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Eye of the Needle

Curated by Mary-Beth Laviolette

October 7, 2017 - May 13, 2018


The Black Gold Tapestry

By Sandra Sawatzky

October 7, 2017 – May 21, 2018

Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB


"Straightforward descriptions of needlework as long, slow labour often evoke “duration” as a political opposition to mass production and consumption. The rhetorical tone of these arguments tends to obscure the social conditions which distinguish a particular form of labour as possible for some, mandatory for others, or something of both for many. Even so, thinking about stitching in temporal terms offers more than moralizing dogma or a reductive accounting of how much time something took to make. It is also a way to engage with the deeper issues of history through a specific material practice."


Exhibition reviews published in Studio Magazine, Spring/Summer 13, no. 1 (2018).


℅ Modern Fuel

"I’ve always liked letters. They’re slow, so they seem deliberate. But they can also be fragmented and meandering. They take time to write; time to deliver, to read, and to reply. In that time there is doubt: a period of uncertainty and wavering convictions. This uncertainty is contextual and a decentralizing effect of reciprocal correspondence (communication). In the act, a single voice is situated among many possible and unknown respondents. An uncertain centre is provisional. It is held together, permeable and plastic. An uncertain centre refuses the pedagogical objective (authoritative status) and questions its constituent positions. It facilitates negotiation and the work of holding together. It’s a powerful sociability and visuality."

A letter to Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre published in Syphon 4.0 (2017), an arts and culture periodical published by Modern Fuel.

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Aberrant Articulations of Presence: Templates, Formwork and Interiors

Templates and formwork exist for the express purpose of producing multiple instances of a specific form or object. They are secondary to their principal objective yet integral to its realization and reproduction. This paper elaborates on Raymond Williams' notion of the “effective presence” of material and social structures to draw a comparison between each instrument and the built environment. I address their practical utility as underlying structures to argue that templates and formwork constitute interior conditions by delineating boundaries and organizing relations between elements. By way of this spatialization they also prefigure modes of performance and inhabitation. To live within these spaces is to sense the pressures they exert and to enact a particular moment of their design. I further argue that systems of socio-spatial organization are embodied, felt as affective abutments, abrasions, excesses or refusals to fulfil.

Informed by feminist scholars Deborah Fausch and Elizabeth Grosz, I consider these frictions and departures by looking at Larisa Fassler's method of producing scale models of public spaces by measuring the spaces with her body. I then compare Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan's video survey of a post-war suburban landscape called Homogeneity (1988) with Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell's video Her's is a Dank Cave: Crawling Towards a Queer Horizon (2015). I conclude with some thoughts on bodily performance as capacity to articulate spatial presence.

Paper presented at the Universities Art Association Conference, Banff, AB, October 2017.

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Spatially Aligned, Spatially Allied: Textiles and the Built Environment.

Nineteenth-century German architect and historian Gottfried Semper theorized that all architectural form is derived from the combination of four technical arts that combine materials and socio-cultural imperatives. This lecture begins with his ideas about the four elements of architecture in order to consider possible opportunities for “alliance” between textiles and architectural design. Drawing examples from recent craft, interior design, and contemporary art, different kinds of interrelationships between fibre-based practices and buildings are discussed, leading to an argument for craft to be situated within an expanded field of spatial practice.

Guest lecture delivered in Architecture and Design Now at the University of Lethbridge, January 2017.

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Knotting as Material and Social Assembly: Building Scaffolding

Knotting as Material and Social Assembly considers the functional application of knots in building systems and their relational attributes as joints or moments of connection. Nineteenth century German architect Gottfried Semper's theory that architectural form derives from four basic material and craft practices provides the initial premise from which to consider knots as architectural elements. Kenneth Frampton's notion of tectonic building practice further situates construction as a cultural activity and leads to an analysis of scaffolding as a persistent concern in contemporary architecture.


The types of knots and techniques involved in the creation of wooden scaffolding are outlined. Utilitarian scaffolding used during the construction or restoration of a building is compared to architecture that employs scaffolding as a spatial or structural model. OS31's 2015 design for a temporary restaurant on the frozen Assiniboine River in Winnipeg, Manitoba is contrasted to other temporary buildings designed as social spaces. The paper concludes by proposing knotting to be a critical craft practice and scaffolding to be a provisional, political, built space.

Paper presented at the Universities Art Association Conference, Halifax, NS, October 2015.​

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