In our interpretation of Donna Haraway’s “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” we perceived the importance of an awareness of contextual knowledge and of varied experiences and viewpoints in order to provide a broader picture for decision-making. We arrived at the materiality of cloth as a metaphor for knowledge as mutable and shaped by the knower’s unique experiences.
Moisture and fabric are potent metaphors for people in this line of thinking. Water takes the shape of its container, and water can make fabric flexible where it was otherwise rigid. This is like the experience of listening to others, and in return learning from them to form a new viewpoint. Bleaching permanently removes dye from fabric, creating an imprint of experience. Like people growing and gaining knowledge, fabric shows its marks and is able to be worked and re-worked into new designs and purposes, such as through starching, our final tool for changing the fabric from its original state.
In the workshop, we asked participants to bring a natural fiber garment they were comfortable altering drastically from its original use. Cathartically, participants cut their fabric; the garments were dipped into a bleach solution; and finally, participants starched and ironed their textile into patterns. Our tools? Basic household materials in the domestic realm, historically and presently used in women’s work, often not by choice, to project sturdiness or elegance; logo or brand; gender or social role. We capitalized on the accessibility of domestic laundering materials, co-opting them to create new, post-consumer meanings. Individuality, chance, choice, and collaboration determined our final creation, but participants learned skills of working with fabric to carry with them in their individual practices.
We believe “Situated Knowledges” requires a practice of positioning that is about carefully attending to power relations at play in the processes of approaching knowledge.
Our workshop was structured in two parts:
(i) Bleached cotton fabrics—bleached water imprinted and left a mark on the fabric, like an imprinted memory, like a trauma, but that also gave the cloth new meaning and beauty, to convey new information.
(ii) Shaped fabrics into origami sculpture—the geometrical appearance of the crease-patterns holds as fabric cools, like people always remain in their visions and strong wills. As participants in time, no matter how well we have lived or how difficult our lives have been, one would like to hold on to things one has learned in order to show their existence and preserve the pivotal values that they have created, pursued, and safeguarded. But nothing stays the same, and we cannot permanently preserve our positions.
Debe Sham is a sculptor and educator. She graduated from the Academy of Visual Arts at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research interest focuses on Hong Kong participatory art and art in the public realm. Her site-specific sculptures and mixed-media installations have grown out of the artistic exploration of the role of public art. She has participated in local and overseas exhibitions and publications, such as Hong Kong Sculpture Biennial, Art Basel, International Festival of Arts and Ideas, Art Asia Pacific and Inside Burger Collection. Debe has taught studio courses at AVA of HKBU, the Fine Art Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Department of Visual Studies of Lingnan University. Before joining the board memeber of 1a space (2021-present), she was a visiting artist at Yale University (New Haven, 2017-18). Currently, she is a Doctor of Philosophy degree student in Hong Kong.
Georgia Kennedy is an artist and performer in Boston. She received her BFA in Studio Art-Painting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2008, and her MFA in Painting & Printmaking from Yale School of Art in 2017. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions across the U.S. with an affinity for alternative art spaces. She has taught and guest lectured at Brookline Adult & Community Education in Brookline, MA; the Hickory Museum of Art in NC and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and she has been a teaching assistant for Studio Art and Art History courses at Yale. She is currently a staff member at Gateway Arts, a studio art center, gallery, and store for adults experiencing disabilities in Brookline, MA. Georgia’s work comprises post-consumer materials, with an emphasis on personal transformation. Her work manifests in objects, installation, video, and performance.