Barber, Claire (2014) Air presented at The Textile Society 32nd Annual Conference 'Textiles, Communication and Politics'. In: Textiles, Communication and Politics, 7th November 2014 - 9th November 2014, Welcome Trust, London. (Unpublished)

During the presentation I will discuss two examples from my practice that consider the relationship between materials that have been salvaged from the cusp of collapse, with their alternative interpretation activated through processes of resurrection encountered through crafted intervention. I hope to explore how a crafted intervention may be presented as a simultaneous interface between artist, maker, community, audience and end-user.

The first example presents an image of a rusting auxiliary fan, also known as a booster fan, once used to boost the air supply into the development of new coal mine seams. The auxiliary fan is no longer in use and can be found above ground on display at Snibston Discovery Museum in Leicestershire. An inflatable sculpture called Ventilation Dress based on Snibston’s auxiliary fan is embellished with the dress design of the 1972 National Coal Queen. The vinyl sculpture is pumped with air and then is released in a constant cycle. The apparent breathing motion of Ventilation Dress is fundamental to its character, breathing life into past lives, objects, accounts, and communities and representing something from the inside that could otherwise be missed. The second example presents a sleeping bag discarded on a field after a music festival. This is the catalyst for an empathetic politics that attempts to bring a gesture of care through a crafted intervention to those without a home. The sleeping bags are washed, in some cases there is hand embellished decoration inside the form, giving it further individuality beyond the ubiquity of a commercial artefact. Challenging traditional art and craft hierarchical value systems through bringing a subtle crafted intervention to the displaced, the sleeping bag reveals unacknowledged and hidden materiality’s of communication between maker and homelessness. In the case of Ventilation Dress the artwork decontextualizes assumptions about the materiality and narratives of industrial archeology and fashion, while the abandoned sleeping bag is an industrially produced commercial object that is charged with new purpose and human touch.

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