February 24-March 04, 2022
13 Cattle Str, Jersey
What matters is not the final destination, but all the interesting things that occur along the way’ Tim Ingold
All the interesting things began to occur when three of us arranged a zoom meeting one day: Jane, the painter, Rychel, the photographer and video maker and Yulia, the multidisciplinary artist. Rychel and I had never met before, but we both knew Jane. We realized we wanted to do an exhibition together straightaway. Having an exhibition means a lot of work and time. So we took it seriously by allocating Tuesday mornings for our weekly meetings and the rest of the week for research.
Informed by our own practices, we shared inspirational ideas and discussed our admired artists. We focused on the notions of time and work in art. The time spared and spent, the duration and the result of the work. We agreed on parallels between domestic repetitive, futile work and artists’ work when doing something for an extended time brings little or no visible result. We discussed the pressure of self-imposed obligation to be busy. We regretted not having enough time for doing nothing.
It made me think about my findings on the history of knitting in Jersey. In the 17-18th centuries, a Jersey woman without knitting in her hands was accused of being idle. This understanding of knitting as work was even reflected in the Jerriase language.
ouvrer (Jerriase) – to make fabric from thread or yarn (=to knit); ouvriyi (Jerriase) – worker.
Knitting was always very close to me, the skill I learned from my mother at the age of six. I knitted practical wearable things for myself and as gifts. I appreciated the skill but never considered its potential as an art medium, mainly because there was no mystery. Knitting proceeds by pattern rather than improvisation, and I saw it as a static finished garment from the start.
Inspired by our discussions and by the ‘Lines. A Brief History’, a book by Tim Ingold, we looked at knitting as a gesture, closely connected to writing and drawing.
Our zoom meetings were soon replaced with handwritten letters. Those letters were not always written; they were also drawn or made.
When three of us finally got together, we embraced a forgotten practice of Jersey la veil’yes – evenings, when women would get together for knitting. Interestingly, Russian culture and language have an equivalent – posidelki – a noun derived from the verb to sit, meaning sitting down together. Both words refer to a social activity, women engaged in knitting (Jersey) or wool spinning (Russia). Men and children would join them, making household repairs, singing and talking, intermitted by silence when each person concentrated on their own work.
We had our five-day long residency – la veille – posidelki, sharing space, thoughts, ideas, work, and food. Bodies in space became close, so did the minds. Many personal stories were told, a lot of insight into Jersey, Maori and Russian traditions. We bound traces of our memories in material and process. We created a physical memory of our time together by doing collaborative work, experimenting, and inventing.
We began holding the materials of choice in our hands – yarn, threads, raw fibre, textiles. There was no plan. It was all about the process. We followed the materials and the movement of our hands, so the work was born naturally.
What is the ‘Pick Up Your Threads and Carry On’ exhibition about? It is about three of us together and each individually, an interpretation of our memories, intentions and shared time.