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Caroline Bartlett
University of Hertfordshire

A Thread, a Line, a Fabric

This presentation will examine aspects of cross cultural practice in relation to the content, categorisation and working methods governing the production of specific recent pieces as part of my practice linking both with Fieldwork, and Making and Ethnography as conference topics.

As a maker and visual artist, I think through textile; a material with enormously varied behavioural properties, deeply culturally encoded, and which embodies memory in its’ history and associations in mythology. Fabric invites touch and touch invites certain ways of knowing and remembering. Recent works explore the idea of knowledge as a social construct and the use of the written word as an authenticating device, through examining various sites of cultural production, and presentation; such as historic sites, museum collections, archives and encyclopedias. These ‘bodies of knowledge’ play a significant role in the forming of individual and collective identities, memories and value systems. I am interested in how we record memory and how perceptions are formed. These ideas have been addressed in a number of projects such as ‘The Artists Journey’; a response to the collections of Lord Leighton and Sir Richard Burton. A set of 1934 encyclopedias is in the process of being customised in relation to different museum collections. In this instance, the encyclopedia is seen as analogous to museum systems; the content and presentation reflecting governing ideologies of the time.

I will discuss content, principles and working methods with particular reference to a commission from The Whitworth Art Gallery to work in relation to its textile collection. The resulting work ‘Conversation Pieces’, focused on archival and conservation practices placing emphasis on the displacement and changing role of the artifact and drawing attention to the links between maker and conservator through the visibility of the hand. This project involved a certain amount of 'fieldwork' resulting in a reflective and personal visual interpretation which tries to set aside the distancing that takes place in museological contexts. There are cross-overs with anthropological practice in the gathering and analysis of information and use of primary and secondary research sources but the processing and selective use of this information within my own work, results in a subjective and personal commentary which attempts to make the invisible visible.

Migratory Practices

5th - 6th September 2006

Notes on the Speaker

Caroline Bartlett holds a BA (Hons) Textiles, a Postgraduate Diploma in Textile Art from Goldsmiths, an MA in Public Art from Chelsea. She has worked with several museum collections and archives; Orleans House and Leighton House, the Weiner Library, Bankfield, Museum, the V and A, and the Whitworth. She has shown at Collect and SOFA Chicago and New York. Recent exhibitions have included ‘Beyond Weaving; International Art Textiles’, Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, USA, ‘In Context’, V and A, and ‘Ragged Beauty’; Repair and Re-use’, MOCFA, San Francisco. Her work is in various public collections including the V and A, Bankfield Museum, the Crafts Council and Embroiderers Guild. She has undertaken two Crafts Council research trips to Japan. She is a part time lecturer in Applied Arts at the University of Hertfordshire.