My studio space at la filature has been filled with work and ideas. I had to originally start from a large empty space and carve out a working place for ideas to ferment and grow. Like the silk worm fed on mulberry leaves…….today I packed up my work space so that we can start the installation process. One by one I finished the pages of this gigantic woven artist book. My first charcoal rubbings on the studio floor became the doors of the houses, they were also the doors closing as they were the last pages of my book to finish.
The two book covers front and back were the large papers I had used to protect the benches on which I worked and so had stripes of paint, ink sponges and ruler markings. They were indeed my field notes. I stitched them onto the frames and violà! The book is now finished, complete with colophon.
Now we are returning to the original impulse of the silk worms climbing the heather, however the heather will be suspended from the ceiling and Pedro the choreographer is devising a series of movements which reference the cycle of the Bombyx morito (silk worm) from larva to making its cocoon. The day before it is ready to climb onto the heather, it stops eating, is silent, and brings its body erect in order to begin the ascent the next day and so spin the silk cocoon. It is an extraordinary event which lends itself to a choreography.
We have suspended the heather against the black window curtains as a backdrop, to highlight its importance in the life and industry of la filature, and of my residency. The heather is inverted, it has kozo paper cocoons made from local mulberry tree bark attached to the branches. It is a new way of looking at this industry which dominated the landscape and working lives of the local people for so many years. All that now remains are the trees and la filature buildings, most in a state of disrepair except for this one which has been restored as a community art space and artist studios.
As we hung the heather at the end of the day, I felt it a fitting tribute to this humble silk worm and its interrupted life cycle. It never had the chance to become transformed into a moth, but was smothered while in its pupate stage so that the silk threads were not damaged when it emerged. These long silk threads then to be woven into stockings and gowns for the rich. A segue into thinking about today's clothing, where does it come from? Are children still imprisoned in this industry in Bangladesh, in Vietnam and other places so that clothes are made for us in the rich western world? The past ever to be repeated. But in this space we invert the heather, we allow the workers to speak, we bring in the union posters. A space for ideas, protests and perhaps new ways of thinking about our world and our place in it.
This project was assisted by a grant from Create NSW, an agency of the New South WalesGovernment. The NSW Artists' Grant is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).