ELECTION TIME (?)

As you have probably heard by now:
“Australia appears set for a double-dissolution federal election on July 2 after the government’s bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission failed to pass the Senate – again.” – The Conversation 

Late last year I made a gift for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a Wagga quilt adorned with 121 hand stitched messages for the PM from over 100 Australian citizens who contributed to this project. When I reached out and asked people to contribute their messages for the PM my promise to them was that I would ensure the quilt gets to him. PM-PLZ-Quilt.jpg

Over the past few months I’ve been exploring many different avenues to get this quilt to Turnbull: I’ve tried mailing and emailing his office, reaching out on social media, getting in touch with people who know him, local politicians, his neighbours, friends of friends etc. all to no avail. Mostly, those who know and are in contact with Turnbull are reluctant to bring this project up, reluctant to ask him if he would be willing to receive this gift in case it would be a breach of protocol.
However, on the plus side the quilt is due to go up at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in July for 7 weeks. The plan was to send him a formal invitation to attend the exhibition from the museum and give the quilt to him at the end of the seven week installation.  However, it is now apparent that will be AFTER the election, meaning there is a chance Turnbull will no longer be PM…
So, once again I am reaching out to you my friends and fellow citizens: I need your help in getting our gift to Turnbull’s. If you know how to get hold of him, if you can ask him whether he would be willing to accept this gift – I will fly anywhere in the country in order to hand this quilt over to him.
Can you help?

Above are a few examples of the 121 messages hand stitched onto this quilt.

 

🙂

PM Please – Press Release

PM Please

Press Release – 9 November 2015 

Craftivist works with local community to make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a unique gift. 

With (another) new Prime Minister in office and a federal election less than 12 months away now seems like as good a time as any to reach out and tell our political leaders what’s important to us. Artist Tal Fitzpatrick has come up with a unique way to get our messages across to the prime minister instead of barraging him with letters, emails and tweets…

As part of HillsceneLIVE pop-up art festival in Monbulk VIC (30/10/2015) textile artist and craftivist (craft/activist) Tal Fitzpatrick, along with the help of 23 festival goers and over 80 online contributors, turned a pile of second-hand ties and suit swatches into a special gift for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a quilted wall hanging adorned with 121 hand-stitched messages to the prime minister, each beginning with the words PM Please.

“For me this socially engaged art project is not simply an attempt to reach out to the PM in order to have our voices heard or to make demands– it is an expression of hope and reciprocity. People have big ideas about Australia’s future and they want to work with our political leaders in order achieve positive change.” – said Ms.Fitzpatrick

Over the three weeks this project took to complete Tal, with the help of HillsceneLIVE festival goers, hand-stitched every single message she received without making any exceptions, changes or omissions. Then she pieced these messages together with her appliqué quilted portrait of the Malcolm Turnbull to make a quilted hanging (2.08mX1.66m).

“The act of giving a gift made by hand is a sincere gesture of generosity. I hope that upon receiving this quilt Malcolm Turnbull is moved and takes the time to reflect on and consider all the messages stitched onto it.” – said Ms.Fitzpatrick

Now that the quilt is finished Tal is trying to find the best way to give this gift to the prime minister on behalf of everyone who took part in this socially engaged art project. Can you help get this quilt to Malcolm Turnbull by writing or sharing a story about this project?

Contact Tal Fitzpatrick: E: tal.fitzpatrick@gmail.com | Instagram/Twitter: @talfitzpatrick | W: http://www.talfitzpatrick.wordpress.com | http://www.praxialpractice.wordpress.com

   

   

   

About: Tal Fitzpatrick is a Melbourne based artist and a 2nd year PhD candidate at the Victorian College for the Arts, Melbourne University. Tal works in the mediums of textile art and socially engaged art.  

 

“PM Please” – Project Update

With (another) new Prime Minister in office and a federal election less than 12 months away now seems like as good a time as any to reach out and tell our political leaders what’s important to us… and what better way to do that then by hand stitching messages onto a quilted portrait of our Prime Minister!? 

In early October I successfully pritched my “PM Please” project to HillsceneLIVE art festival, which was held on the 31st of October in Monbulk, Victoria. My pitch was this: I want to make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a gift – a quilt made out of suit swatches and ties embroided with messages from people which I will collect both at the festival and via social media.

After being accepted I sent a call out via my social media for people to send me their short messages for the prime minister that start with the words ‘PM Please’ for me to stitch and on the day of HillsceneLIVE festival goers had the opportunity to stitch their own messages. Importantly, at the very start of the project I pledged to include all the messages I was given by people in the quilt without any exceptions, alterations or censorship. 

The following documents the progress of this project so far, including: a list of all 121 messages I was sent from people both at HillsceneLIVE and via social media, images from HillsceneLIVE art festival where people were invited to stitch their own messages for the PM by hand, and detailed shots of many of the embroidered messages on the quilt. The first photo below is of the quilt top which is now ready to be quilted and bound. After that is done all that needs to happen is to find a way to get it to Malcolm Turnbull….  

      

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Images from HillsceneLIVE festival, Monbulk VIC.   

 
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Detailed images of the embroidered messages on the quilt: 

  
    
    
  

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The full list of messges I collected via social media and as part of the HillsceneLIVE art festival in Monbulk, Victoria  
1. #PMPLZ put the environment first. 
2. #PMPLZ stop coal mining ruining our future. 
3. #PMPLZ end mandatory offshore detention.  
4. #PMPLZ prioritise preventative healthcare.  
5. #PMPLZ save the Syrian refugees 
6. #PMPLZ legalise same sex marriage.  
7. #PMPLZ decriminalise abortion.  
8. #PMPLZ address the human rights abuses of our country, particularly with regard to asylum seekers.  
9. #PMPLZ improve mental health services in Australia. Particularly in rural areas.   
10. #PMPLZ invest in renewable energy.  
11. #PMPLZ let your actions speak louder than campaign promises  
12. #PMPLZ decriminalise sex work. 
13. #PMPLZ ban live animal exports   
14. #PMPLZ accept my conditional thanks. Now repair Abbott’s actions. 
15. #PMPLZ don’t disappoint us.  
16. #PMPLZ govern for people not corporations.  
17. #PMPLZ ban plastic bags now. 
18. #PMPLZ restore the arts funding  
19. #PMPLZ take care of our refugees and asylum seekers  
20. #PMPLZ don’t deprive refugee children of a normal life 
21. #PMPLZ listen to us 
22. #PMPLZ take global warming seriously  
23. #PLZPLZ keep children out of detention. 
24. #PMPLZ put a price on carbon   
25. #PMPLZ stop so many women being murdered by their partners   
26. #PMPLZ put food before mines  
27. #PMPLZ no nanny state   
28. #PMpPLZ value our indigenous peoples’ ways of knowing.   
29. #PMPLZ legalise medicinal marijuana         
30. #PMPLZ protect sacred sites  
31. #PMPLZ end welfare quarantining  
32. #PMPLZ acknowledge Indigenous sovereignty 
33. #PMPLZ tax the wealthy not the poor  
34. #PMPLZ protect the Great Barrier Reef 
35. #PMPLZ protect our oceans from overfishing  
36. #PMPLZ respect the CSIRO  
37. #PMPLZ support the state education system  
38. #PMPLZ please keep our penalty rates 
39. #PMPLZ keep our privacy private  
40. #PMPLZ end mandatory data retention  
41. #PMPLZ stop taxing our periods  
42. #PMPLZ make us proud 
43. #PMPLZ ensure the national roll out of the disability insurance scheme 
44. #PMPLZ stop modelling Australia after America, or we will end up with the same kind of homelessness 
45. #PMPLZ increase the money we spend on international aid  
46. #PMPLZ set serious targets for reducing carbon emissions 
47. #PMPLZ legislate marriage equality.    
48. #PMPLZ make same-sex marriage legal.  
49. #PMPLZ allow people in love to get married. 
50. #PMPLZ support full adoption rights for same-sex couples.  
51. #PMPLZ don’t waste money on a plebiscite 
52. #PMLZ abandon the unnecessary and damaging changes to arts sector funding.  
53. #PMPLZ restore arts funding. 
54. #PMPLZ understand artists need funding and encouragement 
55. #PMPLZ stop animal factory farming    
56. #PMPLZ end live animal export  
57. #PMPLZ care for our water 
58. #PMPLZ re-instate the carbon tax 
59. #PMPLZ roll out a national container deposit scheme. 
60. #PMPLZ establish the Great Forest National Park  
61. #PMPLZ consider green energies and a blue economy  
62. PMPLZ ban CSG mining  
63. #PMPLZ legislate voluntary euthanasia 
64. #PMPLZ celebrate Australian multiculturalism.  
65. #PMPLZ I want a humanitarian government. 
66. #PMPLZ have a greater consciousness than any before. 
67. #PMPLZ seek justice, love and mercy. 
68. #PMPLZ increase the supply of suitable affordable housing  
69. #PMPLZ end homelessness 
70. #PMPLZ remember that whistleblowers should be protected not prosecuted  
71. #PMPLZ treat refugees as people too  
72. #PMPLZ ensure better planning for infrastructure in remote indigenous communities. 
73. #PMPLZ have zero tolerance for all forms of discrimination  
74. #PMPLZ respect traditional owners land rights, beliefs and values.  
75. #PMPLZ resign 
76. #PMPLZ let love in 
77. #PMPLZ let us have a conversation.  
78. #PMPLZ fight for the workplace rights of our medical professional.  
79. #PMPLZ roll back ‘security’ measures that infringe on our civil rights   
80. #PMPLZ keep your hands off our metadata 
81. #PMPLZ visit Emerald for a cuppa and chat  
82. #PMPLZ adopt an Australian bill of rights  
83. #PMPLZ print more money so we can all be better off  
84. #PMPLZ support our seafarers  
85. #PMPLZ invest in a shipbuilding industry   
86. #PMPLZ help end poverty worldwide  
87. #PMPLZ lift alcohol restrictions in rural communities and allow them to regulate their own consumption  
88. #PMPLZ update the animal welfare act in all states 
89. #PMPLZ let the boats in, everyone is human  
90. #PMPLZ help close the gap  
91. #PMPLZ help preserve aboriginal sacred sites 
92. #PMPLZ put an end to domestic violence  
93. #PMPLZ put people before the economy  
94. #PMPLZ keep university accessible to all  
95. #PMPLZ what tragedy happened to you that you can hear the voice of money but are deaf to to humanity and the cries of mother earth  
96. #PMPLZ don’t be afraid to risk your political career in order to make a difference  
97. #PMPLZ address gender inequality  
98. #PMPLZ care for our environment  
99. #PMPLZ lead the world in compassion 
100. #PMPLZ Stay out of my business 
101. #PMPLZ create an equal society for all  
102. #PMPLZ learn compassion 
103. #PMPLZ don’t be shit  
104. #PMPLZ end animal cruelty  
105. #PMPLZ remember the bees  
106. #PMPLZ tax Gina  
107. #PMPLZ wage peace  
108. #PMPLZ be honest 
109. #PMPLZ speak respectfully of your opposition  
110. #PMPLZ ban cage eggs 
111. #PMPLZ ban horse racing  
112. #PMPLZ treat refugees with respect  
113. #PMPLZ abolish uni fees 
114. #PMPLZ ban factory farming 
115. #PMPLZ empty the tanks  
116. #PMPLZ support the arts  
117. #PMPLZ share your wealth  
118. #PMPLZ tax the wealthy not the poor  
119. #PMPLZ help us are with dignity, increase aged care funding  
120. #PMPLZ respect us, represent us, good luck    
121. #PMPLZ just stop eroding common law  

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More images of the embroidered messages 
      
    
    
    
    
        
   

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f Generation: Feminism, art, progression 

A few months ago I received a letter in the mail inviting me to take part in a letters exhibition at the George Paton Gallery at the University of Melbourne titled ‘f Genereation: Feminism, art, progression’ which was to be held between the 7-16 of October 2015 .

The letter explained that this unique exhibition will mark 40 years since International Women’s year in 1975 which was the year that the George Paton Gallery held a range of feminist art events including a pivotal lecture by renowned international artist and theorist Lucy Lippard. 1975 was also the year that the Women’s Art Register and Lip Magazine launched, two feminist resources that have played a critical role in the Australian feminist/art movement and which are still in operation today.

