Sunday, June 10, 2012

International Yarn Bombing Day

Yesterday was International Yarn Bombing Day and this was my small contribution: crocheted covers for the tops of some of the metal posts that edge the sidewalks all around Paris.  These happen to be right in front of the building where I'm staying.

If you aren't familiar with yarn bombing, its a mash-up of traditional "feminine" craft techniques,  knitting and crocheting, with street art or graffiti and so installed in public spaces, most often without permission or authorization.  I've done this kind of work since I was a child -  I learned it from my mother who learned  from her mother... - putting it to more conventional applications, sweaters and scarves and the like.  I've been intrigued by yarn bombing for a while, but I've had a hard time  getting into doing it myself because I've been hanging on to some of the expectations about this type of work that bombing is meant to subvert.  I've wanted a pattern to follow.  To make measurements and check my gauge to make sure it will turn out just right.  And I've still felt that the investment of time this type of hand working takes makes the end products too precious to abandon to the city.  In fact I think "preciousness" is probably the right word for all of these expectations. 

With a little encouragement from Leesa, though, I decided to take some scrap yarn and my favorite crochet hook with me to Paris - my ergonomic one with a ball at the end that rests in your palm.  Then I saw these posts running along my street and for some reason wanted to reach out and grab the little balls on their ends, to feel their shapes in my hand .  That's where I got the idea for these little toppers.  I like the combination of hard and soft. Of process and result.  Of repetition and difference - each of the toppers is a bit different in color, size, and shape.    There are seven in total, one for each day that I had been in Paris before they went up.  I put them up very early Saturday morning, when no one was around but a woman walking her dog.  I photographed them a little later in the day as I started a long walk along the banks of the Seine that ended at the Marché Maubert (strawberries, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, chives, some hummus and roasted peppers, a fresh goat cheese, and bread).  I've been checking on them out the window and whenever I go out or come back.

Its a little over 24 hours later and so far one has disappeared.  Most people just walk on by without apparently noticing them.  That's interesting to me, because putting them out there was such a big deal for me.  Its another reminder of what I call the genuine otherness of others - beginning with other people: the fact that what is a big deal to one person can be absolutely invisible to others, who have their own big deals going on that are likewise invisible.  As I've written about here before, I experience that otherness most strongly with sculptures, its what I really like about sculpture as a medium, its the way I think sculptures are most like people and have something to teach us about people and relationships with people.  In this experience, I found something exciting, something freeing, about the absolute unimportance to most people of what I had done here.  It means that I can do - whatever I want, more or less, and the world is not going to come crashing to a halt.

In this case, it also got me thinking back to the "Fuck" and manifesto sessions at Kalamazoo, specifically to the paper on book reviews and some of the discussion.  One point of that paper was to argue that we ought to be decent towards one another as we do the work that we do, because really our work isn't all that important, isn't important enough to attack someone else personally over it.  But the discussion in the manifesto sessions revolved primarily about how we can convince others of the importance of what we do.  I can see the point of the latter, we want to argue for our importance because we feel threatened and so feel the need to defend our jobs, our programs, ourselves.  But I find something enormously freeing, again, in the idea that we do isn't really all that big of a deal.  That most people don't know, don't care, about my research (or yours).  Because it means I don't have to be so "precious" about it, about getting it just right, following the patterns, measuring it to fit.  I can be more experimental, take more chances, and the world will keep right on going like before (and of course I realize that its having tenure that allows me to say that).

1 comment:

  1. I remember having a similar revelation when I was writing my dissertation. After hearing (for the thousandth time) that probably even the whole committee wouldn't bother to read my thesis, I suddenly felt freed to take all sorts of risks and leave aside all sorts of caveats and citations that felt obligatory. It really was a turning point for me.

    That said, we do need to avoid going too far in that direction. At the same time that I was writing, I was also working in a museum, and having wonderful experiences sharing things that fascinated me with the public (through, gallery talks, lectures, and exhibitions). Lots of people really love this stuff, just as I'm sure that there were people you never saw who had a good giggle over your cozies. I think the secret is to realize that somewhere out there are people who will like what you do, and that we should write for them, instead of an imagined audience of pedantic scholars and disinterested public.