we are not what we seem

I want to share with you a project I just completed for the Textile Design class I am taking right now at the University of British Columbia. This is a class aimed at art educators and consists of introducing you to a slew of techniques.

The Project Scope: inquire into an idea/concept or issue that reflects a relationship to identity, culture, gender, the body, ect. through the concept of “Bag.” It can be rooted in current and/or historical issues in contemporary textile/fiber arts and reference one or more textile/fiber artists’ works. (We were instructed specifically to not make a bag.) This is a conceptual project.

This was my first foray into conceptual art. Surprisingly for me, I really enjoyed it and to prepare I spent a bit of time wrapping my head around conceptual art. So below is the artist statement I had to submit to go along with the finished project.

Project Title: We are not what we seem


Recently, my friend Carrie and I were discussing a collaborative project. As our project developed, the discussion turned to how we might sign the piece—with our names or an official sounding name? It turned out we were both intrigued by those artists who use a name other than their own.

We contemplated what that might mean and came to the conclusion that a name that makes it sound like you are part of an entity gives you immediate credibility and marketability but most of all it can create an aura of intrigue. Heightening the viewer’s curiosity is always a good thing. For example, who is Office Supplies Incorporated and what do they do? This entity actually has nothing to do with office supplies. Office Supplies Incorporated simply consists of a Vancouver street poster artist whose work can be seen around town. The artist has chosen a moniker for a specific set of artistic activities, strengthening his identity within the creative community while also remaining in disguise.

Entity names provide credibility, intrigue, disguise but also can create an image larger than real life. Imagine mail artist Ray Johnson, the one man behind The New York School of Correspondance. Johnson operated the so called ‘school’ out of his home probably in pyjamas half of the time, perhaps other times drinking scotch…who knows. But the question that surfaces for me is whether Johnson received recognition for his mail art activities in part because they were conducted under an entity name? The Whitney Museum of American Art later organized an exhibition showcasing Johnson’s correspondence and using his entity name as the title. How much influence did his entity name have?

Entity names function as containers for ideas. Yet another example is The N.E. Thing Co. This registered corporation was made up of husband and wife team Iain and Ingrid Baxter and it was “a vehicle through which to investigate artistic, domestic, and corporate systems in relation to everyday life.”

I am intrigued by the assumptions that we make when we hear an official name as it relates to artistic activities and the misconceptions we conjure, and how it effects our attitudes or behaviour. For this reason, my piece is made up of a fictional entity name—The Prohibitive Genus Collective. I came up with the name through a brainstorming session and liked the possibility of puzzlement or intrigue that this name could create. Because a name is made up of text, cross-stitch on aida cloth lends itself well for this project. The perfection of the letters in black on white contributes to an official look.

At the beginning of this course (back in October 2012) I had reflected on subversive cross-stitch when I came across Julie Jackson‘s work, Rozsika Parkers’s book Subversive Stitch, and Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art edited Maria Elena Buszek. Because of my interest in utilizing text in my work, I was drawn to the use of cross-stitch for subversive messages. I felt that this technique, with its reference to subversion, was particularly suited for my idea of a fictional entity. The finished piece is contained within an ornate frame further emphasizing the formality and credibility of the entity. Ultimately, this piece aims to create deceit and relies on the viewer’s reaction and thoughts to bring the message home of how we are easily manipulated.


Cross-stitch made with black embroidery floss on aida cloth, bottom line is just a running stitch (that’s what I call it). I used http://www.stitchpoint.com/ to generate text on a graph background.

————-end of artist statement————–

I really like the name I’ve come up with and have decided to purchase the domain name. I envision using the name for collaborative, community or craftivist projects. There’s an element of fun and creativity using such a name versus my own.