Reading swatches

A game / experiment: matching reading material to fabric swatches. Maybe it could be seen as a form of deliberate self-training in ideasthesia, but really it started because I was trying to improve my reading plus to make the abstract (reading) concrete (clothing-ish). An extra criterion – the fabrics are all from my old clothes (from larger days).

Antony Gormley On Sculpture

Antony Gormley On Sculpture


This book is highly structured and highly thoughtful. I was going to write “generous” but it’s more like the careful guidance of a teacher, dedicated and wanting to share his knowledge, his message, rather than the lighthearted open hand of a friend.

Chapter 1 discusses his own work, the body in space and time. The second chapter considers works by other sculptors of importance to Gormley. Next was Mindfulness, and the influence of Buddhism on Gormley and his practice. The practice of meditation, and the idea of sculpture about being rather than doing are core. Finally, in Expansion, Gormley takes his ideas a step further. He wrote “Represented movement is a stupid idea for sculpture” (p.78) Instead, looking at stillness, we experience the movement in our own bodies.

The swatch is from a silk-hemp blend fabric that I dyed using shibori-based stitched resist, then sewed into a top. Where the resist prevents dye is as important as where the dye strikes. The first piece of old clothing I re-purposed, I was conscious of the absent body, and also of a stilled moment, rather than the movement, change, impermanence (I was around 30 kg heavier when I made it) over time. My space. My time.

Hugh Brody Inside Lake Ballard

Hugh Brody Inside Lake Ballard


Inside Lake Ballard is an essay I found on Gormley’s website – http://www.antonygormley.com/resources/essay-item/id/134 I would like to visit this installation. Experience the activated space. Think about what it means to stand in Australia.

Hot, bright colours from a linen shift seemed right for this swatch.

Johanna Drucker Graphesis: Visual forms of knowledge production

Johanna Drucker Graphesis: Visual forms of knowledge production

There’s a strong element of the data viz I know, but this book goes far wider. It’s an overview, a survey of the terrain. As well as abstracts and Boolean logic, Drucker considers humanistic, rhetorical arguments produced as a result of making, a poetics of graphical form. Drucker distinguishes between representations of known information and visualizations that are knowledge generators. She gathers together a huge number of references, creating a coherent structure and giving context. At times existing snippets of my knowledge shifted and came into focus, or coalesced in new and intriguing patterns. Many areas were new to me, leading to happy exploration of many rabbit holes even while I was realising how very much more I have to learn. And sometimes a phrase was like a magnet bringing order to iron filings. For example “a reified intellectual construct” provided a structure I didn’t know I needed and opens unforeseen vistas – and that was in a footnote! This is dense and challenging reading.

The subtle gleam of this swatch from a business jacket is lost in the photo, but the sense of purpose, structure, visual complexity in detail and coherence at distance, and hidden depths remains.

Giacomo Leopardi Canti and Zibaldone

Giacomo Leopardi Canti and Zibaldone

From total ignorance, last year I kept coming across references to Leopardi, starting in the last Hobart session of the intensive creative research group. He was the author of what Mary Ruefle describes as “The World’s Bleakest Poem”, and his conversation between death and fashion is quoted in an essay by John Berger.

Leopardi (1798 – 1837) has been described as Italy’s first and greatest modern poet. There’s a lot of misery and death in his poetry. The one quoted by Ruefle begins
Rest forever, tired heart.
The final illusion has perished.
The one we believed eternal is gone.

Zibaldone is enormous, his philosophical and critical notebook in which Leopardi compiled quotes from his extensive reading as well as his own writing and musings. There’s also extensive cross-referencing in a series of indexes that he created. The material collected provided the foundation for Leopardi’s extensive published writing. (That’s three “extensive”s in a row, but what can I do – the word fits!) I now have a copy of the english translation – over 80 pages in the introduction, then 2500 pages of the Zibaldone itself, Leopardi’s own index, and the editors’ notes. The translation itself was a major scholarly effort. Given my own notebook efforts, I was curious to see and learn from a master. Opening at random, page 1335:
“A language that is strictly universal, whatever language it might be, would certainly and necessarily by its very nature be the most slavish, impoverished, timid, monotonous, uniform, arid, and ugly tongue, the most incapable of any kind of beauty, the most inappropriate to the imagination and the least dependent on it, indeed in every way the most separated from it, the most bloodless, inanimate, and dead, that could ever be conceived; a skeleton, a shadow of a language rather than a real language; a language that would not be living, even if it were written by all and understood universally, indeed it would be a great deal more dead than any language that is no longer spoken or written.”
One sentence. One rather difficult sentence. As it happens relevant to an essay in Umberto Eco’s book. So many connections. And to be honest, so much that I don’t understand – even as it draws me in. Reading this is going to be a labour of love, probably falling in and out of love with it over years.

Mauve, paisley and beading feels a good fit for his poetry.

Mary Ruefle Lectures I will never give

Mary Ruefle Lectures I will never give

Just a touch of Mary Ruefle in my reading over the period, to check the poem she referenced. Very interesting to read the two quite different translations. What I’ve read of Ruefle’s work sparkles with ideas and wit. The patterning in the fabric is a modern take on paisley, making a satisfying link.

Umberto Eco on literature

Umberto Eco on literature


When I started reading this book it felt like chocolate – smooth and velvety, warm and luxurious, rich and flowing, but with a sparkle and not cloying so perhaps a hint of champagne. So chocolate, maybe champagne truffles, guided my fabric choice.

As I read further the book became more challenging – I know nothing of linguistic theory (pretty sure that isn’t the right term), and Eco’s careful differentiation of terms was lost on someone meeting them for the first time. Still, it feels worth learning.

