Archive for June 29th, 2015

T1-MMT-P2 Joining and Wrapping Research – Erin Manning

I have written before about Erin Manning, in particular as part of research on textile art for A Creative Approach (27-August-2012).

Manning crosses through multiple disciplines – dancer, painter, philosophical practice. In the context of my current project I want to focus on one small part of one exploration undertaken by her – Stitching Time at the 18th biennale of Sydney: all our relations. As an overview of that work, below I have made a rough transcription of an interview given by Manning within the artspace, illustrated with photos I took there. The video is available at

manning_03Manning speaks of rethinking how we cloth the body, not the common idea of a person trying to fit into clothing that doesn’t conform to their shape or desires. She started cutting shapes that would facilitate designing garments. The first collection was very theoretical and philosophical – a disaster producing only capes.

ErinManning_06Manning rethought, became more geometric, and designed around 500 patterns. 2,000 pieces were cut, edges overlocked, each different. The pieces had buttons and button holes so people could connect the fabric. Manning didn’t want the work to be modular, for people to think of the edges as the garment. She introduced many small magnets, which facilitate a fold. Manning finds it more interesting to design with the fold, although people could also use the flat shapes. With folds you get volume, and also lose the sense of negative and positive space.

manning_04Manning organised sewing circles, and people came and returned and asked for the next one. The work, originally called Slow Clothes, was exhibited in multiple venues over 7 years, in which Manning allowed any kind of transformation to take place, all the way from the environment to the body. Manning decided to do a final iteration for the Sydney biennale, and 500 more translucent pieces were created. Colours and translucency were chosen thinking of the quiet, threshold time of the sun sinking into the sea in the southern hemisphere.

manning_01She worked with others designing the biennale space, using fishing nets, to get a sense of looking across colour. In Sydney Manning invited people to participate in the experience of sharing time – the time of those who worked on the pieces, and time taken to compose with the fabric. There is the sculpture of the work in the space, and baskets full of fabric that people were welcome to dress with. There was a long sewing table to facilitate any changes people needed to make. As people give time the garment created its own personality and became theirs. Not a quick exchange, but a meeting of times and currents of time.

ErinManning_05Philosophically the work was about making felt different layers of time, participating in how the layers of time move from the artspace into the world, the pieces little nuggets of time moving into the world. The work is one way of exploring forms of collaboration, and how we stage the encounters is central to that. Here art becomes a lure to stage encounters. One of the ideas that Manning believes is politically necessary is for us to challenge the idea that we have a neutral body. Movement is much more key to the body than non-movement. Giving people the opportunity to rediscover how the body moves is pretty central to the idea of how the pieces fold.

manning_02More important to Manning in the time she gave to the project was learning what it is that people take from the encounter. What is necessary? What is an encounter?


These ideas are fascinating, all the layers of thought and meaning in this work. The focus on exploring encounters – meaningful, creative, collaborative encounters – seems so exactly what is needed today. And it will be much more forceful if you watch the video and see Erin Manning speaking in such a gentle, purposeful, open, intelligent, generous way.

For my current project I want to take the tiniest sliver of a side-note – the folds creating volume, not focusing on the flat piece and the edges, options in joins facilitating the creation of a new entity.

T1-MMT-P2 Joining and Wrapping Research – Erin Manning
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 2: Joining and wrapping
Research: Erin Manning


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June 2015

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