Lost in Translation (keynote)

Textiles & Place conference keynote October 11-15, 2021 (online) in collaboration with the British Textile Biennial

Textiles and their transnational narratives were the focus of the book Cultural Threads (Bloomsbury) I edited in 2015. The publication subsequently inspired my curation of the traveling exhibition Migrations (2015-17). Both projects share the premise that the portability of textiles – the ease with which they move around the globe – and their hybrid position within the worlds of craft, design and art make them particularly apt carriers of culture. Alongside portability, the exhibition also focused on the reality that the textile often exists as a multiple. While versions roam, others stay closer to home. Since working on the Cultural Threads book and Migrations exhibition my attention, informed by no longer working in an anglophone context, has shifted. The textile is an accomplished traveller; movement is second nature to the material. But what does the textile carry when it travels and, perhaps more importantly, what is lost in translation? This lecture offers a reminder that some craft practices are rooted in very particular circumstances – specific contexts which when overlooked can create strange distortions in our understanding of the textile as traveler.

image credit: “Fan Ventilateur” with permission of Vlisco