23 Feb 2017

Stitches to Save 9 With - Solo Show March 9- April 24th, 2017, The Mine

No (Wo)man's an Island, 2017. PVC leather, embroidery. Dimensions variable
After several years in my practice of experimenting with sculptural forms inside the gallery context, and outside as sculpture or performative gesture in areas of designated 'public space', Stitches to Save 9 With at The Mine; a mainly textile series that explores language, meaning and memory. The works in this series evoke the sound of spoken or chanted lines in the mind of the onlooker. The sing-song delivery of many of these sayings, learned along with the lines, are meant to make these phrases indelible in the mind. Ironically however these maxims, truisms and dictums, although often useful, are largely forgotten or half remembered and are falling out of use.

Parts of longer speeches or poems, for example by John Dunne (1572-1631) or Seneca (4 BC–AD 65), these were once common 'verbal tools' yet now like hand stitching itself, is falling out of use.  Yet writers such as Dunne, wrote about such lasting and recurring dangers as the dangers of isolationism, which could not be more relevant to the politics of today as questions of citizenship, 'race', and movement arise. On a Ukrainian flag are stitched a new proverb for today in red, white and blue: You can't stop the wind from carrying a seed.

Many of the phrases we know and remember are described are imagined differently in other languages, for example 'Break a leg' translates as 'Into the wolf's the mouth' in Italian. As these translated sayings impart the same message, they are at once cultural markers of both our overall oneness as a species, as well as our localised differences as citizens, class members, even gendered groups.

On another level, a reading of these words of wisdom brings into focus aspects of a distinctly male view of the world, revealing archaic, even damaging perspectives in their exclusion and exceptionalism, that we have unwittingly perpetuated. There is therefore a tension between what is needed in language, what we recall and what we use ourselves in contemporary sourced echo this tension, I feel, about memory and inheritance, our fast culture, the disposable production-ethic of cheap items today and also the way we make quickly surmised readings and how that is related to the way we view 'art'.

I began to consider what could the truisms for today be, and what would our inherited phrases have been if women had written history instead of men?

With Stitches to Save 9 With art's ability to draw attention to aspects of our ethics, is drawn in close parallel with the poetry's (or song lyrics') ability to do the same, as is the highly elucidating power poetry commands to suggests nuanced layers of meaning while also speaking on a very direct level to the listener. The press release below, part-edited by Dr. Ali MacGilp, discusses the concept and its relation to the overall material concerns of the show.

Electric Dreams Can't Last, 2017. Acrylic lightbox, vinyl image, electric cabling. (60 x 90cm)
No Shadows in Paradise, 2017. Neon tubing, perspex backing, electronic and cabling. (70 x 120 cm)

For the women's work aprons "No Woman is an Island", I took from English poet John Donne, in what is an extremely topical poem even today.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod(1) be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory(2) were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 
1 Piece of earth 
2 A high point of land or rock projecting into a body of water
On a Rock Floating Through Space, 2017. Cotton, embroidery thread, found frame, aerosol, coloured sand. 90 x 90cm
The True Veil, 2017. Embroidery thread, cotton, found wooden frame. (90 x 70cm)

In this exhibition, Fari Bradley explores the nuances of language, history and memory. Contemplating either the usefulness or destructive nature of traditionally recited proverbs, truisms, and dictums alongside several new ones for today, Bradley renders them as signifiers, using textile and mixed media.

Stitches to Save 9 With pits the deliberate form of stitching against quickly spoken lines, fleeting inspirations and ‘quippage’. A proverbial expression, 'a stitch in time saves nine' is an incentive: to stitch a tear in a cloth, now, before the tear becomes larger and harder to mend.  The ‘nine’ refers to the greater number of stitches that will be needed later, if one quick stitch isn't performed ‘in time’. This and other wise homilies in this body of work are falling out of use - just as hand stitching itself is disappearing.

Using a range of materials, Bradley employs methods and tools that formed part of her upbringing. With a parent who studied and practiced professional dress-making, offcuts had been Bradley's childhood playthings. Here, alien found objects, chanced upon threads and remnants serve as inspiration for her work, chiming with the popular reaction for a DIY aesthetic, against today's overwhelmingly disposable culture of low cost production. Such stitched works, while historically a hobby for the upper classes, also reference a certain Anglo-Saxon work ethic preached at the poor. Referencing this WWII 'make do and mend' work ethic, spoken, chanted lessons for life are rendered in traditionally feminine techniques, employing domestic skills that young girls once had to demonstrate in order to become 'marriage material'.

Decoratively Bradley's pieces resist a perspective framed in language, that often posits the idea that human experience is 'male experience'; No man is an island, for example. Yet while Stitches to Save 9 With is founded on the often sombre messages behind these mechanically memorised sayings, Bradley's techniques employ layers of satirical significance and testingly playful semantics.

Working mainly as a sound and radio artist, Bradley's previous works include musical scores rendered in weave, or sculptures combining textiles and electronics. Knitting patterns were a doorway into the algorithmic processes of electronic music, while sewing patterns were parallels to the diagrams used in building electronic circuits, and are a visual language Bradley has explored in her arts practice since 2006

Marcel Proust’s observation“The remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were” inspired Bradley to visualise memory expressed as an imperfect picture, on which we have all embroidered our own threads, colouring experience as we saw them. Here the emotion involved in remembering contrasts with the automated way in which, for centuries, past generations have handed down these immutable wisdoms. Such spoken adages were modified to make them easy to remember and repeat, yet lack the vital quality of adaptation for the future, by which all things must survive.

My past work with The Mine includes a performance with Chris Weaver, for which we invited artists Jumairy and Sofia Chatsisaranti to collaborate: