Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Reinventing Textiles Volume 2

Reinventing Textiles 2BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Reinventing Textiles Volume 2: Gender and Identity
Edited by Janis Jefferies
Telos Art Publishing

The second volume of the Reinventing Textiles series, Gender and Identity, brings together a collection of essays that address textiles in relation to national, cultural, and social identities. Edited by Janis Jefferies, Reader and Head of Textiles and Deputy Head of Visual Arts at Goldsmith’s College, London, the volume brings together 13 authors, all distinct in tone, location, and purpose. Essays range from the intimate and informal to the academic. The text is illustrated with 40 images, of which 17 are colour plates, and presents textiles in a breadth of guises, from video work and national dress to therapeutic tools and fine art.

The range of voices selected for the collection supports Jefferies’ belief that the developing discourse of textiles should not be “confined to predetermined nomenclature.” Instead the authors assembled speak from a diversity of locations and styles. Guided by theories ranging from post-colonialism to psychoanalysis, as well as the use of personal narratives, each essay invites thoughtful discussion. Feminist theory, while not wholly absent from the collection, does not define interpretations as it has a large portion of previous critical writing on textiles.

What Reinventing Textiles II does not attempt is to compile a list of seminal works for the discourse which is developing around textiles. In fact, one senses that the editor has resolutely refused the temptation of leading the field down this well-trodden path, Instead, the familiar and the esoteric are placed shoulder to shoulder, encouraging both the scholar and the casual reader to delve into works either may have considered irrelevant or unfathomable. A helpful inclusion if the often cited, but difficult to find essay by Sarat Maharaj, “Textile Art: Who Are You?” Two overlapping essays, “The Thread of Passage: Giorgia Volpe” by Mariette Bouillet, followed by a conversation between Volpe and Bouillet, “Bodies, Clothes, Skin: A Conversation in Quebec,” presents some redundancy, particularly when the same citation is found in both essays.

Lisbeth Tolstrup’s “Nordic Textile Traditions and Visions: A Basis for Reconsideration” concludes the collection. Tolstrup discusses the various categories of textiles in the Nordic countries and observes the variety of identities that define textiles today. The fact that the editor has conceived of this collection as a journey with “no final destination” is a continuation of the desire to leave the critical discourse surrounding textiles open to develop outside the often stifling hierarchies which pervade other areas of knowledge. Essays on textiles as a critical practice appear in the most surprising and unexpected places. In part, this supports Jefferies’ call for an independent and unassuming voice to emerge from the fledgling discourse. For the purposes of practicality, the Reinventing Textiles series by Telos offers an invaluable tool for students, researchers and the independently curious.

Surface Design Journal (summer 2002: 53)