End of First Year of my MA

The first year of my MA has come to an end; I received my marks and was pleased to see that they were consistent to what I achieved during my BA. Now it’s time for reflection – to evaluate what I’ve achieved, what I’ve learnt.

I’m unsure in which direction my practice is going but am enjoying making my Marriage pieces. My intention is to have each piece piece custom framed so the issues I’ve had with hanging them will be negated so in turn making them more attractive to buyers.





Two lessons learnt

I can hardly believe that the first year of my M.A. is nearly over. Yesterday was spent hanging my work for the group exhibition. I should have learnt from my degree show to keep things simple but the trials of that had slunk to the back of my mind.

Most people turned up with two or three framed pieces which meant, after discussion as to which space each could have, they simply attached them to the wall with mirror plates and screws. Over and done with within the hour.

I had selected half a dozen of my Marriage pieces and the curator suggested I use a grey background so the white knitted pieces show  better. I mixed some paint – a little black in a tub of white – and set about covering the wall. By mid morning the gallery was almost deserted but I continued working then took a late/early coffee/lunch break. After another coat of paint and willing it to dry it was safe enough to start suspending my artefacts. This took far longer than I anticipated, I was the last person there; I finished just as the gallery was closing so I had no time to check if the labels are on straight or that the tools are hanging correctly.

Lesson learnt:     I will mount my pieces on neutral coloured fabric covered wooden boards so all I have to do is attach them to the walls with mirror plates.

During the morning my tutor asked where my embroidered Mothers piece was as she expected me to show that. I explained I’d abandoned it as I couldn’t cope with the relentless stitching day after day after day. She insisted I put it up in its unfinished state so today I put back all the markings I took out after I’d condemned it. However I discovered a far quicker method of making these lines (which represent the year each mother gave birth) and that is to measure each side of the fabric then simply fold it horizontally and stitch across – before I was measuring from the top of the fabric, pinning on my measurements then marking with thread – very difficult after 50 cms down.

Lesson learnt:   Don’t undo work until I want to use the materials again – just in case.

Socially Engaged and Collaborative Practice

Today’s lecture was about the relationship between the individual and society.

Untitled 1971 by Patrick Heron 1920-1999

Patrick Heron (1920‑1999), Untitled, 1971, Screenprint on paper,  587 x 794 mm, Tate
Patrick Heron declared that his work was not complete until it had been seen by others. The group had a debate about this statement – Should art be made  to be seen or just for the maker? One person was quiet happy to enjoy the process of creating and had no need to show his work whilst others needed that confirmation. Some people were unable to produce any work as their practice is totally collaborative.  I heard a voice in my head from a previous tutor of mine, ‘Dorcas, you must get out there and show your work else you’ll end up on your own surrounded by stuff.’
Work has to be personal and not produced to please others yet mindful that it is to be seen. Self censorship may occur if the final exhibition is too much to the forefront, it may inhibit the outcome.
Does the art exist if it isn’t seen? Does it need a set of eyes…..it can’t be seen in the dark.
What is function of social engaged practice?
The Politics of Aesthetics by J Ranciere.  About how an artist might operate in a political sense – not an easy read. But  there is the philosophical  approach and the practical approach. By using research methodology to explore our practice similar results may be reached.
Gallery as Community by Marijke Steedman.  A series of talks at the Whitechapel Gallery. Art is seen as an economic and social tool. Where ever artist have moved into an area it improves its economic status – east end of London.
Artificial Hells  by Claire Bishop. This review is taken from Amazon website
For over a decade, conceptual and performance art has been dominated by participatory art. Its champions, such as French curator Nicolas Bourriaud  (who invented the term ‘relational aesthetics’ to describe it) and American art historian Grant Kester, believe that by encouraging an audience to join in, the artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art. The book follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of the participatory aesthetic, in both Europe and America. This itinerary takes in Futurism, Dada, Situationism,  Czechoslovakian Happenings, and Argentinean Conceptualism, and concludes with contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera and Jeremy Deller. Since her controversial essay in Artforum in 2006, Claire Bishop has been one of the few to expose the political and aesthetic limitations of this work. In ARTIFICIAL HELLS she not only scrutinizes the claims for democracy and emancipation that the artists and critics make for the work, but also questions the turn to ethical (rather than artistic) criteria invited by such participatory and collaborative art.
Jeremy Dellers British Pavilion, Venice Biennial 2013
The viewers become the artwork.
Bradley Garret photographs unseen places in cities. imgl5124
Crumlin County Courthouse
Folk art – is this outsider art?
Yvonne Buchheim Song Archive Project
Chris Milk and the Johnny Cash Project – the internet has allowed people throughout the world to see and collaborate in art work.
I realise that my notes are very thin for this week’s lecture – can’t win them all!

