5 Feb 2010
We can best help you prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods
- Virginia Woolf
Back in the day when I was performing spoken word events and teaching writers how to prepare their poetry for public performance, I found myself rushing toward activism pretty much from the beginning — as a poet, the rights of free speech were dear to me, and having cut my teeth on such controversies as the National Endowment for the Arts defunding material they found “inappropriate”, it was a short trip from there. My regular readers may remember from October 2009 when I told the story of Anne Winter & how she, via the Free Speech Coalition, gave me both the tools and the platform to build a helluva machine to fight zine censorship and promote performance poetry, hip hop spoken word, graffiti artist’s rights, and such causes as Rock the Nation (which we ROCKED at the Locus Solis gallery — and which I will never forget became known as the event where an audience full of punk rock activists and zine publishers grilled a panel of then-prospective Kansas City mayoral candidates on how their platform might benefit young people in our city… BOOYA!! It was a beautiful thing…)
So, after 2 kids, 4 dogs, 3 cities, and heaping loads of laundry and dishes, I’ve landed smack in the middle of stitch-land. And I find, no matter what my circumstance, or where I hang my hat (so to speak) I can’t help but get antsy… and active.
I began wrangling the book proposal for my (hopefully) shiny new book deal, and as I researched and dug out the material… I found, periodically, my heart would beat a little faster at discovering a tidbit… here… and there… sprinkled throughout stitch history… there are messages and useful information from our stitchin sistas that can not be ignored…
The Subversive Stitch (link to review) chronicles some of these — such as embedding medicinal, nourishing, and deadly botanicals information in tapestries passed from mothers to daughters in medieval times. BRILLIANT!
And then I got sucked into a discussion thread over at the hand embroidery network community on ning (link) titled: spouse doesn’t like my needlework. Now, I ask you, activist reader, how do I IGNORE such a tag line? In the wake of the previous “Your art sucks…” post, I was practically homicidal when I read the discussion thread. You KNOW I can’t just let it go… so I spent 3 or 4 hours re-evaluating my materials and wrote a 2 page response to the querant highlighting some of my favorite incidences of women using their needlework in significant socio-political ways, in ways that made blatant cultural comments, that revolutionized formerly oppressive traditions, and that accomplished economic emancipation, financial empowerment, and significant societal consciousness. As I counselled the querant: when confronted with such accusations as “wasting time with women’s work”, you must speak with authority, clarity, and certainty about the significant and revolutionary aspects of stitch through the ages. Or, you’ve got to put some BALLS on your needle!! heh heh…
And, once again, my activist raised her sword and we set off… I laugh that just today by complete accident, I found my college debate coach. She is one of those strong women who make you stand a little straighter because, in her presence, you want to be your best self, you know?
So as I considered this post, I thought how appropriate that as I began putting the “argument” together, I heard her coaching voice asking (as she always did) “what do you need to convey… how do you set it up…” Gold, those questions.
So — where does this lead us? First, you should take note of the new links in the right side bar. I’ve added “All Needle on the Record” which is now an on-going list of those people and groups who have “put a needle on the record” in order to be heard, seen, or documented for their cause. I don’t discriminate — whether it’s one woman protesting the way her shitty husband treats her, or a whole association built to economically empower disenfranchised citizens… they get equal real estate on the list.
Second, I’ve started writing the proposal for a grant which would allow me to conduct a project in the tradition of Liz Kueneke (she’s in the links). She engages a community in marking, with stitches, their places of residence, work, etc., on an embroidered map. Having a stellar Social Scientist husband, I am hatching a plan to create a mixed media embroidered map of the Greater Kansas City area which would serve to document not only the displaced/disenfranchised citizens, but the artists who have tagged public areas, (like my fearless daughter pictured here…)
the muralists & their work, etc. In the same way that I built an otherwise ignored body of documentary literature from the hundreds of zines I collected out of the Free Speech Coalition events,
I intend to build a visual record of those in our city who, without some simple stitches, may pass through our streets completely unaccounted for or “off the record”. That, to me, is unacceptable. Luckily, I have some advantages of being able to make a video documentary of the entire process, and being able to write up the whole thing, so, in the words of pirates and rabble rousers of all ages: we have our heading!!
Tonight, I’ll be working on the grant proposal… stitching with wire and metal… and searching for more revolutionary sisters (& brothers) to invite on board…
and you? In the opening I quoted:
We can best help you prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods – Virginia Woolf
It’s time to put our needles on the record.
Be fearless! (I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Natl Embroidery Month!)