Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR
January 29 – April 23, 2016
Installation comprised of two works:
5 minutes x 528 immersions
3/29/2015 – 1/5/2016
Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR (January – April, 2016) Durango Arts Center, Durango, CO (August – September, 2016)
5 minutes x 528 immersions
Hung overhead were 88 lengths of cloth in a grid pattern, each with a simple resisted line running diagonally through it, reminiscent of marking off days on a calendar. The resist line was created by gathering the cloth and holding it tightly in a fist while dyeing. Clutching the cloth while dyeing required the dyers (me and two assistants) to never release it while it was submerged in the dye vat. This is an apt challenge, a physical engagement on the level of all the other physical work demanded by the growing and processing of the dye.
Two lengths of cloth were dyed at a time, one in each hand. Immersed in the vat and held there for 5 minutes while the dye saturated the fiber, the two lengths were dyed 6 times, 5 minutes for each immersion, the maximum I can dye in my two vats in one day. Between each immersion the cloth was opened to oxidized and then re-gripped, creating the blurriness at the edge of the resist line. Instead of erasing the hand of the maker as is the goal of contemporary manufacturing, the lines give a physical presence to the individual dyers who were involved in coloring the cloth, a mark of the human involvement in the process.
The title 5 minutes x 528 immersions is essentially descriptive. It was not intended as a puzzle but rather as a means of fore-grounding time and process in the work. Dyeing two lengths each day, the 88 cloths required about three months to dye. The title was meant to challenge the viewer to consider the connections between time, process, and final product, while also evoking a sense of the labor of dyeing – of someone standing with this material gripped tightly in hand and immersing it in the vat to dye it over and over again.
The installation format was chosen to engage the physical spaces of the Museum of Contemporary Craft and the Durango Arts Center. I have suspended cloth in a similar manner in previous installations and had always been struck by how compelling they appeared from above, although this view was only available to me while installing. The MoCC and DAC presented the opportunity to show the work from both sides, as well as both front lit and back lit, something I had always wanted to do.
My other goal was to trace a connection between the faded weavings in 3/29/2015 – 1/5/2016 and the cloud of cloth above by using natural light from both space’s windows to fade the suspended cloth at points of exposure. This fading captured the memory of each space and installation in the cloth, a memory made ever more poignant given that the cloth was witness to the closing of Portland’s 79 year old Museum of Contemporary Craft, an institution dedicated to precisely what they represent: Craft and all that it embodies.