24 January 2014

Balls of string ... and related things

While musing on the "memory balls" I made all those years ago, and wondering if they could morph into some sort of museum project (given the increasingly urgent need to do the homework for the course), I turned to an image-search to see if anything would catch my interest and lead down surprising byways, as so often happens...
29 years of winding string...  (via)
Different types of string balls - largest, most expensive, etc ("All sting balls possess a certain history") - including one wound by pupils of an elementary school in Australia " as a symbol of how their education and lives would always be connected. Each string represented a student and each knot connected one to the other. They tied in mementos as they built their ball of dyed twine. What they ended up with was part art, part history, and part love story. "
Made by pupils of Penguin Primary School (via)
Newspaper recycling by Ivano Vitale - no dyes or glue are used in the yarn ball -
Lin Tianmiao  uses thread wrapping and  balls of thread in her artworks -
The Proliferation of Thread Winding (1995) also contains 20,000 needles (via)
Gillian Collyer's and Janet Kawada's works were briefly mentioned on this blog already -
Janet's 2012 exhibit, Shift in Time, marked 15 years of work about time ... the link includes a time-lapse video - 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, 5 weeks of winding yarn -

Temari are also balls of yarn - but definitely in a league of their own (there's an edible version!) -

On another tangent... a thread wrapping machine (designed by Anton Alvarez) was used to make this -
and these-

And while we're at it, remind me ... why might we need one of these?
Yet another tangent - string art (there seems to be a lot of it about) - this is by Kristin Rauch -
Then, when it all unravels ...
Detail from "Gathering my thoughts" by Susan Lenz
So, after gathering all that together ... could this be the required project for the draft brief for the developing practice course? The next bit is mere thinking aloud; though the writing felt like pulling teeth, it's only here for the record, for my documentation in the style of reflective journaling - feel free to ignore it, and thanks for reading this far! 

(1) At the moment one possibility is doing "something" with the travel lines, perhaps taking them to the Transport Museum and proposing some sort of workshop with staff, along the lines of "look at what I did, now go out and do the same" which, baldly put, doesn't thrill me. Unpacking that, though - "my journey": why did I do what I did? how did it develop? what does it show? how did my understanding of what it showed change? how did it move beyond the page it was written on? - that would be an introduction and would include pix of the various configurations I tried and different journey lengths, and the sketchbook containing my journeys on all the tube lines, alphabetically ... and other things that would hopefully get people thinking this is a fun thing to do and not as barmy as it looks. If you're doing this in the context of an art course, if you're thinking in that art-school sort of way ("this is about time and chance"), it's not particularly barmy ... but to Jo(e) Public it can look daft - hey, a 4-yr-old could do that!

First thing that's needed is a "hook" to interest people in coming along to the workshop. What would they get out of it? All too often people want a visible outcome, something to take home. But this is about encouraging them to go into the world with a little book and a pen and doing it outside in the hostile world, not in the room where everyone knows what's going on. So that's a big hurdle. 

Perhaps if I went along to the museum this line of thinking would become clearer. One thing that intimidates me is the thought (whether it happens or not!) of doing a workshop with strangers in a strange place. Another thing that holds me back is my ulterior motive - to get my Travel Line stuff into the Transport Museum shop ... yet it's this part of the project that any workshop might be linked to. Hmm, it also offers an idea for the "visible outcome" - to find a way to turn participants' "lines" into something usable, eg a travelcard holder. A matter of transferring to cloth, then sewing or gluing together. Needs thought. It would have to be two sessions...

(2) Another project possibility, and the reason for revisiting the memory balls and similar projects with thread and wrapping and time and memory (and memory loss, and thereby identity), is a handling display of various "memory balls" and a "winding session" where people can come and sit and wind and chat. I've done this at a book fair and was fascinated to hear people's stories of winding wool for Auntie, and seeing young people learn this new skill - it does take a bit of physical coordination. Having something to do with the hands seems to get the mouth going and the talk flowing. Except, through being involved in the moment, I can't later remember much of what's been said! That's not a problem because the project would be about what the participants got out of it, though a visible outcome would be the size of balls produced. Each would have the contributions of several people, so it would be a social thing - perhaps the names of each winder would be on a slip of paper inside, or if they could spend longer, it could contain more writing or drawing, say of events in their lives or objects in their childhood home, all wrapped up and kept safe among the continuous thread, perhaps glimpsed as an outer layer or perhaps completely hidden. (It's possible to roll out the ball, rewind the thread, and release all the memories. Then roll them back up again. Ad infinitum.)

I like the "winding thread" idea because it's more "normal", less off-putting, than writing lines. Also it hardly needs an explanation, and it's about the other person - what the activity gives them is a chance to do something different and new, or familiar and evocative. The interaction could be augmented with some stories involving thread/yarn - the minotaur and the labyrinth; penelope and her un-weaving; some of the spinning folktales like Rumplestiltskin; the chinese story about the red thread of connection. I'd find it interesting to see if and how stories could be woven into conversations.

Where could this Thread Story thing happen? Is there something specific in a museum it could be linked to? Could it be a collaboration with an experienced storyteller, eg for kids? How would that work - getting the kids drawing things or choosing words or objects, then wrapping them round with thread, and doing that while they listen to the stories maybe. (Except I'm scared of working with kids - no, let me rephrase that: working with (lively, excited, rambunctious!) kids would definitely be a challenge. Would be an "interesting" challenge...)

(1&2) To end on a positive note - those ruminations give me material for not one but two draft briefs. OK they're preliminary thoughts only, but my understanding is that what's required is preliminary. A bit more thought about possible venues for the thread thing, and a visit to the museum for the travel lines thing, could clarify that. Maybe some headings when writing it up - what, who, where, when, why, how, that sort of thing. Nicely formatted to add credibility. 


Felicity said...

I like both workshop ideas!

I was inspired by your journey lines to take my sketchbook and a graphite pencil with me on an ordinary walk to the shops. Apart from mapping the movements of the walk I drew different marks for each stop or event. The shopkeepers were really interested in what I was doing and it was great fun.
So don't underestimate the idea!

magsramsay said...

Fascinating - I'd love to do both. For travel lines , perhaps it's a case of actually taking a tube ride as a group, a shared journey. As I found when drawing at the National gallery, it's less scary if you're with other people doing the same thing and gives you confidence to do it on your own.
Would elastic band balls fit in with the idea of memory balls? The kids next door collect all the rubber bands dropped by the postie and apparently its' a popular ( and competitive ) pursuit. And han't someone (Jeane Williamson?) documented thedisintegration of an elastic band ball?

Susan Lenz said...

Great post! Fantastic ideas! Thanks so much for including my work!

casilda garcía archilla said...

Magnífico post. Thank you very much!