Hard Twist 9 at the Gladstone Hotel: by Karen Darricades
Fibre Optics – Textiles in the Digital Age was the ninth annual Hard Twist exhibit hosted by the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, Canada. The theme of Hard Twist 9 was the exploration of how textiles and digital technologies intersect in art.
This article is written by Karen Darricades, an artist, writer and community activist living and working in Toronto, Canada.
How the digital touches cloth
Fibre Optics was the theme of the 9th annual Hard Twist textile and fibre arts exhibit at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel, August 28 – December 28, 2014.
This exhibition of textiles in the Digital Age plugs into the juncture where textile connects with computer technology and exposes how the digital touches cloth. An interesting thematic umbrella that participating artists took in many different directions.
Starting with photographs’ of her native Karashi, Pakistan, artist Munira Amin’s work removes the image from the technical realism of photography and infuses it with the emotional memory one holds in connection to a specific place. Using image transfers and old hand-carved wooden blocks to print on fabric, she layers cloths as if to create multiple views of the same landscape simultaneously, as “an exploration of layering history with the present.”
Fusing techno with tactility
Wendy Nichol’s work creates aesthetically pleasing patterns and prints from what is commonly known as the most unpleasant experience one can have: dental work. Fusing the techno (and even trippy) imagery of an x-ray close up with the alluring tactility of silk, Nichol’s work is difficult for the viewer to believe:
Can teeth really be this beautiful under any circumstance?
The curatorial exploration of technology
Greta Grip’s artist statement explains,
“As a knitter prepares to knit a sweater, the first step is to knit a square with the needles and yarn that are recommended. This square is called a gauge swatch. It is from this small swatch a knitter can check their gauge against the specified gauge in the directions. This is extremely important first step in knitting in order to have a finished product the size of which you intend.”
Besides being a highly interesting object it is perhaps the most conceptually linked to the curatorial exploration of technology, as coding (and to some extent all forms of technological invention) is about creating a sample bit, multiplying and scaling that bit to create an intricate network that resembles or refers back to its simple settings, or parameters.
Reveal or conceal
Toronto’s former mayor, Rob Ford certainly was “caught” between the new world order of youth driven media, a misunderstanding (or underestimating) of the technological capabilities of his constituents, and a serious image problem.
His image is, as Marcus points out,
“A creation of the internet and ever-present media.”
If there were ever two mediums to exemplify the relationship between textiles and technology it would be digital photography and cross-stitching textiles.
Marcus uses the pixilated nature of both mediums to highlight the differences between two ways of weaving the story of Toronto infamous mayor: the first, the fast changing images produced by a mass media that picks and chooses which elements to reveal or conceal.
The second, the soft and detailed work of hand embroidery, risks being indiscernible if any section is incomplete in its representation of pigment and light.
Disrupting conventional ideas of originality
Amy Rogers simple embroidery triptych draws interesting connections between outsider art, low versus high art, and the inclusive participatory nature of media tech in contemporary culture.
Just as post-modernism brought with it an ‘anyone can make art’ change in mentality, the digital sphere and internet has ushered in a ‘anyone can produce media’ era. Both paradigm shifts disrupt conventional ideas of originality, uniqueness and value.
A third dimension is added to the work when we consider the prevailing attitudes about craft versus high art in the context of fibre based works and the gallery context.
A contemporary landscape
Superplat Collective describes their Paysage Plat series as,
“Paying tribute to both the picturesque, almost unreal scenery of landscape postcards as well as textile crafts, such as embroidery or felting … Decontextualized, digitally processed, applied onto different textiles and manually modified, we believe these elements form the different layers of a contemporary landscape.”
Not unlike a tourist’s desire to achieve the impossible of summing up the entirety of a travel experience in a mass produced postcard, these works seem to be almost collage-like simplifications of the desire to encompass something as massive as the concept of landscape.
Arts and culture in the city of Toronto
With two annual submission calls for textile/fibre artists, PieceWORK and Hard Twist, as well as being at the centre of two of Toronto’s largest art festivals, Nuit Blanche and Come Up to My Room (part of The Toronto Design Offsite Festival), the Gladstone Hotel has become an increasingly important venue for arts and culture in the city of Toronto.
Learn more about Karen Darricades by visiting www.karendarricades.com.
Which piece that we featured here from Hard Twist 9 did you find most visually impressive? Also, did you attend Hard Twist 9? Let us know in a comment below.