Stitched Voices: from an exhibition to an academic commitment
Have you ever ventured into organising an exhibition? And not just any exhibition, but one that addresses people’s experiences of violent conflict, arbitrary oppression and grave injustice? We hadn’t… until we decided to commission and organise Stitched Voices, an exhibition of textiles telling the personal stories of people who live through such horrible experiences, who express their solidarity with needle and thread, or who take to the streets with sewn banners to protest.
We – Christine Andrä, Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Lydia Cole and Danielle House -started this blog as a collective reflection on the process of the daunting task of organising an exhibition of sewn, quilted, and embroidered textile stories of violence, oppression and injustice in Aberystwyth in 2016. In this task, we collaborated with the Conflict Textiles collection based in Northern Ireland and its curator Roberta Bacic.
Ever since, our academic engagement with textiles has grown and evolved:
- Stitched Voices traveled to Birmingham, where it was hosted by Dr Jonathan Fisher (Birmingham University, UK) and shown under the title “Stitched Voices: Knowing conflict through textiles“.
- It then went to Uppsala, where Dr Roland Kostic (Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala University, Sweden) organised for it to be exhibited under the title “Stitched Voices – textila berättelse om politisk våld och motstånd / Textile stories about political violence and resistance“.
- Lydia Cole organised a second textile exhibition in collaboration with Conflict Textiles under the title “Threads, War and Conflict“, accompanied by a conference and other events, which was shown in St Andrews, Scotland.
- Danielle House continued her engagement with Mexican embroiderers and other people doing memory work around the violence and disappearances related to the so-called ‘war on drugs’, which resulted, among other things, in two “Footprints of Memory / Huellas de la Memoria” exhibitions in London and Aberystwyth.
- Berit Bliesemann de Guevara and Christine Andrä are involved in a research project with former FARC guerrilla fighters in Colombia, which studies their reincorporation into civilian society through textile making, among other methods.
- There have also been some academic publications developed from our Stitched Voices curating experience (and more are in progress):
- Andrä, Christine, Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Lydia Cole and Danielle House: “Knowing Through Needlework: curating the difficult knowledge of conflict textiles”, Critical Military Studies, online first: https://doi.org/10.1080/23337486.2019.1692566.
- Andrä, Christine, and Berit Bliesemann de Guevara: “Konflikttextilien: Analytischer, ästhetischer und politischer Stoff für Friedensforschung und -arbeit”, Wissenschaft und Frieden 4, 2019, https://wissenschaft-und-frieden.de/seite.php?artikelID=2396.
As our work has evolved, so has the Stitched Voices blog. We feature contributions which deal with political textiles, broadly conceived, reflecting on their societal, pedagogical and academic value from a number of different perspectives. Guest posts are very welcome (please, contact us if you have an idea).
We hope you enjoy exploring this archive of textile experiences.