Two linked study days are planned at the Winchester School of Art, England and the Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland around the themes of nostalgia, followed by renewal, in June and July. The two events are inspired, in part, by the three-day conference In the Loop, held in the summer of 2008, which explored contemporary knitting practice from a number of disciplinary perspectives. The experience of organising In the Loop led us to the theme of nostalgia, an inevitable but complex contributor to the surge of popularity that knitting is currently enjoying. Keen to break the conventional pattern of conferences, two smaller events of a more experimental nature – nostalgia & renewal – are now on the calendar.
Several issues are guiding the planning of these events. The first has to do with how we talk about textiles, the second is the current economic crisis. At a recent seminar organised by Lesley Millar to coincide with the exhibition Deconocida: Unknown I, along with all participants, was asked to stitch a nametag for one of the women who have died in the lawless Mexican boarder town of Juarez. I found stitching while thinking occupied the audience in a way I had not seen before and have begun to wonder why, at conferences, we allow ourselves to become so separate from the material we are discussing?
One objective of the Nostalgia & Renewal Symposia is to explore alternative approaches to how we talk about textiles. This may involve greater contact with the materials themselves. But it may also involve dynamic conversations, rather than scripted lectures, when exploring new ideas or any other suggestions that deserve a testing ground. Each speaker at the two events has been invited to reconsider the manner in which they communicate their ideas and use the events to trial new ideas. Many research budgets are looking a little thin on the ground in the current economic climate, but that need not be an excuse to stop talking. At both events speakers will be making contributions via the Internet. This system is far from ideal, but it does bypass the need for international airline tickets and years of planning before the conversation can start. Textile and craft has never enjoyed lavish financial support. I suggest that this may put us in a strong position currently to continue deploying creative thinking to the research challenges at hand.
Finally, the poetic nature of the two themes – nostalgia & renewal – has allowed us to invite an interdisciplinary group of speakers and, I hope, will interest an interdisciplinary audience. While it is difficult to conceal the central role textiles occupy in the research of many participants, it is our hope that a more eclectic conversation will suggest new ways we might approach textile research in future.
Dr Jessica Hemmings, Associate Director of the Centre for Visual & Cultural Studies, Edinburgh College of Art
For more information, see previous notice.