Beverly Semmes, Red Dress 1992, velvet, wood, metal hanger.
I re-read an article by the very intelligent but sadly late Polly Ullrich yesterday. Beyond Touch: The Body as Perceptual Tool. It was in the Summer 1999 issue of Fiberarts, page 43-48. All of the ideas in this post are from that article.
For hundreds of years, fiber's association with warmth, tactility, shelter, and flesh, has allied it with the world of physical materials and our bodies and this has put fiber on the lowest rung of the art world ladder. Polly Apfelbaum, Reckless 1998, individually cut pieces of synthetic stretch velvet, fabric dye, approximately 25x25 feet
The Enlightenment in the 18th century emphasized the conceptual, not the sensual, and has dominated our cultural ideals for 200 years, continuing through the modernist movement of the 20th century. Enlightenment philosophers analyzed in order to understand and control the natural world. They isolated art from daily life. Ann Hamilton, Volumen 1996
Beginning in the mid 1960's some women artists recognized that traditional women's work, such as sewing clothing, was viable subject matter for conceptual art. Around that time, the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau Ponty had recently published his philosophy of perception. He radically repositioned the role of the body in art and fiber art became more important.
"The world is not what I think, but what I live through" Merleau-Ponty Magdalena Abakanowicz, Abakan Round 1967, sisal on metal support and Three Brown Abakans, 1969-71, sisal weaving.
We are a self caught up in things. We touch. We are touched.
Part of postmodern theory is about how reality cannot simply be perceived, it needs to be deciphered, and since there are so many different perspectives, meaning is always changing.
Now the meaning of art depends on audience reception rather than artistic intention. Lesley Dill, Poem Hair Dress, 1993, rice paper, horse hair, tea 40 x 29 x 7 "
More and more, art is turning from representation to the realm of felt experience.
The material world exists all around us, not just in front.
Art work that we have to physically walk through or around demands participation from the audience. The only way to understand this work is to imagine your own body placed inside it.
"Experience is so much richer than light falling on your retina. ....your memories, your varying degrees of awareness of what's going on around you...representing that information is going to be the main issue for art in the years ahead." Bill Viola
This post is a response to last Wednesday's more dismal outlook. It took me a while to write this, and thank you for reading all the way to the end. I do miss Fiber Art magazine, and critical writing from writers like Polly Ullrich.