Either Way, Make a Move

March 6, 2017


Photo: Hazel Meyer, Hyper-Hyper (Artist in the Classroom, The Pedagogical Impulse)

A Workshop for the School of Arts Education and Movement
Dublin City University, Institute of Education

Pamela Whitaker, Groundswell

  • Classroom as Art Studio
  • Teaching as Performance
  • Teacher and Students as Artist Collective
  • Social Choreography in School
  • Students as Curators
  • Education as a Happening 

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Photo: Art Out Loud, Basement Gallery, Dundalk

I am interested in the theme of choreography, and how students can generate movement motifs through interacting with objects and words that stimulate physical actions and movement responses. Choreography is a change of space, new ways of going, and actions taking shape.


Photo: The Medieval Garden Challenge

Dance and Movement Benefits Children’s Physical Development, Emotional Expression, Social Awareness, Cognitive Agility, Mental Health, Communication

The classroom as an artwork can inspire movement, creation and also a disruption of ‘order’ (Stephanie Springgay, 2014). We will explore lines of connection between different spaces in a classroom, and develop routes of movement that interrupt expectation. We will be unconventional, in the moment, and attention seeking. Words, situations, and objects will move us on.

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Photo: Art Out Loud, Basement Gallery, Dundalk

The classroom as a happening is about animated learning. A situation is created whereby students re-define their educational surroundings. It is subject to flexibility. Art in this sense is related to environment, an atmosphere, and a studio of ideas. Happenings were first introduced by the artist Allan Kaprow. They are experiences where art, physical action, sound, words and environment are assembled within a specific time frame to promote participation and improvisation.

Graffitti Dublin

Photo: Graffiti Inspired Movement in a Pedestrian Tunnel


Photo: The Medieval Garden Challenge

“SOCIAL CHOREOGRAPHY engages everyone’s perception and knowledge of….[movement]…inquiring if and how individuals can imaginatively order and re-order aspects of their personal, social, cultural and political lives.” Michael Klien, The Institute of Social Choreography

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Photo: Sophie Nüzel, http://www.sophienuezel.com

Stephanie Springgay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She considers a classroom a work of art.

As an experimenter, the artist-teacher does not mold students into a work of art, as if the students simply become raw materials. Rather artist-teacher-student-classroom become a creative assemblage filled with the potential to open itself to future creative instances. If a classroom operates as a work of art, not as an object manipulated from the outside, it becomes enmeshed and enlived. A “classroom as a work of art,” we argue, re-conceptualizes the artist-teacher as productively co-mingling with students and space. Stephanie Springgay, The Pedagogical Impulse, www.stephaniespringgay.com

All the listings below are links to Springgay articles:

The Pedagogical Impulse: Aberrant Residencies and Classroom Ecologies

The Pedagogical Impulse: Research-Creation at the Intersection Between Social Practice and Pedagogy

How do you make a classroom operate like a work of art? Deleuzeguattarian methodologies of research-creation

Cloth as Intercorporeality: Touch, Fantasy, and Performance
and the Construction of Body Knowledge, International Journal of Education and the Arts


Photo: Landmarks: Nature, Art, Schools Workshops in County Louth

image-5.jpgPhoto: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Therapy Classroom Installation


Photo and Article Link: Teaching with Contemporary Art in the Classroom by Joe Fusaro


“American artist Sheila Hicks has redefined the role of fibre in art and influenced a generation of contemporary artists with her interdisciplinary visual language.’ (Sheila Hicks, Material Voices, Textile Museum of Canada, October 6, 2016-February 5, 2017).



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In 1964 when I was leaving  Mexico, I had to pack compactly because I had accumulated many things and of course many things that I should have just thrown away, but I thought I want to take them with me. How am I going to manage? So I began compacting in the packing. My daughter’s clothes that she no longer wore; she was only four or five years old but she had outgrown a lot of things. I didn’t want to lose them. Bits and fragments of textiles I had been collecting in Mexico, but didn’t have any particular use for…As I started to wrap them it was intriguing to be able to add colours and threads and thoughts and memories together. And I also knew that if I could remember which one was which one I could unwrap it in case I wanted to unwrap it someday. So that is how this began, this process of wrapping memories and wrapping relics, things like little memory balls. (Sheila Hicks, Material Voices Exhibition, Textile Museum of Canada)

Sheila Hicks http://www.sheilahicks.com


Photo: Pauline Keena, Sculpture, http://www.paulinekeena.net

Stitching is a way to mend, tailor and piece together fragments of experience. Cloth can be considered an intimate overlay that wraps both our bodies and home with layers of a story. As a method of mark making, sewing allows us to tuck into tactile relationships with fabric as a companion to our lives. Instinctive and improvised stitching can embellish clothing and domestic items, so that each becomes an entry in a lived within journal.

Textiles portray a sense of ritual making special everyday places through a quality of adornment and presence. Cloth enriches people, architecture, furniture, and objects with significance. Binding, stitching, knotting, and layering thoughts into a weave of cloth, conjures memory and the passage of time. The drawing of threads through cloth, the mending of frayed edges, and the matting together of fibres are all physical experiences that translate a narrative into material form. Cloth is intimate, another skin, a boundary and a caress. It designates function and also entwines a story. Encouraging the inclusion of fabric and fibre arts within art therapy offers new ways of exploring stories as they are told not only through words, but through the rhythm of going in and out of strands of meaning (Pamela Whitaker, Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy Summer School Brochure 2014, Workshop Descriptions).


Photo: Shinique Smith, Forgiving Strands, 2015-2016, Clothing, Fabric, Ribbon, Rope, Found Objects in Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016, Hauser and Wirth Gallery http://www.hauserwirth.com




Artist: Rósa Sigrún Jónsdóttir, Vortex, 2015, MAC Belfast International


Sonia Gomes makes sculptures in cloth and wire, eclectic fabric contortions that evokes simultaneously the idea of viscera and the sacred object. She follows the fault lines of affect or memory making and revealing arrangements intuitively. In their sheer candor, her sculptures become impressively expressionistic; seemingly free to do what they like. Skin is important within the body of Gomes’ work. The organ of sensuous contact with the world, it at once defines and limits experience. Cloth is a second skin, and a sense of personal history permeates her fabric sculptures. A believer in the élan vitale, she trusts that every material is magnetized with the latency of life. (Sonia Gomes Artist Description, Pipa: The Window into Brazilian Contemporary Art, http://www.pipaprize.com)


Photo: Air Embroidery – Bordados no Ar, Artist Renato Dib

Within time I learned how to sew. I was interested in the relation between the clothes and the body. The canvas was not anymore just a surface to be painted, but some kind of representation of the skin…Textiles may represent or be like skin, spots, hair, wrinkles, grooves, eyelids, internal tissues, and organs. Folded fabric could be like the folds of the brain. Since artwork cannot be touched, using attractive materials or creating situations that would prompt touch would be a sort of “transgression,” if that’s possible. It’s the same idea in the field of human relations: to touch or not to touch wounds and openings? (Renato Dib: Within the Sphere of Intimacy, http://www.textileartist.org)



Photos: Pauline Keena, http://www.paulinekeena.net

The work hovers between sculpture and the body. Manipulating materials opens up the human form exposing the viscerality of internal biology. The boundary of skin becomes a rupture where narratives of corporeality, of interiority, of chaos and estrangement are negotiated and rendered. Traces and stains line up on the outside where memories of otherness, that discontinuous state of being, are stitched with death onto the boundary of cloth. (Pauline Keena, Artist Statement, http://www.paulinekeena.net).



Photo: Le monde et la dette, Still (the) Barbarians Exhibition, EVA Biennial, Limerick, 2016 by artists Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor

A hand sewed map of the world debt by countries, regions in which the darker colors represent higher debt and the lighter the lower debt. Some regions colored in white mark geographic areas where the data is unknown and further a red square does not illustrate any region but an innate teritory that cannot be negotiated and regulated by debt and economics. Source: Le monde et la dette by artists Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor wwww.monavatamanuflorintudor.ro

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Michael Fibre

Photos: Sculptures to Carry and Hold, Fibre Arts in Art Therapy, Pamela Whitaker

The expressive potential of the work is not communicated outwardly…but is deeply embedded and embodied, articulated through the awakening of corporeal practices, nuance of gesture, slow repetitive rhythms, and a dense accumulation of subtly modulated surfaces that silently speak of the process of their making…In common with other objects of material culture, I would suggest that it is this embodied non-verbal materiality of the medium that makes textile (and fibre art) a particularly potent vehicle of cultural and artistic expression. Placed in direct proximity to the body, implicated in the practices, rhythms and routines of our everyday experience, and continuously and invisibly negotiating the relationship between self and other, it provides us with what may be a silent yet undoubtedly powerfully convincing testimony (Maxine Bristow, ‘Continuity of Touch -Textile as Silent Witness’ in The Textile Reader by Jessica Hemmings).

