appearance of an incredibly work worn hand. By using the technique of embroidery, which is traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of its opposite, I hope to challenge the pre-conceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid ‘ancillary’ jobs, such as cleaning, caring and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’ (Eliza Bennett, Artist Statement, http://www.elizabennett.co.uk





Photos: Roxanne Evans Stout http://www.roxanneevansstout

Ann Futterman Collier (2011) believes that weaving, knitting, crochet, needlecrafts, felting, quilting and sewing are all threads of discourse that in essence ‘craft humanity’. Traditionally, these forms of fiber art production have taken place within communities of makers. Conversation, and processes of production have been interwoven within these collectives.

Wandering and collecting found objects from nature, within streets, or public places can infuse fibre arts with a journey of discovery. Textile artist Cas Holmes (2010)picks up discarded objects and bundles them as packages, or souvenirs of her travels. These collection of specimens for her art, are disused relics. She makes new meaning from her findings through reassembling them, re-packaging what has been forgotten or thrown away, and re-instating their meaning. She is transforming everyday objects into portable icons, each becoming a talisman to be carried for protection and guidance.


Photo: Judith Scott, http://www.judithandjoycescott.com

Judith Scott’s sculptures are made through binding and weaving wool around found objects. The physical mass of her sculptures are evocative personal landmarks made from repetitive acts of wrapping and tying. A collection of found or appropriated objects are hidden within the core of her sculptures. They resemble cocoons, nests, bodies, and are strong icons of a visionary artist who never repeated shapes or color schemes in her entire series of sculptures spanning eighteen years.

Fibre art can also influences styles of writing and communication; the stitching together of ideas as a patchwork of felt textures, colors and fabrics of living. Writing/conversation, like fibre arts, can be interrupted – picked up and set down – becoming a collection of different time frames, an assemblage of perspectives, an aesthetic that is stitched and taken apart repeatedly during its construction.


Bennett, E. Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.elizabennett.co.uk.

Bristow, M. (2012). Continuity of Touch-Textile as a Silent Witness. In J. Hemmings (Ed.),  The Textile Reader (pp.44-53). London: Berg.

Collier, A. F. (2011 ). Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Holmes, C.  ( 2010 ). The Found Object in Textile Art. London:Pavilion Books.

Scott, J. Sculpture Photos. Retrieved from http://www.judithandjoycescott.com.


Nari Ward: In Large Part

March 19, 2016

I get inspired by things that don’t fit in (Nari Ward, Spirit of the Street, Financial Times, December 4, 2015).


Photo: Nari Ward, Iron Heavens, 1995 (oven pans and burnt wooden bats)  in www.aestheticamagazine.com

Ward’s dramatic sculptural installations are composed of systematically collected material from his urban neighborhood. By revealing the numerous emotions inherent within found everyday objects, Ward’s works examine issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture (nariwardstudio.com).

Nari Ward’s giant productions of found and reassembled objects are larger than life, despite being composed of everyday materials. He executes large scale physical constructions to evoke an experience of resonance within the reconfiguration of daily existence. His artistic residence is New York (although Jamaican-born) and the repercussions of his art are significant for all kinds of places and for all people. Ward explores the power of objects, their social formation, and their significance as cultural icons. He encounters chosen items and makes them other worldly, despite them being firmly entrenched within the crafting of human experience. His practical manipulation of matter is executed through labouring with a material. Each element holds an impression of his bodily contact, the personal markings of time spent in connection.


Photo: Artist Nari Ward on His Latest New York Show, http://www.architecturaldigest.com, November 2, 2015

It’s all about engaging emotions. I want to take that energy and propel it into some other form (Artist Nari Ward on His Latest New York Show, http://www.architecturaldigest.com, text by Thessaly La Force, November 2, 2015).


Photo: Nari Ward, Saviour, 1996 (garbage bags, cloth, bottles, shopping carts, mirror, chair, clocks) Pérez Art Museum, Miami

I need that mind/body connection that happens with labour and repetition. You get lost in it to the point where ideas come to you (Nari Ward, Spirit of the Street, Financial Times, December 4, 2015)

Ward’s example is a call for art therapists to thing “big” in regards to reassembling found and domestic finds. The objects compose a collection, a diary of events related to finding materials and also importing a sense of personal significance, where ordinary becomes something else. The installation of these large works reside within a locality, each piece a strident voice proclaiming an occupation of space and a demonstration of personal and social issues. Within art therapy putting ourselves out there can become a commitment to large scale exposure, not to be missed.