The Fabric of Protest exhibition features the work of Vanessa Cuthbert,
Helen Thompson and Nina Edge. The exhibition puts to the gallery goer
the idea that fabric has social, economic and political dimensions. The
example of cotton is used, a cotton tee-shirt can carry political slogans
but it also has a raft of other histories of oppression. It suggests that
we wear what we think; it is almost an extension of who we are.
It is Nina Edge’s body of work Terra that features most prominently
in the exhibition space. Edge’s work is made predominantly of camouflage
fabric. Her pieces are large, dominating and skilfully made. Her work
explores the idea that camouflage is an instrument of invisibility, but
has been appropriated as an instrument to make you seen and give status.
Her piece Terra Repeat Pattern shows four maps of the world made entirely
of various types of camouflages. With each repetition of the globe the
camouflage of each country changes but is always made of camouflage. Edge
wanted to convey that this is a permanently militarised globe, controlled
always by military power and action.
Soldier Repeat Pattern displays camouflage trousers they are all joined
at the hip just as platoon would be. The uniform links them together in
an exercise that they all have to perform whether they agree with it or
not. Initially they all look the same but on further inspection you can
see the subtle differences between them. How the wearer washes or irons
their clothes, or how they kneel on their right knee can be seen. These
snippets of life bring vulnerability to the piece. In conversation with
the artist this was something she highlighted; the youth and vulnerability
of soldiers. This is especially true of US soldiers who are from the lower
classes of society doing the dirty work of the upper classes who remain
in the safety of America.
My favourite piece was Disruptive Pattern Fabric two large canvases sit
side by side. One is covered in a bright flowery fabric; this feminine
cheerful fabric is a reference to images of the Gulf war that Edge saw
back in 1991. Women in Iraq would cover their dead with fabric from the
home; their job to take care of the dead was almost an extension of domestic
duties. An embroidered plane is hidden amongst the flowers; it’s
ambiguous as to whether it is a fighter plane or a commercial one. What
I liked about this was that the flowery fabric became camouflage in its
own right as it masks the plane. Next to it a canvas of equal size is
covered in dark camouflage. Hidden in this pattern is a flower embroidered
in colours the same to the camouflage. These flowers are symbolic of the
softness of soldiers; the flowers are symbolic of what’s beneath
the camouflage. The uniform of war and death does not necessarily represent
the person underneath it.
What is interesting about Edge’s work is that the fabric to assist
war paradoxically becomes the medium with which she uses to protest against
war. It is an exhibition filled with paradoxes and double meanings which
I really loved. But it is an accessible exhibition that anyone who sees
it will get something from it. Every piece has meaning attached and doesn’t
exist simply for the sake of existing. It is a passionate, intelligent
and thought provoking and I look forward to seeing more from this artist.
Comment left by hats off on 2nd November, 2007 at 22:58 Yes, would also like to see more. An inspiring and moving exhibition.
Nina also went to the Turner Prize opening night because of the loss of habeas corpus - this is what happened.
Comment left by mick maslen on 14th August, 2009 at 13:40 could you please send me nina's email address