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Photo: Emma Parker, Junk Heart, Stitch Therapy http://miss-stitch-therapy.blogspot.ie

Binding, knotting, and wrapping strands together to sculpt significance that can be handled and occupied. Compositions of identity that relate to the body and making a place to locate one’s self.

(Cloth and fibre) perform both a material and symbolic role as (they) bear witness to the rituals and rites of passage that accompany us through our passage from birth to death, materialising and expressing otherwise immaterial or abstract entities (Maxine Bristow, ‘Continuity of Touch -Textile as Silent Witness’ in The Textile Reader by Jessica Hemmings).


Photo: Eva Hesse, No Title (1969–70), Latex, Rope, String, Wire, Whitney Museum of American Art (collection.whitney.org)

I cannot be so many things. I cannot be something for everyone … Woman, beautiful, artist, wife, housekeeper, cook, saleslady all these things. I cannot even be myself, nor know what I am’ (Eva Hesse, Diary Entry on January 4, 1964, http://www.tate.org.uk)

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Photo: Emma Donaldson, Untitled, The LAB Gallery, Dublin, 2015

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Artists:  Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor, Dance of the Earth, Installation, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 2013 http://www.monavatamanuflorintudor.ro

We followed images and streaming from Tahrir square during the Egyptian revolution. These events reminded us what we witnessed in ’89 – ’90 in Bucharest and other similar situations that happened before and after in a larger frame, in so many parts of the world in which people act and question for possibilities to imagine change. This installation act as a metaphor for a fallen tent waiting for someone to occupy it and continue this process. Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor www.monavatamanuflorintudor.ro



Photo: Sculpted Playground by Toshiko Horiuchi  (Photo Credit: http://www.staging.nsgmedia.com)

Donaldson deliberately employs materials that…she refers to  as ‘the stuff of life’: ordinary things of everyday use, things that are banal and mundane. The reason for this is two-fold: first, such materials illustrate the marks of daily wear and tear, the traces of usage that reflect the passing of time; second in Donaldson’s case using these materials as medium becomes a visceral and labour intensive process..(t)he artist’s movements are firmly recorded and easily traceable in the material history of the objects. …The tumour like Untitled is a blend of different patches of fabric, including medical dressing, pieces of hosiery, and muslin cloths, all hand-stitched haphazardly in an effort to contain this growing malignant mass (Emma Donaldson, Exhibition Information, Marysia Wieckiewicz-Carroll

It is my reaction to (the past) that provides the emotional material and impetus for my work; the propelling task is to dismantle the often rigid thoughts and bring them to substance (Emma Donaldson, Irish Arts Review, Summer 2014).



Photo: Dana Barnes, Unspun: Tangled and Fused, Ralph Pucci, NYC

(Fibre arts) perform a fundamental role in negotiating the changing relationship between our inner selves and the world that we inhabit…(Maxine Bristow, ‘Continuity of Touch-Textile as Silent Witness’ in The Textile Reader by Jessica Hemmings).


Photo: Chiharu Shiota, Letters of Thanks, New Art Gallery Walsall, http://www.chiharu-shiota.com, Photo Credit: David Tomlinson

Encased within the woollen mesh are hundreds of hand-written letters of thanks sourced from Japan, each resonant with stories of love, absence, loss or gratitude. The installation tells of friends, families and lovers, all apart for a myriad of reasons (Chiharu Shiota, Dialogues, Wall Street International Art, wsimag.com).


Photo: Chiharu Shiota, Accumulation: Searching for Destination,The New Art Gallery Walsall, UK, Photograph by Jonathan Shaw

These battered and bruised suitcases evoke unknown yet powerful human stories; stories of journeys, of migration, of discoveries, of love and loss… (Chiharu Shiota, Dialogues, Wall Street International Art, wsimag.com).

