A line of thought

Ask Lecture series 1st June 2016  Manchester School of Art.

Professor Alice Kettle: The Wandering Thread

Taking the line and walking a line, between the public and the private, concealing and revealing, part process, part politic, the lecture took us to a contemplative, quite sombre and unexpected place.

Anne Hamilton: Draw 2003

We are invited to think about the process of making, a piece of white cloth, a needle and a spool of red thread are left out as an invitation to participate as we listen to the lecture.

We are asked to consider the dual threads in a sewing machine moving from the seen to the unseen, and how these threads narrate or describe a process of interweaving and way finding. We are reminded that the journey is taken for the most part in the minds eye, working from the reverse not knowing exactly how the individual line(s) will affect the whole. This sense of having a distinct but unformed idea that you work towards through many small and often untraceable acts, meaning revealed / shaped episodically over time.

The lecture takes us to Greece, from the personal narrative of dislocation translated through thread and Odyssey to the image of an unplanned journey, a lifetimes possessions tied up with string, a life line cast overboard …to invisible lines of a daily conversation with a daughter working in the migrant camps of Calais.

We are not lectured to. More that we are enabled to locate the recurring stories/epic narratives in the current, the global, the local, the personal.

I think about the reverse and the idea that what we see, or rather that what we are shown in the day to day unfolding of ‘crisis’ be it personal or global, as fragments of an incomplete yet recurring story and that the ability to see where the two threads cross is (if we wish) our point of entry or departure.

As writers, makers, artists, designers, citizens we have an opportunity, a choice, we can select to turn the cloth back and forth, or perhaps become the line that moves between: become the thread as narrator and enable the telling to be the making.

Looking back the opening invitation to participate (the cloth, the needle and the thread) in an act of making a stitch, could be seen as a subtle challenge to the notion of being the viewer, creating an opportunity to engage rather than be a spectator, reminding us that we have a choice.

Further thoughts:

The importance of being read to/reading. The importance of stories – of context and subtext.

The unknown path: links to Will Self Urban Psychosis lecture 2014 and to the Ken Garland First Things First event in Special Collections July 2015.

Walking / slowness / paths / history.

Alice Kettle Website

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Author: Ian Whadcock

Senior Lecturer Manchester School of Art, BA(Hons) Illustration with Animation course.