An Introduction to “Make It Ok” – Damage & Repair Symposium, UCA Farnham, 2 March 2016

The Crafts Study Centre in collaboration with the International Textile Research Centre for Textiles presented my exhibition “What Do I Need to Do to Make it OK? ”  from 5 January to 5 March 2016. The exhibition included specially commissioned work using stitch and other media to explore damage and repair, disease and medicine, healing and restoration, to landscapes, bodies, minds and objects.
A one day symposium was held at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham on 2 March 2016. The keynote speakers for the symposium were ceramic artist Bouke de Vries and textile artist Freddie Robins.
After a peer review process, the following speakers were invited to present papers: Stella Adams-Schofield; Charlotte Bilby; Colette Dobson; Marie Lefebvre; Marlene Little; Victoria Mitchell; Celia Pym and Claire Wellesley-Smith. Their subjects covered themes such as: anatomy; sustainability; prisoner quilts; photography and health and community.

The following was my introduction to participants:

In 2009 I curated an exhibition called Making & Mending for Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery (later known as Smiths Row), which looked at artists who used physical and metaphorical notions of healing in their practice – repaired quilts, darned jumpers, restorative discussions, socially engaged practices that attempted to make things better for objects, communities, buildings.

It was great fun to put the exhibition together, but even more so to work with the artists on live projects, performances and workshops through the time it was on. There was room for thoughtful discussion and quiet contemplation, but also story telling and laughter, sharing of narratives of changes both good and bad. After the project the ideas wouldn’t go away. I loved the notion of the mend as a kind of giving back, but increasingly I was fascinated by the reasons for wanting to create a mend.

I don’t personally believe in the notion of “achieving full closure”. It’s in the human condition to change, to evolve, to take on new challenges and find ways to recover from earlier ones. And me, I like change and new challenges, I get bored quite easily and need to keep my mind occupied. Maybe it’s a kind of inbuilt restlessness, and certainly it’s very annoying to other more peaceful people, but in my life I seek brief moments of rest and contemplation, short respites, rather than extended relaxation and “time to heal”. Making it ok enough to move on is good enough for me.

I want enough space to think, to consider the situation and options, to contemplate the next move. Bur I’m not interested in a kind of plastic healing that removes all traces of the wound. Our cuts, bruises, breaks and buffets are what shape us. The marks those incidents leave, they’re the indicators of change, like bodily scars, like old fragments of earlier roads left on hillsides, traces of footpaths no longer used, lumps in healed bones, uncomfortable memories. With a background in art textiles I’m naturally drawn to the notion of the stitch as the gesture of repair, but in developing my ideas and working with these five artists in the Make It OK project, I found it is found it is also the instrument of investigation: the “damage” assumed equal weight with the “repair”.

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