Chiharu Shiota is a Japanese performance and installation artist best known for creating room-filling, monumental yet delicate, poetic environments. Central to the artist’s work are the themes of remembrance and oblivion, dreaming and sleeping, traces of the past and childhood, and dealing with anxieties (www.arndtfineart.com).



Photo: Rebecca Cross, Fiber Art,  (2009-2010), Double-Edge Dance

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Photo: Margie Gillis, A Stone’s Poem and The Tornado Project


Photo: Eleanor Lawler, Dublin Live Art Festival, http://www.dublinliveartfestival.com


Photo: Martha Graham, Lamentation, A Portrait of Grieving

Textiles remember. This is not something that we necessarily ask of them, nor is it something we can divert them from doing. They do it regardless. And the memory of the textile is unremittingly democratic: moments of joy and tragedy are recorded on the surface and embedded into the structure of cloth, without permission and often without intention. Textiles remember, in part, because they are hostage to their own fragility. Unlike that of metal or stone, the life span of the textile is not dissimilar to that of our own bodies: newness gradually replaced by wear and tear until worn out. (Jessica Hemmings, The Textile Reader, 2012).

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Photo: Ann Hamilton, The Event of a Thread, 2012-13, Park Avenue Armory, New York, http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com

The crossings of thread make a cloth. Cloth is the body’s first architecture; it protects, conceals and reveals; it carries our weight, swaddles us at birth and covers us in sleep and in death. A patterned cloth symbolizes state or organization; a red cross stitched onto a white field is the universal sign of aid. A white cloth can be a ghost, a monster or a truce. John Constable described the sky in his paintings as a “white sheet drawn behind the objects.” When we speak of its qualities we speak of the cloth’s hand; we know it through touch. Like skin, its membrane is responsive to contact, to the movement of air, to gravity’s pull. (Ann Hamilton, http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com)


Photo: Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, July 20, 1964, Yamaichi Concert Hall, Kyoto, Japan.

studioasheville-butoh-dance-select-3Photos:  Asheville Butoh Dance, http://www.ashevillebutoh.com

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Photo: Akram Khan Dance Company, http://www.akramkhancompany.net, Vertical Road

…(T)extile as skin or membrane provides on the one hand a very real, tangible point of contact and material boundary and on the other hand a more ambiguous metaphorical boundary between self and ‘not self’ (Maxine Bristow, ‘Continuity of Touch -Textile as Silent Witness’ in The Textile Reader by Jessica Hemmings)

The night before surgery Sam and Kat took me out to dinner and then Kat went to rehearsal and Sam and I went to Ocean Beach late at night. On the firm wet sand at low tide your footprints register clearly before the waves come and devour all trace of passage. I like to see the long line we each leave behind, and I sometimes imagine my whole life that way, as though each step was a stitch, as though I was a needle leaving a trail of thread that sewed together the world as I went by, crisscrossing others’ paths, quilting it all together in some way that matters even though it can hardly be traced. A meander line sutures together the world in some new way, as though walking was sewing and sewing was telling a story and that story was your life (Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby).


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Photos: Louise Bourgeois from Top to Bottom:  1. The Cell XXVI 2. Rejection 3. Why Have You Run So Far Away? 4. Photograph of Louise Bourgeois by Annie Leibovitz

When I was growing up all the women in my house used needles. I have always had a fascination with the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair the damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness.

The act of sewing is a process of emotional repair…You repair the thing until you remake it completely.

Expose a contradiction, that is all you need

(Quotations by Louise Bourgeois)



Photos: Sean Gyshen Fennell, Fashioning the Facade, http://www.tyrusclutter.com

Looking closer one finds that the artist (Sean Gyshen Fennell) has broken the picture plane. Actual needles and thread are piercing the surface of the work, creating sutures across the artist’s chest and torso. Stitches encircling the artist’s nipples seem at once sensual and painful. They call attention to a highly sensitive area and stir up questions about sexuality. As the chest is pushed together to form cleavage, the artist binds the gap with a seam of cross stitches. Although there appears to be no physical wound here, there is no escaping the concept of healing in this gesture. The placement of the actual needles in the hand of the artist lets us know he is working to heal his own wounds. (Tyrus Clutter on Sean Gyshen Fennell, Fashioning the Facade, June 2010, http://www.tyrusclutter.blogspot.ie)