Artforms and Social Structure

Social Structure Art Form Example Music
Co-actional Invocational Chauvet Caves Orchestra
Inter-actional Evocational Leonardo de Vinci Quartet
Intra-actional Provocational Marcel Duchamp Punk
Multi-actional Revocational YBAs Sampling
Dysfunctional Convocational Ai Weiwei Soundscapes



Chauvet Cave Paintings

The image of the bear invokes it into the present – both the sign and the referent are the same.

A co-operative mark making process with no recognisable individuality – as an orchestra plays.


The Adoration of the Golden Calf 1633-4, Nicolas Poussin, Oil on canvas. 153.4 x 211.8 cm National Gallery London

The subject matter is a symbol of invocation – invoking the spirit of the calf.



Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519) (artist) c.1485-90, Pen and ink with brown and greenish wash, over black chalk, 27.8 x 19.7 cm, The Royal Collection
He took individuals apart – it evokes the spirit  – to bring to mind the spirit but not the spirit itself. The self awareness of the individual.
Intra- actional
Marcel Duchamp L.H.O.O.Q., postcard with drawn mustache, 1919, The title when pronounced in French, puns the phrase “Elle a chaud au cul”,  “She has a hot arse”.
Challenging the relationship between the individual and authority – provoking. A hundred years later still the reverberations from dadaism. The huge social upheaval due to WW1.
The Art Critic 1919-20 by Raoul Hausmann 1886-1971

Raoul Hausmann,  The Art Critic,1919-20, Lithograph and printed paper on paper, 318 x 254 mm,Tate


CS37_0048_Hirst_Instal_OH_GCRDamiaen Hirst, Some Comfort Gained from the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything 1996
Steel, glass, cows and formaldehyde solution (12 tanks) 
Each tank: 200 x 90 x 30 cm 

Revocational – the laws have been revoked – throw old the old. Went against the Bauhaus rules. The outside becomes the inside, the front becomes the back.


The structure that holds society together has broken down – the Church, the Monarchy, government. Art is being used to heal the cracks (Pierre Bourdieu)

Convocational – bringing the people together although they might nor know they are the art work.

Ai Weiwei brought together 1001 Chinese people for the 2007 Documenta in Kasell Germany as reported in the China Daily. As for the meaning of “fairytale,” Ai said it is “a simple desire for happiness.”Fairytale is a work which relates to social, political and cultural aspects,” he says.”I don’t even care whether it is an art work.”



An art project using an old football pitch for a temporary area for growing crops for the community.

The group then had a debate as to what art is today – is there still such a creature as an artist or, as anything/everything is art is the artist now redundant?

Visit by the External Examiner

It was good to meet my external examiner today. I enjoyed presenting my work to him and I felt encouraged by his reactions.

On one hand I think the piece I’m working on is too simplistic – embroidered names on fabric – yet there is far more too it. It will all be in the display! I’ve several thoughts about how I’ll do that but until I see the actual space I’ll be using I’m constructing the piece to be shown in a couple or so ways.


The rest of the day I marked out my fabric. I was able to lay it out flat across several tables so it made stitching  on it a delight. The work was physical as I had to walk from side to side as I tacked out each line of thread. I used long lengths of cotton to indicate each year  the women became a mother. This involved careful measuring – the placing may seem random to the viewer but for my own satisfaction I had to be precise, it’s all to do with the authenticity of my work. Already I felt engagement with the mothers as I do so little physical exertion in my day-to-day life, nothing like the manual work they would have had to undertake.

Next I pinned the names onto the fabric, again in relation to  to their placing on the family tree. I’me now ready to start embroidering.




2nd Group Crit and evaluation of my work in progress

Although the Textile Pathway members have regular meetings over lunch to discuss our work with the tutor today was the 2nd group crit we had with all pathways together. Instead of the usual ‘going round the room’ we were split up into multi-disciplinary groups, I was with 3 fine artists, and the tight format worked well for me. Person 1 had five minutes to present her/his work; the other three had to remain silent. The next five minutes person 1 remained silent as the other three discussed the work. Person 1 then had a further five minutes to clarify any points the others had queried. Finally five minutes were spent by person 1 feeding back to the whole group what they had learnt.  The energy levels stayed high – there was none of the usual mid-afternoon flagging, in fact we were done by lunch time yet we all had spoken about our work and had the chance to learn about other artists, authors, exhibitions etc.

I learnt that I have to be clearer and conciser in my explanations. What I thought was obvious confused others. I also gained some excellent suggestions about how I should present my work. At the moment I envisage it to be displayed with the names at the top clearly visible but then the fabric puddling onto the  floor – the folds obscuring some of the names to represent the  fading memory but it may all change.

