Unravelling and Time-Travelling: Media Archaeologies of the Embroidered Photograph

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


Conference presentation for the panel Picturing Fabrics: Textile and the Photographic Image

Enjoying enormous popularity in the early decades of the twentieth century - and continuing into at least the 1970s - embroidered and otherwise textile-embellished picture postcards circulated by the million across Northern Europe. As tactile objects drawing jointly on the communicative means of both photograph and fabric, their density and reality effects materialised feeling in a medium renowned for its compressed communicative capacities. Via visual and haptic pleasures, embroidered photographic missives combined presence and depth making their forms especially suitable for communicating proximity across distances, not only as greetings cards and travel souvenirs but also, in some cases, as Catholic votive objects.
In contemporary art, the embroidered photograph has undergone a twenty-first century renaissance with contemporary practitioners from Joana Choumali (Côte d'Ivoire) to Julie Cockburn (UK) using needle and thread, pixel and print to create powerful hybrid image-objects that disrupt photographic surfaces, puncture visual certainties and create new, insistent forms of slow looking and feeling, especially in relation to symbolic loss and trauma. The visual parallels between historic and contemporary examples of textile-embellished photographs are striking but recent practices are rarely discussed in relation to historical precursors. This research aims to fill this gap, by arguing that longitudinal analysis can provide fresh perspectives on an enduring practice. By examining cultural continuities and disjunctures, such a media-archaeological manoeuvre can undergird the understanding of complex contemporary art and reverse engineer new insights into a historical form dismissed as novelty, kitsch and fetish.
Period3 Mar 2022
Event titleCollege Arts Association: Annual Conference 2022
Event typeConference
LocationChicago, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational