During my first year of graduate school I took a course that allowed me to travel to West Africa and study traditional textiles. Narrow woven strip cloth, bogalon, and wax printing are all techniques used by the people there to make textiles that help to translate the story of their communities into cloth. This idea got me thinking. If I was to tell the story of my people in a textile collection what would it look like? What symbols and geometric forms would I use to express these ideas in an abstract way?
This collection uses coding to translate the information about my family into a graphical way to make patterns for textiles. Morse code, bar codes, QR codes, binary code, and short hand were all used to translate the names, significant dates, and facts I had gathered about my family. As I was working through this collection I realized that just translating the facts wasn't really telling the story. The history and essence of who the people were can not be found in their dates of birth, or by how many children they had. The really story of my family can only be captured by listening to all the stories that people still remember. By listening to these stories I got to know how these people made others in my family feel. It is the love they shared, the losses they dealt that truly shaped who they were. As this collection evolved over the semester, and continued to evolve into the next semester, it became more about how we capture the feeling and emotions associated with memories.
“Memory is about the relationship between material facts and personal subjectivity, and it is precisely that interplay between what we remember, how we remember and why we remember that is of such interest to oral historians”. Story telling, or the oral transmission of history, is one of the oldest methods of handing down information from generation to generation. People have to take a dive into the recesses of their memory and pull the information out that is to be shared, and in doing so the act of sharing a memory becomes dynamic and collective. “ In contrast, written history does not present a dialogue so much as a static record of an authority’s singular recounting of a series of events”.
What if, each end and pick in a woven fabric work together to convey what a faded memory would feel like if it was possible to reach out and touch it? Or, could the loops of a wiry, untamed knit, tangle itself in a way that makes you question the accuracy of the collective memories that lie within? What about taking a woven textile and making it look as empty and cold as a vacant mind? Or creating a textile that had to be hand clipped, revealing piece by piece the memories that lie underneath that top layer of haze. The aim of the Capturing a Memory collection is to have the viewer connect intellectually and emotionally to each textile, recognizing the concepts that lie within.