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A Looming Possibility: Towards a Theory of the Textile

  • Author(s): Archer, Nicole
  • Advisor(s): Marriott, David
  • et al.
Abstract

A Looming Possibility: Towards a Theory of the Textile is, at its heart, a critical examination of the politics and aesthetics of desire. It positions 'the textile' as a material formed at the intersections of desire and modern politics, and it focuses attention on those instances where and when the textile's 'textility' (or texture) trumps its 'textuality' (or readability). It does this in an effort to reconsider the forms of relations that desire and politics typically take in modern, Western culture, and to propose that we must be prepared to address the 'consistencies' of these relations--should we ever hope to meaningfully reform them.

The ways that fabric conditions and binds our bodies and desires is explored through close readings of fabrics that expose, supplement, and abstract the ways pleasure and felt experience adhere to one another through the body. The mid-century futurist fashion designs of Rudi Gernreich lay bear how the fashion system instrumentalizes the body's 'desire to move,' while inscribing it within the time-signatures of modern capitalism; the subversive and fetishistic figurations of modern military uniforms, produced in the wake of Liliana Cavani's 1974 film The Night Porter, reveal how the desire for flexibility is tempered by the physical comforts provided by discipline (and how the material conditions of the erotics of power and violence are made manifest); the War on Terror's (un-)uniformed 'unlawful enemy combatant' is cast alongside the fabrics used in the capture and detention of high value targets--high-tech 'digi-camouflages' and crude hoods fashioned from sand bags, laundry sacks, or disused towels.

Finally, this work critically engages a host of contemporary artworks produced by the likes of Fernando Botero, Thorsten Brinkman, Elana Mann, and Allison Smith, and asks how it is in those moments, when few put stock in their leaders' words or their land's written laws, that our confidence in cloth and its ability to articulate something 'real' about our current condition becomes crucial.

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