Emily Dickinson The Complete Poems

Emily Dickinson The Complete Poems


I’ve tried opening at random. I’ve tried following themes from the subject index. I know Dickinson has a huge following. But I haven’t connected, so far at least. Perhaps I don’t know enough about poetry to appreciate her inventiveness and the power of broken convention.

The fabric is a cheat – from the general stash, not old clothing. I can’t quite see or connect with Dickinson. I suspect this swatch doesn’t really suit her, that I am misapplying convention. Perhaps when I’m more mature as a reader I will get further.

Alain de Botton How Proust can change your life

Alain de Botton How Proust can change your life

Mentions of Proust seem to pop up in much of my reading, his influence felt directly or indirectly throughout the 20th century. But reading In Search of Lost Time is a big investment of effort, and I have the impression that many readers fall by the wayside. I’m reminded of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time – a friend was given three copies the Christmas after that came out. People thought it would be right up his alley, but apparently he didn’t finish any of them!

The plan was that reading Alain de Botton’s book might help me decide whether to take on Proust. Unfortunately…

What a show pony de Botton is! Yes, there’s information on Proust’s life and on his writing, but it’s all very arch and clever, with lots of winks and smirks and witticisms by de Botton as he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader. (I’m assuming that can work in writing as well as on the stage. In any case, he’s putting on a performance so there’s little difference.)

Fortunately for my own specific purpose, I was able to find Proust’s work online. I’m not un-interested, but I don’t think this is right for me at the moment – especially given that in the meantime I started on Leopardi.

The flashy pink snake print rayon number is for de Botton.

Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World


This is a book about poetry, written by a poet. The language is rich and beautiful. My own writing is an arid desert. But Hirshfield opens my eyes, my mind, my ears, and I think I’m almost beginning to see a little of what she is showing me. It’s not easy to read. It’s a joy to read.

One of my all time favourite jackets provides the swatch. All the colours I like, with some shine and an interesting weave.

John Berger
Selected Essays

John Berger
Selected Essays


A chapter in Bento’s Sketchbook was my introduction to John Berger’s writing, a chapter in which he is drawing some irises. Some light silk that I painted using watercolour-like techniques then made into a blouse feels a good fit. Most of the essays I’ve read so far in this current book have been short, pieces written for a newspaper. Some of them have me looking at the world differently, thinking about artists and ideas in a different way. Really, just what I want from my reading.

General Purpose


This fine wool swatch is included for completeness in the project, a catchall for some side-reading.

Walter Benjamin
One-Way Street

Walter Benjamin
One-Way Street


This book contains sixty short prose pieces. Another conglomerate of fragments? Perhaps more a kaleidoscope of insights into the everyday. Lots of little disparate nuggets that together add up to something more. This blouse fabric has the nuggets. It’s also a little difficult and uncomfortable – there’s a metal in the weave.

Anne Carson
Float

Anne Carson
Float


This green-blue shot silk doesn’t show well in the photo. I wasn’t conscious of a reason for my choice, but with hindsight could it be something as simple as a Canadian named Anne and “green”? That’s a bit embarrassing. I’d like to distract by drawing a parallel to Carson’s poetry… I find it difficult, clever, beyond my reach but I keep trying. Well while true, that’s not an explanation of the choice that will convince anyone.

Actually I find a lot of these books difficult. All the reading was done over a four week period, 30 November to 27 December last year. Only a few are finished – Gormley, Brody, de Botton. Most of the rest are still in rotation.

Dido

I started this post weeks ago, trying to sort out the … connections? resonances? overarching themes? … in the various books. Poetry and the poetic. In Hobart in January, a couple of nights before the first gathering of the Intensive Creative Research class, I made a little form in wire (it was later modified to become the quivering Dido). I was thinking of the flickering movement as we fight for balance, but in my notes that day thought the model too literal. When I showed the form in class, Ruth called it “poetic”, and I had no idea what that meant. It’s only while writing now that I’ve identified that link in my reading – I’m trying to understand “poetic”. That’s not where I thought this post was going to go. It now seems blindingly obvious and an almost banal conclusion – apart from anything else, there are two volumes of poetry and another subtitled “How great poems transform the world”. Curious.

This matching is step one in my little game. There’s more to come.

8 Responses to “Reading swatches”


  1. 1 kath January 7, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    thanks, I’ve read a bit of Gormley’s book for class, but mostly skimmed (theme was the body & space so it fit). another of John Berger’s books you might like is “Pages of the Wound: Poems, Drawings, Photographs, 1956-96” – it’s some of his more intimate writing. I discovered it via the Sydney review of books article on Gillian Mears (it won’t let me add the link to the comment)
    I hadn’t heard of Giacomo Leopardi, but will add him to the reading list – sounds like it’s an epic discovery

    • 2 fibresofbeing January 8, 2020 at 1:48 pm

      Hi Kath
      Thanks for the link. I enjoyed the article, and the Berger book sounds interesting. So annoying it’s not available new. I keep veering between “must curb book buying – reading not keeping up” and “buy, buy, buy – before it’s out of print”.

  2. 4 heronstar January 8, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    Such interesting references and thoughts really enjoyed reading it


  1. 1 Eavesdropping at a half-open door | Fibres of Being Trackback on January 11, 2020 at 5:29 pm
  2. 2 Gathering threads | Fibres of Being Trackback on January 18, 2020 at 3:46 pm
  3. 3 Mono printing and text | Fibres of Being Trackback on January 22, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.




Calendar of Posts

January 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Categories


%d bloggers like this: