“Textile is an ambiguous concept. It is material; it is a concept; it is language; it is a metaphor.To conceive of a philosophy of textiles is to conceive of this ambiguity as a guiding principle for talking and thinking about textiles.” - Catherine Dormor, A Philosophy of Textile: Between Practice and Theory
Text by Caroline Stevenson
The making of textiles is rarely an individual effort. Its material production most often relies on many geographically specific and collective processes. To trace the origins of a piece of cloth is to open up a world of interconnected lives and places, from local and small domestic production to mass industrial manufacture. Conceptually, textile is also an active producer of history. It is a socially enacted material that weaves through our everyday lives: the interface between our bodies and the world. Textile is also deeply entwined with language. It speaks through familiar metaphors such as binding together, spinning yarns and stitching up, and, according to Tim Ingold (2007), it is the genesis of text itself – the first human attempt to create a surface from a series of lines and the first method of recording human process in a linear notation. Therefore, a textile philosophy is more than a process of making. It is a connection between material threads and immaterial memories.
Image: Cruck barn interior. Photo courtesy of Jack Bolton. Image above: Projection Cloth, cotton being processed at Helmshore Mill. Photo courtesy of Jack Bolton.
Projection Cloth, Christine Borland’s new installation for the 2023 British Textile Biennale, offers a way of thinking that traverses textile’s materiality, concept and language. It brings together several charged elements housed within a medieval barn in East Lancashire, a geographic area of Northern England whose identity and landscape were shaped by textile production during the Industrial Revolution.
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