Photo: Tilleke Schwarz 1. It Feels Comfy But Will it Last  2. Racing Thoughts,

All my work relates basically to one theme: the oddities of life. The work can be understood as a kind of visual poetry. Every work contains narrative elements. Not really complete stories, with a beginning, a storyline, and an end. On the contrary, the viewer is invited to decipher connections or to create them. (Tilleke Schwarz, http://www.tillekeschwarz.com)

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Photo: Agnes Richter’s Jacket, The Prinzhorn Collection, Personal Writing Embroidered on a Jacket Made from Asylum Uniforms 1890’s

Nothing is known about when or precisely how Agnes created the jacket, except that she seems to have taken apart her shapeless hospital uniform and reconstructed it into a beautiful and elegant garment. The delicate buttonholes, the cuffs flaring from tightly fitted sleeves, and the peplum (a decorative ruffle attached to the bodice) all offer evidence of her considerable talent as a seamstress. The bluish-grey linen is accentuated by sections of brown felt attached to the collar and parts of the back of the torso. But what makes the jacket so extraordinary and so distinctive are the dozens of lines of text that cover practically every inch, sewn in five colours of yarn and thread that give the impression more of a painting than an everyday garment…. (T)he jacket and its text offer a powerful challenge, reminding us that madness is more code than chemistry, and if we want to understand it, we need native speakers, not just brain scans. (Gail Hornstein, Madness from the Outside In, The Psychologist, British Psychological Society, http://www.thepsychologist.bps.org.uk)

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Photo: Artwork by Laura Jo Pierce,  TEXTile Exhibition, Creative Growth Art Centre Gallery, http://www.creativegrowth.org

A thread now most often means a line of conversation via e-mail or other electronic means, but thread must have been an even more compelling metaphor when most people witnessed or did the women’s work that is spinning. It is a mesmerizing art, the spindle revolving below the strong thread that the fingers twist out of the mass of fibers on an arm or a distaff. The gesture turns the cloudy mass of fiber into lines with which the world can be tied together. Likewise, the spinning wheel turns, cyclical time revolving to draw out the linear line of a thread. The verb to spin first meant just this act of making, then evolved to mean anything turning rapidly, and then it came to mean telling a tale. (Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby).


Photo: Rachel Gomme, The Memory of Yarn Performance, R Space Gallery, http://www.rspacelisburn.com, Northern Ireland, 2012)

Knitters learn valuable life skills such as patience, perseverance, and the knowledge that mistakes can be undone (www.stitchlinks.com).

Stitchlinks is an organisation dedicated to promoting the therapeutic benefits of knitting, stitching and crochet. It disseminates research into the health benefits of these crafts in relation to rhythmic movement, texture, and social interaction.

Our mission is to use knitting and other therapeutic creative activities to improve wellbeing generally, but also to complement medical treatments in the self-management of long-term health conditions. We are working closely with academics and clinicians, and as a direct result, therapeutic knitting and therapeutic knitting groups are being formally acknowledged by leading clinicians and academics for their benefits in mainstream healthcare. We have been successfully using knitting therapeutically in the NHS (National Health Service, UK) since 2006.

Our prime focus is on the use of therapeutic knitting as a healthcare tool – unravelling the neuroscience behind its bilateral, rhythmic, automatic movements and the complex combination of physiological, psychological, behavioural, social and creative benefits experienced.

Knitting’s portability plays a key role in making its benefits available when you need it. We have helped people to use it to successfully manage panic, anxiety and pain spasms when out and about as well as problems with sleep and social confidence (www.stitchlinks.com).

1199701-7Photo: Bora Lee, bora201308, Keywords: black, space, time, infinity, knit, line, saatchiart.com


Photo: Katie Holten, It Started on the C Train, Crocheted Maps, http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk

Usually I’m on the move, and I started to crochet on the subway making circular shapes that were like a drawing accompanying my journey. I collected a bundle of crochet doodles, all made from a simple chain stitch and connected them together. The bundles of crocheted ‘maps’ can be displayed and assembled in different ways (Katie Holten, It Started on the C Train, Irish Museum of Modern Art).


Photo: Kathy Prendergast, The Grave Blanket, wooden blanket and marble chips,        www.kerlingallery.com


Photo: Kathy Prendergast, The Secret Kiss, Kerlin Gallery, Ireland


Photo: Faith Wilding 1972 Womb Room (Renamed Crocheted Environment in 1995)


Emin, Tracey, I do not expect to be a mother

Photo One: Tracey Emin, Everyone I Ever Slept With 1963-1995, Appliquéd Tent and Mattress, http://www.saatchigallery.com Photo Two: Tracey Emin, I Do Not Expect, 2002, http://www.artinamericamagazine.com, Blanket Graffiti

It’s not what you inherit, but what you do with your inheritance (Tracey Emin, tate.org.uk)

Emin employs the lightness of traditional “women’s crafts”, like sewing, to explore what (Louise) Bourgeois classed as the “volcanic unconscious” which we only ever encounter in parts: “That’s why I use a lot of embroidery,” Emin explains. “I take this craft but I don’t treat it like a craft, but like high art. (Tracey Emin: Craft Work, http://www.independent.co.uk)


Photo: Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998

Well-known for her confessional art, Tracey Emin reveals intimate details from her life to engage the viewer with her expressions of universal emotions. Her ability to integrate her work and personal life enables Emin to establish an intimacy with the viewer…By presenting her bed as art, Tracey Emin shares her most personal space, revealing she is as insecure and imperfect as the rest of the world (www.saatchigallery.com)

Within art therapy fibre, texture and story can be incorporated to make a variety of items: 

Book Covers, Sheets, Curtains, Purses/Bags, Tablecloths, Scarfs, Cloaks, Tents, Pillow/Cushion Covers, Veils, Quilts, Blankets, Clothing, Accessories, Upholstery, Aprons, Personal Altars, Baskets, Shrouds, etc.  

Fabric acts to conceal and cover objects and persons, while at the same time, disclosing them…The objects may be commonplace but the wrapping gives them a certain mystery, vitality, and seductiveness. Fabric is malleable. It lends itself to wrapping, draping, and swathing. It restricts direct access to the naked object, but it also has the ability to suggest, enhance, and draw attention to what it covers over and adorns ( Anne Hamlin, Freud, Fabric, Fetish).


Photo: Tracey Emin, Sleep, 1996, http://www.saatchigallery.com


Photo: Tracey Emin, There is A lot of Money in Chairs, Credit: David Sillitoe, The Guardian)

Tracey Emin admits that she is a product of her past, created with her experiences sewn into the fabric of her very being, much like her tapestries. As the onlooker, we’re encouraged to not be ashamed of what occupies the dark recesses of our minds; the skeletons in our closets and the insecurities to which we never gave a voice  (Morgan Meaker, The Art of Self-Indulgence: Tracey Emin).


Hamlyn, A. (2012). Freud, Fabric, Fetish. In J. Hemmings (Ed.), The Textile Reader (pp. 14-26). London: Berg Publishers.

Meaker, M. (2013). The Art of Self-Indulgence: Tracey Emin. Retrieved from http://www.londoncalling.com.

Tracey Emin: Craft Work. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk

Tracey Emin Exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.saatchigallery.com.

Ward, O. (2011). Tracey Emin: No Bedtime Story. Retrieved from http://www.artinamerica.com



(Photo: Beverly Ayling Smith, Absence, http://www.beverlyaylingsmith.com)

The stories of people’s lives are implicated within the threads that compose the intimate surroundings of body and home. Textiles portray a sense of ritual, of making special everyday spaces through a quality of adornment and presence.

Even when the immediate feelings of grief and mourning are passed, we are changed forever; the emotions embedded in the fabric of our lives emerge at different times to stain our emotional states.

Melancholia has been described by Julia Kristeva as ‘an abyss of sorrow’. By exploring the expression of melancholia through the representation of loss in cloth…(lies the) question whether it is possible to re-evaluate the term ‘melancholia’ in the light of contemporary ritual and practice using textiles as a metaphor for grief and loss within rituals of mourning.

(Beverly Ayling Smith)

Some Functions of Texture, Fibre, Cloth, in Art Therapy: 

Rites of Passage, Heirlooms, Amulets/Charms, Adornment, Comfort, Mending


Photo: Beverly Ayling Smith, Shroud

The substance and physicality of fabric…conveys multiplicity, temporality and complexity. Various processes contribute to the somatic history of the fabric and its multiple transformations…As sensuous materials suspended in space, casting shadows on the walls and floors, they confront the viewer differently from different perspectives as they subtly oscillate in response to the atmosphere, becoming ultimately, communicative memories…By creating line as well as openings, and by delineating positive and negative space, the edges frame information – or demarcate the lack of information – caught within, behind, or beyond the edge…The gossamer layers of experience, depending upon our perceptual vantage point, are transient, creating a mutable, translucent skin that keeps quietly changing as we proceed forward in time (Rebecca Cross, Artist Statement)

Some Metaphors Referencing Texture, Fibre and Cloth in Art Therapy: 

Spinning a Tale, A Network of Ideas, Piecing Things Together, Hanging by a Thread, On Pins and Needles, Wear and Tear, Feeling at Loose Ends, Weaving Things Together, Patching Up Relationships, All Sewn Up, Ties that Bind, On the Mend

What if the poetics of cloth were composed of ‘soft logics’, modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries? The binary offers two possibilities, either/or; soft logics offers multiple possibilities. They are the realm of the and/and, where anything can happen…Soft logics are to think without excluding…And if soft suggests an elastic surface, a tensile quality that yields to pressure this is not a weakness; for ‘an object that gives in is actually stronger than one that resists, because it also permits the opportunity to be oneself in a new way’ (Pennina Barnett, Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth)


Barnett, P. ( 2012  ). Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth. In J. Hemmings (Ed.), The Textile Reader (pp.182-191 ). London: Berg Publishers.   

Cross, R. (2016). Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.rebeccastextiles.com

Smith, B.A. (2016) Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.beverlyaylingsmith.com



Photo: Lygia Clark in her studio working on Arquitetura biológica II (Biologic architecture II). Cité internationale des arts, Paris, 1969. Photo credit: Alécio de Andrade. Courtesy Associação Cultural “O Mundo de Lygia Clark,” Rio de Janeiro

The Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920-1988) encouraged the formation of art objects to enhance physical encounters and social communication. Her legacy offers significant contributions to art therapy, arts and health and socially engaged art. In essence her psychoanalytic explorations were re-produced within artworks that became animate through physical manipulation by others. Her psychological interests were aimed at dissolving both personal and social boundaries. Through sensory engagement and embodied interactions, Clark created experiences that brought bodies and minds together in unique ways. She choreographed relationships between strangers, who came in contact with each other through propositions for movement that directed the possibilities of working with collaborative materials. Clark produced relational objects to be inhabited, and to use as a means of communicating beyond language.


Photo: Lygia Clark’s proposition Rede de elásticos (Elastic net), 1974. Shown in use, in Paris, in 1974. Courtesy Associação Cultural “O Mundo de Lygia Clark,” Rio de Janeiro.


Photo: Lygia Clark’s proposition Camisa de força (Straitjacket), 1969. Shown in use, probably in Paris, in 1969. Courtesy Associação Cultural “O Mundode Lygia Clark,” Rio de Janeiro.

We transport ourselves into the happening of Clark’s art in order to unfold our inhibitions. Her artworks unleash a desire to expand, to enter into a communion with others as a kind of collective release. She exposes an archetypal unconscious that seeks exposure, contact, and performance. We are not meant to view Lygia Clark’s artworks as objects, but as routes into our own subjectivity. Clark’s kinetic sculptures beckon ritual readjustment, a chance to impose sensation and to create our own experience. She offers us an opportunity to make more of ourselves, by giving us a chance to reveal and to occupy public space in a fuller way. Rather than inhabiting limitation, her propositions extend us outwards. As a consequence we connect with additional dynamics of our personal and social environments. Clark invites us to extend our identities and physicality into new dimensions as an antidote to repression. As a result we become not the spectator, but the spectacle that brings people together.


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Photos: Art Therapy Constructions as Movement Duets Inspired by Lygia Clark


1. The World of Lygia Clark


2. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988
May 10–August 24, 2014