Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Woven Worlds: Understanding Textiles
Monday, Wednesday: 5:00-6:30pm
This course explores the visual, technological, and cultural significance of textiles. We will approach cloth and its production as an expressive encoding technology and synesthesiac medium that combines visual and tactile sensibilities with a range of entangled meanings, histories, narratives, and uses. Anchoring our discussions will be a series of non-linear case studies or objects, including photographer Samuel Fosso’s use of African wax cloth as a site of entangled identities and colonialisms, traditional Lithuanian aural and material weavings, and Swedish-Norwegian anti-fascist tapestry weaving by Hannah Ryggen. We will also consider ‘everyday’ cloth, which is often not preserved, nor a part of museum collections, but rather allowed (and expected to) decay. None of the objects exist as entities in and of themselves; rather, they can be viewed as nodes in an ever-shifting, open-ended network of complex relationships and lineages that challenge constructed categories and associations (pre-modern/modern, art/craft, precious/disposable, authored/anonymous). We will therefore broaden our discussion to include a consideration of practice, process, and structure, rather than simply focusing on the end-product or object.
Throughout the course, we will engage with cross-disciplinary research from media archeology, folklore, anthropology, gender and ethnic studies, art practice, and the on-going international research project PENELOPE: A Study of Weaving as Technical Mode of Existence, which explores textile production as a ‘digital’ technology predating computers and discrete mathematics. Throughout the semester, each case study will be used to present and practice methods of visual and textual analysis, research, and writing. In addition, students will be asked to engage in practice-oriented research methods through in-class practical demos, including learning various weaving structures using portable frame looms. As this is an R1B course, students will be assigned a variety of reading and writing exercises to develop the composition and research skills necessary for college-level coursework. Assignments will be scaffolded, increasing in length and complexity, culminating in a 10-12 page research paper on a topic related to the course.