Sunday, July 8, 2012

Textiles in Museums

I admire people who painstakingly preserve/maintain/restore textiles in museums, but I sense I've long held textiles, (at least in the garment context,) to be functional therefore far more personal, (in the sense they need to belong to (a) person/s and surround a human body,) and die and morph into something else when they are incarcerated in collections. I feel sad to see clothes in glass cases, undisturbed, temperature- and humidity-controlled, so displaced. I remember physically reeling back when I saw this outfit/costume (bottom photo) a couple of years ago. The two words I chose to describe the same garment already reflects the transition, at least in my perception, from "in-that-particular-family" to "staged".

In the Gender& Identity book, an article by Professor (?) Barbara Layne of Kansas/South Carolina/Quebec used an exhibition she hosted in 1996 called "Electronic Textiles: Hacking the Museum", as part of her larger thesis presented at the European Textile Conference that year. The exhibition was based on items in the collection of the then Marsil Museum in Quebec, but held in Glass Box Gallery in Manchester, UK. This section of the article questions the integrity, (I think I'm not wrong in summarizing aspects of her thoughts into this one word,) of each piece when classified and stored away in a museum. Her concerns started with the short, dry descriptions on museum cards, (based on which her selected the items for the exhibition without first seeing them;) then the electronic transfer of highly polished photographs of these items, (and the Beam-me-up-Scotty-ness of Internet data transfers,) and finally the tableau vivant "recreation" of the items by students in the gallery.

This exhibition alone, (with other points/quotes,) is posted as a Textile Society of America Symposium presentation in 1998 (?) here. The first four links on the left here shows the exhibition in Manchester.

"Captured textiles" is what I got out of these articles in the first instance, but also what is real/original,  the old "stuff" in the museum, the polished electronic photographs, or the students' textile work. If you are so inclined, you could consider the exhibition in the construction/deconstruction/reconstruction context.

C'est tout.

1 comment:

  1. From memory, we had a calculus prof at my college in Minnesota named Walter Benjamin, a really lovely gent, but hideous subject. Layne keeps referring to another Walter Benjamin who I surmise is an art critic/philosopher. Feels very strange.

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