Sydney Biennale – Erin Manning
For the Sydney Biennale I’ve spent a lot of time in Erin Manning’s work Stitching Time – A Collective Fashioning volunteering. The work is located on Cockatoo Island and is made up of various types of fabric cut into pattern pieces. Each pattern piece has buttons, buttonholes and magnets sewn onto them to allow them to connect to one another. When you walk into the space you immediately notice the installation aspect of the work; pieces of fabric strung across the ceiling in gradation. The sunlight filters through the fabric creating a relaxed atmosphere. The aspect of the artwork looks especially lovely in the late afternoon sun.
There is also interactive element of the work, which involves the hanging baskets throughout the space, which are full of the fabric pieces. Some visitors are invited to choose 3 to 4 pieces to design and create a custom item of clothing. The emphasis on the interaction is not the finished product but the whole experience. Visitors often spend an hour or more involved in the creation of their garment. Once the item has been created, a label tag is fashioned by using wax stamp is on a scrap of fabric which the maker is asked to sign, and is then sew onto the garment. There’s a large table in the middle of the room where several of the artist assistances (and usually Erin) sit sewing new pieces for Stitching Time, chatting and drinking tea, which really highlights the communities sewing circles create. In addition the title of the work can be a reference to the time spent sewing the fabric pieces, and the time visitors need to spend to finish their garment.
A few weeks ago I finally got around to stopping by as a visitor, and was able to spend some time creating my own piece with Erin’s help. We spent hours playing with several pieces of red fabric and a grey to create a beautifully draped cape. I was surprised at how easily the item was customisable through the buttons and magnets, and was told that often the garment grows and changes as the magnets and buttons aren’t static.
While there I was also told that pieces of fabric from Erin’s work were also placed around the island during the installation week. When I went back to Iris Häussler’s work for volunteering I noticed a red piece of silk under one of the wax artefacts! ;D