Co-curators of f Generation Veronica Caven Aldous, Dr Juliette Peers and Caroline Phillips looked to acknowledge, reflect and reconfigure this rich history as well as examine contemporary modes of provocation in feminist art practice. Needless to say I was thrilled to be asked to contribute and intrigued by the question we were asked to reflect on: How is feminism Important to you?  

The curators received a huge response to their letter of invitation and in the end the show included the work of over 80 Australian and international artists who responded with work across many mediums including: photography, video, painting, drawing, text, textile works, artists’ books, printmaking and performance. I am very proud to have two of my textile wall hangings included in this exhibition, even more so as this is the first time my textile works are being exhibited in a group show and I could not imagine a more fitting exhibition to be part of.

Below are the two tiny appliqué quilted hangings I contributed and here is the letter I wrote in response to the question How is feminism important to you? titled: F-is-for-FREEDOM


“Girls just want to have fundamental human rights” 50cm x 50cm (2015) made using new and recycled materials, machine appliqué quilting and hand embroidery.

“Feminist Killjoy XOXOX” 50cm x 350cm (2015) made using new and recycled materials, machine appliqué quilting and hand embroidery.

Further information on the exhibition f generation: feminism, art, progressions, George Paton Gallery and the launch at MUDFest can be found via the following links: www.facebook.com/pages/F-generation-feminism-art-progressions/811027382324243www.umsu.unimelb.edu.au/what-is-on/gallery/ | www.umsu.unimelb.edu.au/what-is-on/mudfest/

Girls just want to have FUNdamental human rights!

This is just a bit of an update about what I’ve been up to lately and what projects are coming up just over the horizon… in no particular order. 

Firstly, I was extremely honoured to have recently visited “Knit Your Revolt” superstar Shannon Morton in Brisbane to talk all things Craftivism. She said that my figurative quilting has inspiered her to create a story quilt about the “Knit Your Revolt” gang. So we met up so I could show her some techniques and talk more broadly about the power of craftivism. We made this little prototype portrait of one of the gang members: 
 
After which Shannon made gave me a “Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang” patch and made me a member of the gang (even though I can’t knit!). I’m so stoked about it – watch this space for future Craftivism actions taken as part of this inspiring group of dissenters.     

After this exciting trip to sunny Queensland it was time to head back to Melbourne and get started on the next two projects:  

The ‘Great Stash Swap’ and ‘fGeneration: Feminism, Art, Progression’ 

I was very excited to be invited to take part in these two totally separate really awesome projects. The Great Statsh Swap was a week long event organised by fellow Craftivist and Crafiti artist Sayraphim Lothian. The project involved getting a bunch of crafty people to get there fabric stacks together at Gallery 314 in Richmond, Melbourne and then to basically swap it for other people’s stash. Over the week this was happening Sayraphim held a sort of pop-up artist in residence, where she invited one artist/crafter to sit and make in the space with her every day. I was one of those lucky artists invited to raid the loot and make something out of it. This was super timely because I had just been invited by artist and curator Caroline Phillips to contribute to an upcoming exhibition at the George Paton Gallery, Melbourne titled: fGeneration: feminism, art, progression. So I ended up making a mini-appliqué quilted hanging titled “Girls just want to have FUNdamental human rights” as my contribution to the exhibition while at The Great Stash Swap. 

This is me making at The Great Stash Swap…    

I’m also going to show another little mini-embroided quilted hanging at fGeneration, this one is titled “Feminist KillJoy”. I made just for fun not long ago and luckily for me it fits right in with the exhibition theme!

 

Venus Court

Another really exciting art-making project which I’m happy to finally be able to share is my first ever commission. Venus Court is a Melbourne based band made up of two talented brothers Jake and Sam O’Brien, I’ve known them forever and my partner George Carpenter produced their upcoming EP at his Gold Coast studio ‘Little Pink’. They have both been big supporters of my work and at the start of the year they asked me to make them a quilted banner for their band that they can use on stage. I made them this hanging below (2m x2m)  and they were so stoked with it that they’ve decided to use it as the cover of their upcoming EP! 

  

This is them standing in front of the hanging during the photo shoot for the cover – as you can see it’s a portrait of them.  
 

