Saturday, April 4, 2020

Dreams and Memories during pandemic

This “stay at home” time has dramatically slowed down our fast pacing rhythm of everyday life and besides following scary news how the pandemic is taking over more and more not yet red colored spots on world’s map, forces to think how this could happen. I found thought provoking a view of British environmental journalist Gaia Vince ( )who argues that this COVID-19 pandemic is a human creation. This pandemic spread precisely because of species we are in our biosphere, and because the planet we created.

We dominate and alter the local and global ecosystem cumulatively to suit our lifestyles and improve our survival, including habitat loss for other species, introduction of invasive species, climate change, industrial-scale hunting, burning, planting, infrastructure replacement, and countless other modifications. Humans currently threaten 1 million of the world’s 8 million species. while other species do not naturally cause extinctions (with rare exceptions). Wild animal and plant products are being extracted from intact ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. As we plunder these wild-lands for the resources we value, we disrupt established ecological niches, including those of pathogen and host. Viruses and bacteria that evolved life cycles in a wild animal get opportunistic exposure to humans. 75% of the new diseases affecting us in the past 30 years have animal origins. Communities adjacent to exploited rain-forests, with their wild animal markets, are the first affected by novel diseases, such as Ebola, HIV, MERS, SARS, and, most recently, COVID-19.

Humans now operate as a globalized network of over 7.5 billion hyper-connected individuals: We have effectively become a super-organism in our interactions with the natural world. However, we are still a part of the biosphere and as we blunder into ecosystems, we must be mindful of the greater systems that we are all a part of. A tweak to one part of the network can have far reaching consequences (good or bad) for us all. COVID-19 has exposed every type of oppressive/exploitative condition/relation. Every inequity explodes and festers by the spread of virus. Nothing remains contained as this catastrophe blasts forward.

Everybody must find a way how to resist, how to overcome anxiety, fear, hopelessness at times like these. History tells us that needle arts appeared as responses to collective trauma. In Ireland, during the famine of the 1840s, philanthropists across the country established crochet schools; they trained impoverished farming families to make lace for export in a relief scheme that grew into an art form. During WWII in London, people sheltering from the blitz were encouraged to pass the time by knitting.

Numbers of COVID-19 cases grow exponentially. When crocheting hyperbolic plane, the number of stitches grow exponentially. Everybody who is participating now in the project to create installation Dreams and Memories has experienced this exponential growth in very tactile way. Original idea of creating a meditative piece about our dreams and memories, about past and future unexpectedly has acquired another dimension – dimension of our social connectivity and impact on each other lives. Be strong, be healthy! And if you have an opportunity -- put the memory of a resilience during this pandemic into some creative piece.
PS - these are pieces put together from what I have now here in Ithaca - thank you all who have submitted! Riga Biennale is currently postponed until further notice giving us more time to reflect, dream, remember, crochet...

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Modern Thread

Have you heard about Marie Cuttoli? I have not until my recent visit to Barnes Foundation where I was fortunate to see exhibit The Modern Thread from Miro to Man Ray. I was fortunate a) because it is great exhibit; b) Barnes Foundation is temporarily closed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

In 1930s Paris Marie Cuttoli (1879-1973) convinced the most celebrated artists of her time - including Picasso, Miro, Leger, and Man Ray - to create designs for the historic tapestry workshops of Aubusson, France. Cuttoli's venture gave new life to an artisan tradition and brought modernism to new audiences. In Barnes Foundation exhibition it is possible to see designs for textiles, which they call cartoons (some of them later were sold as paintings), and tapestries made from those designs. Why the name cartoon? Because those designs were made as large as the tapestry will be woven and put underneath, so weaver could follow the pattern.
The first object is this fabulous  evening dress, embroidery for which was designed by Natalia Goncharova, Russian avant-garde painter whose costumes for The Ballets Russe Cuttoli admired. In 1922 Marie Cuttoli opened her fashion house and boutique Myrbor in Paris, in the same neighborhood as Chanel and Lanvin. In 1926 Cuttoli renovated her boutique and rebranded it as Galerie Myrbor, presenting modern art alonside fashion and rugs.
The red silk jacket's embroidery design is also attributed to Natalia Goncharova.

Still Still Life with Guitar by Georges Braque and a tapestry 
Braque incorporated sand in his oil painting. In the tapestry that effect is done by light absorbing wool and light reflecting silk.

Cuttoli's venture related closely to mural decoration, a topic that fascinated artists in 1930s. Tapestries had many of the same qualities as murals with the added benefit of portability. Designing for Cuttoli pushed artists to take their work in new directions, experimenting with scale and process alike. Man Ray used a rayograph in his design, bringing an innovative photomechanical process into an artisan tradition. The architect Le Corbusier, who was flattered to join a group that included Picasso, Braque, and Leger, worked up sketches for a cartoon titled Marie Cuttoli, an experience that informed his later conception of tapestry as mural for the modern era.
The back side of the tapestry shows that the weaver got colors very well but over the years the tapestry has faded.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020


by Mark Strand (1934-2014)
Trying to recall the plot
And characters we dreamed,
     What life was like
Before the morning came,
We are seldom satisfied,
     And even then
There is no way of knowing
If what we know is true.
     Something nameless
Hums us into sleep,
Withdraws, and leaves us in
     A place that seems
Always vaguely familiar.
Perhaps it is because
     We take the props
And fixtures of our days
With us into the dark,
     Assuring ourselves
We are still alive. And yet
Nothing here is certain;
     Landscapes merge
With one another, houses
Are never where they should be,
     Doors and windows
Sometimes open out
To other doors and windows,
     Even the person
Who seems most like ourselves
Cannot be counted on,
     For there have been
Too many times when he,
Like everything else, has done
     The unexpected.
And as the night wears on,
The dim allegory of ourselves
     Unfolds, and we
Feel dreamed by someone else,
A sleeping counterpart,
     Who gathers in
The darkness of his person
Shades of the real world.
     Nothing is clear;
We are not ever sure
If the life we live there
     Belongs to us.
Each night it is the same;
Just when we’re on the verge
     Of catching on,
A sense of our remoteness
Closes in, and the world
     So lately seen
Gradually fades from sight.
We wake to find the sleeper
     Is ourselves
And the dreamt-of is someone who did
Something we can’t quite put
     Our finger on,
But which involved a life
We are always, we feel,
     About to discover.