QUEER ENCRYPTED WEAVINGS
Queer Encrypted Weavings is a project that emerges from my thinking about visible identities and queerness, the long history of queer fiber and textile art, and the ubiquity - and invisibility - of the cloth objects and encryption technologies in our lives. Embedded in this project, I am also grappling with the ways that textile and fiber arts have historically reaffirmed established hierarchies and excluded POC voices.
If you self identify as female/trans/non-binary, and queer, I invite your participation in this project. Keep reading below.
I grew up in Bloomfield Hills, MI, a conservative, upper-middle class suburb north of Detroit, and learned to weave as a 15-year-old at Cranbrook Schools. The loom room was my "normal"; I didn't think too much about other kids' experiences in the world.
My memories of childhood are sparse, but my two sisters and I grew up sheltered, isolated, and steeped in values of semi-secular Scotch Protestantism: hard work, thrift, and the self-righteous feeling that my privilege has no impact on my opportunities, access, success, or earnings. My dad would tell us, "it doesn't matter how well you do, as long as you do better than everybody else." My mom still says regularly that "everything happens for a reason." Both of their sentiments can only have logical footing within the dominant paradigm: our capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchy.
Both of their sentiments grew through me like vines.
As a woman and a queer person, I have experienced fear, harassment, and discrimination. These experiences help me imagine and act beyond the edges of my whiteness and cis-gender-ness. I am still learning; maybe I will always be learning. Part of my privilege is that whiteness and cis-gender-ness can easily still feel like negative space to me.
For much of my life I passed as straight, coming out as queer at 36 at the end of ten-year partnership with a man. Before that, I never wanted to talk about sex or my sexuality - and I had no clue where to get my hair cut. In the last two and half years, I went from cautious to exuberant in my self-identification of queer.
Cloth is embedded with precise and specific information: through use, wear, and stain, and also through the algorithmic, coded nature of its construction. We are almost always in contact with coded cloth. Encryption is a technology whose history is rooted in espionage and the military, but, like many precise technologies, it has become as ubiquitous, invisible, and essential as the cloth on our bodies.
With the support of the Jerome Foundation and the Textile Center of MN, I am creating a series of weavings, each of which will contain a story encrypted into woven structure - digitally illustrated in the animated gif at the top of this page, where the classic pangram becomes a series of twills, a family of fundamental structures within woven cloth. If you are wearing jeans, the thin diagonal lines on the fabric are one particular twill structure.
While illegible, the stories will be precisely coded and preserved within the fundamental structure of the cloth. The final form of the weavings will emerge from conversations between myself and each author: they may take the shape of intimate, comforting blankets; hint at other functional or heirloom objects; or be stretched and hung like paintings. A selection of these woven objects will be exhibited at the Textile Center of Minnesota in May of 2019.
Weaving is a labor-intensive, and I hope to receive more submissions that I can weave. I will also be creating a digital archive of all of the submissions I receive.