Below is a super close up to give you a sense of what the work looks like up close and in 3D.

  

In between these bigger projects I’ve been playing around with some smaller crafty ideas. I’ve started hand making patches using felt and embroidery and I’ve also started a very ambitious cross-stitching piece as my response/contribution to Peter Drew’s “Real Australian’s Say Welcome” campaign. 

   
  
As you can see this cross stitch is nowhere near finished – I can’t believe how long it takes! Luckily I was in bed for three weeks with pneumonia recently otherwise I would never of got as much as I have done. I guess its going to be one of those ongoing labour of love type pieces.

Upcoming Projects:  

Finally, I have three really exciting projects coming up in the next 6 months that will make up the primary case-studies for my practice-led PhD research. They are all socially engaged craftivism projects that involve a partnership with different non-profit organisations. 

The first is a non-traditional residency with Igniting Change, a charity that works to support some really outstanding organisations including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I will be spending about 4 weeks over Oct/Nov this year in their office space making a story-quilt that celebrates the values of the organisation and shares some of the impacts they’ve had. I’ll be donating this work to Igniting Change so they can use it as a story telling device to help with communicating their complex work going forward. 

The second will be a project delivered when I’m a guest-in-residence at the Billilla Historic Mansion in Brighton thanks to artist and craftivist Kate Just who has kindly given me her studio there while she is overseas. The project will involve raising funds and awareness for the International Woman’s Development Agency through me making and giving away a appliqué quilted portrait of the first 50 people who donate $50 to the organisation as part of this campaign. I’ll be launching this project in December so keep an eye out for that. 

The final project is a series of Crafternoons which I will facilitate at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat. These workshops will hapen around March 2016 and focus around the issue of getting young people engaged and excited about voting. Again I’ll have more information to share about this project later in the year.   

  
Oh yeah, and I nearly forgot – I am also going to be contributing a quilted/appliqué hanging to an exhibition that the Ballarat Quilters Association is holding at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat. Contributors to this exhibition were asked to create works in response to the lyrics from a selection of songs about freedom and democracy. My contribution will be called “this old freedom train is such a long time in a comin'” and above is a work-in-progress shot of the piece.  

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by and keep an eye out for more updates in the coming weeks. 

x  

My full PhD Confirmation Report

As promised here is my full PhD Confirmation Report, submitted in April 2015
as a PDF document:
Confirmation-Report-Tal-Fitzpatrick-2015

Alternatively, below is the Title/Research Question/Abstract for all those of you who “aint got time fo’dat!”

Research Title:                 Craftivism and the Political Moment

Research Question:         Can craftivism create Political Moments?

Sub Questions:

  • How is craftivism different from other forms of activism?
  • Can a material, craft based practice such as craftivism be understood as a socially engaged art?
  • In light of a post-political critique of participation is it possible to initiate political moments through socially engaged artistic practices?
  • How do feminist new materialist and post-humanist conceptions of agency and matter reshape our understanding of power and the potential of art to enact social change?

Abstract:

This practice-led research project is shaped by an artistic practice that plays in the spaces between craft, socially engaged art, activism, community development and autoethnography. It looks to explore how a particular style of figurative appliqué quilting might be used to initiate what philosopher Jacques Rancière describes as ‘political moments’ in a post-political environment. Through a series of creative case studies delivered in and with different community groups and organisations, this project will test the material-discursive potential of appliqué quilting to act as a socially engaged strategy for activism.

Importantly, this project doesn’t aim to develop a set of tools for leading revolutions or even to create a methodology where outcomes can be reliably repeated. Instead it looks to develop a practice based methodology for becoming more mindful of the patterns of consequential differences and of the overlapping ideas between: art, craft, activism, socially engaged practice, feminist new materialisms, post-political critique, post-humanism and community development theory.

However, if anyone actually does read my full report – I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, reading suggestions, artists I should know about and constructive criticism. As always you can get in touch with me via email: tal.fitzpatrick@gmail.com

Finally – just for fun, below are some of my powerpoint slides from my PhD Confirmation presentation.