My piece – working title Mothers – is taking a a great deal of preparation and things are still very fluid at this stage.

My fabric has arrived and it wasn’t the size I expected but that’s to my advantage as it’s narrower but longer – measuring about 2 by 3.60 metres – a bargain at £6.20 as it’s cotton. I have chosen it for the simplistic quality, undyed and quite a coarse weave which is a characteristic I like to think my foremothers would recognise.

I’ve digitalised my hand writing – a top tip I read is that in order to have uniformity in your work it’s necessary to have precise text and, as my handwriting wouldn’t stand up to being consistently neat, it was simple enough to use an on line font making programme. This means I can easily alter the size of my text. However it’s crucial for me to hand stitch the names as I want that whole body experience of making. Also it will give me time to ponder about the women and the lives they may have led as mothers.

I’ve decided to embroider this statement at the top (or it may be at the bottom)

In honour of my twenty-three named mothers and the hundreds of unknown ones.
Without them I would not be the mother I am.

The names of the mothers will then be embroidered down (up) the fabric in their generational positions. Initially I was going to make the names smaller the further away they are to me but have decided that they are just as important so need the same acknowledgement. However even as I type this I know this not to be true as their dna and mothering skills have been diluted by the time they reach me, Still time to mull over this.

I ordered the wrong marker pen – it is a water soluble one instead of one that fades over a couple of days. But after playing with transferring the names onto the fabric I’ve moved on.

I wrote on tracing paper then embroidered over it – no good as the paper was too thick and I didn’t like the intervention between the stitch and the fabric.
Tissue paper was too thin and torn easily.
I taped the text onto the window pane and traced directly onto the fabric. Although this worked for my sample it would be impossible to do for a piece of fabric 2 x 3 metres.
Hopefully my latest intention will work – I’ve ordered a heat transfer pencil. On the reverse side of the paper which has the text printed on it I’ll trace the letters then iron the marks onto the fabric.

It was suggested by one of the tutors that I use an OHP to project the text onto the fabric then scribe it but after a couple of hours working in photoshop I abandoned the idea. There is too much information to be placed onto a huge image – I wish it was the case of making it small then simply enlarging it.

I’m working on a sample a fifth of the final size. The group crit has solved the problem of how to acknowledge the mothers who are nameless. Originally I thought of question marks ????? but was concerned it would look like a wizard’s cape so I’ve decided to use one single stitch. Also it was suggested I embroidered the year the woman became a mother as well as her age.


Samples of line stitches.


After using a couple of different stitches I’m favouring the Hungarian Braid as it’s very textural but it is no good for the smaller text – the first 3 letters of Irene have been worked in this stitch and the detail of the e is lost. However I think it’ll be perfect for the statement. On the sample below I’ve used back stitch which is adequate but I can’t work it neatly enough. I think it’s a choice between chain stitch as in Pennyfather Troth and stem stitch as in Ellen Harriet Pennyfather.


Time now to position the women on the fabric but in the meantime I am reading Tim Ingold’s book LINES A Brief History. One chapter is on genealogical lines. More food for thought!


About to start my installation

I had the opportunity to have a quiet mull about my proposed project when I woke early one morning away from home. There was nothing to distract me and I was in that hypnagogia state – half asleep and half awake.  I’ve been running with several ideas in my workbook, some related to using the laser etcher but then it dawned on me that if I wanted to portray my grand-mothers the technique wouldn’t be relevant to them. I came back to the stitch. Surely each of the women used a needle and thread during their lives.

My plan so far is to use a large piece of plain fabric and embroider the names of all the (g)grand-mothers I know of, with the age of when they became a mother – other marks will be used to indicate the unnamed ones. I’ve decided on a blue thread – the colour will increase the nearer the relative is to me i.e. pale blue for those born in the 1600s to dark blue for me. I’ve lots more details to work out. I can go back to Grace who is my great x 6 grandmother – unfortunately I’ll have to leave her off as it would make my piece too large with 255 other unknown great x 6 grandmothers to be included.

Because of the male line my registered name was Ball but I could have been:

Dorcas Day
Dorcas Hobson
Dorcas Holder
Dorcas Martyn
Dorcas Petch
Dorcas Cox
Dorcas Shakespeare
Dorcas Hulks
Dorcas Tuck
Dorcas Bounds
Dorcas Chownes
Dorcas Clark
Dorcas Hicken
Dorcas Camfield
Dorcas Godfrey

But this list isn’t inclusive as there were hundreds of other women who have contributed to my being.

The fabric, embroidery yarn and fading marker pen have been ordered. As soon as the fabric arrives I can start placing the names onto it. In the meantime I am making up a sampler of stitches. I’ve 25 names and dates to embroider so I need 25 line stitches.