Cheers

Tal

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Momentary Vanishing

Okay – So, I took a month off after my confirmation presentation and went to the Gold Coast to spend some time with my partner and my family… and now there is a bit of a backlog of things to fill you in on, including:

  • How the exhibition at Emerald Community House’s PAVE art festival went
  • The final PhD confirmation report in full
  • A sneak peak of some of my most recent artworks
  • Upcoming projects with Igniting Change and Emerald Community House
  • Updates on artists and crafters who are inspiring me at the moment
  • Upcoming projects
  • Plus a bunch of thoughts about books I’ve been reading

In the coming weeks I will get to all the above, but for now let’s just focus on a bit of a show-and-tell about the opening of my exhibition at the Emerald PAVE Art Festival.

ECH-Echibition-OpeningAbove is a photo from the opening, you can see Mary Farrow pictured as she introduces our project. I would like to say a big thank you Mary Farrow and Noelene Blair from ECH – for all their generous support and encouragement during the development of this project and of course for having me at ECH. I’m really excited that we will be continuing the work we have started later in the year (more information on this will soon be anonouced).

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Bruce Esplin (below) and his wonderful partner Roz for coming to officially open the exhibition and for your ongoing support of my artistic practice and my community resilience building work. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us through your unique and engaging brand of story telling at the opening. Your support is invaluable to me.

bruce esplin speaks

Finally I would like to thank Katherine and Lisa who participated in the 8 week long workshops which I facilitated in Emerald and who made their own quilted hangings to exhibit as part of this exhibition. Ladies, it was a pleasure to get to know you and a real treat to see your textile works take shape week by week, keep it up! Here is a photo of what the full exhibition looked like in the space including the two works by Lisa (far left) and Katherine (third from the right).

ECH-Echibition-Opening2

Below is the finished quilt I made as part of my 2 week residency at Emerald, titled “Resilience, Resistance and Responsibility” (made of new and recycled material, 2m x 2m, 2015). I officially gifted this artwork to Emerald Community House and the Emerald community at the opening of the exhibition, this way it will always hang in Emerald where it belongs and where it can function as a story telling device for passing on local knowledge about the people and events which inspired me to make it.

ECH-quilt-finishedBriefly, this work tells several stories about the resilience of the local Emerald community and its strength in advocating and preserving the things that are important to it; that is the natural and built environments that are unique to the area and which enable the community to come together and continue growing stronger. If you want to know more about the meaning behind this work you can read my previous posts about it.

tal by bruceThis is a photo Bruce took of me at the exhibition opening in front of my work… that should help you with picturing the scale of it! In summary, it was a fantastic day and I’m really humbled by the turn out we got. Lots of people came to look at the work over the week it was installed and gave lots of kind and interesting feedback to the team at ECH. Thanks everyone!

Anyway, that’s probably about enough for now… expect to hear more from me soon 🙂

Tal

ECH PROJECT – EXHIBITION OPENING

This weekend is the official opening of the exhibition of my Emerald ‘Resilience: Stories in Cloth’ project. The exhibition, which opens on the 12th of April and continues until the 17th of April, is being held as part of Emerald’s annual PAVE Arts Festival. This will be the first public exhibition of the work I am making as part of my PhD research into ‘Craftivism and the Political Moment’. I’m very proud to announce that my good friend Bruce Esplin will be opening the exhibition, it’s worth coming just to hear that man talk about resilience and the Arts!

As well as the work I made during my residency at Emerald Community House the exhibition will also include two works by local community members who took part in the workshop series I facilitated at Emerald Community House. If you are in Melbourne or somewhere in nearby Victoria please come join us, there will be cheese and biscuits, plus lots more things to do around Emerald as part of the PAVE festival’s Fun Fest!

Here is the official invite, consider yourself invited!

ECH-OPENING-INVITATION

Update: here are some lovely words about the project from Emerald Community House coordinator and powerhouse extrodinare Mary Farrow 

  

ECH Stories of Resilience Cloth Art project – part 2

Following on from my residency at Emerald Community House (ECH) and in the lead up to this years annual PAVE festival I have begun stage two of the ‘Stories of Resilience in Cloth Art’ project – a workshop series where I invite locals to make their own cloth-artwork that tells a story about resilience and what it means to them.  

As I’ve mentioned previously ECH is an innovative neighbourhood centre that is highly conscious of the fact that they are in a disaster-at-risk area of the Victorian Dandenong ranges. ECH  takes proactive action through their programming to build local community resilience, for example: they run an award winning program that entails making attending a bushfire safety training workshop mandatory for all parents who place their children with the ECH childcare servie. When I first met with Mary and Non (ECH coordinators) they identified that there is a gap in the programing which they wanted to address. They wanted to develop a creative program that targeted  younger women who are new to the area and women who don’t have children (and therefore are not involved with ECH through its childcare services) and engaged them around the subject of resilience and disaster preparedness. So, it was around this mandate that I designed my ECH residency and workshop project which I am also using as a case study for my PhD research into how art cloth-art and the strategies of craftivism can enact agency.  

The idea is that each of us will create our own cloth wall hanging to be exhibited during the PAVE festival in the Emerald Community Hall which we are working out of, which everyone will then take home and keep at the end of the exhibition. Bruce Esplin, former Emergency Services Commissioner of Victoria and a friend and mentor of mine has kindly agreed to be at the opening of the exhibition and to say a few words about art and resilience based on his own experience as a photographer and a sculpture. Three local ladies (and one of their dogs, below) have signed on to be part of the project, and over the past couple of weeks we have been meeting on Thursdays to talk about ideas and start sewing.  Already I have had a really interesting conversations and positive responses from this engagement. 

When I asked the ladies (who I won’t identify by name) what resilience means to them and why they chose to live in Emerald as both were relatively new to the area (by rural standards at least – where you have to be second generation to consider yourself a ‘true local’) they all responded with comments about the importance of the landscape and the natural environment. This led to a conversation about the risks posed by the natural environment in their area and we spoke about those and what experiences each lady had with disasters and what plans they had in place in preparation for potential future disasters. Each women will be working to depicting images of the natural environment into their cloth hangings and in her own way working to symbolise in cloth her relationship to the local community. 



Alongside the importance of the natural world the women identified that their personal relationships and history are another critical factor for thier own resilience and well-being. Each woman will be in her own way incorporating figures into the landscapes of their hangings. Using old clothes and fabric given to them from their loved ones the women have started to constuct a picture of how they will represent their stories. We talked about how it is possible in this medium of cloth to tell a very personal story in a way that they feel safe having on public display because it is possible to tell it in such a subtle way, using signs that fully reveal their secrets only to the artist. For example, the artist might incorporate a piece of cloth that was once a dress that belonged to their grandmother and which they associate with a particular time, place and memory. In this way the artist will be able to read the work in a way that tells a very different story to what others might see. The hangings will therefore tell many stories – as each person who views them interprets them and projects their own thoughts, experiences and emotions onto the work.     



The conversation then  shifted to a focus on art making and craft practices. In our conversations we identified that having the time to make art is a luxury that many can not afford, and that many more do not allow themselves. The women identified a sense that this is somehow because taking the time to do something fun and creative feels selfish. This feeling of guilt for taking the time to do something for themselves is a feeling I’m sure many women experience – as women we are still expected by society and in turn we expect ourselves to focus on others, to be caretakers to be busy and selfless. Furthermore, the creative work women do is continues to be undervalued – seen as craft not art. Particularly when it comes to working in textiles. This is something that came up during my residency and during these workshops, it is something they I will continue to ponder and to research. Finally, we spoke about how the project had opened up time for them to reflect, think and make plans for the future and how valuable this is to them. This too is something I want to understand more clearly. I’ve asked everyone to keep a note of how they experience this project as it unfolds and to write a bit of a reflection about the journey at the end of the project – I’m looking forward to reading them. 

In closing, I feel that the fact that the three participants fit exactly into the target audience ECH identified is a testimony to the fact the project was designed and marketed successfully. However, In saying that it would have been nice to have more people involved and the fact the workshops are being held during the day on a Thursday has been indentified as a barrier to some who would have otherwise liked to participate. I’m considering delivering a one day master-class in order to engage more women in these conversations and hopefully get a few more involved in the making of cloth hangings for the PAVE festival. 

Oh p.s. there was a little story about the project in the local newspaper: 

Cheers 

Tal