by Karen Reimer
the last several years I've been working with embroidery. This
body of work consists of embroidered texts ranging in cultural value from
great books to candy wrappers. Because of embroidery's labor-intensity,
decorative craft status and historical use as morally hygienic work for
women ("Idle hands are the devil's workplace."), it has been, in combination
with these texts, a good vehicle for my examination of the relationship
between beauty, labor, usefulness and value. Of course, all
of these are in the eye of the beholder; they are contingent on context.
The earlier embroideries
are attempts to reproduce the original pieces of text as accurately as
possible given the limitations of the medium. Generally speaking,
copies are of less value than originals. However, when I copy by
embroidering, the value of the copy is increased because of the elements
of labor, handicraft and singularity. The copy becomes also an original.
Looked at from a different point of view, the value of the copy is decreased
by the technique of embroidery. Not only is it inefficient in terms
of time and labor, it also produces a bad copy. The embroidered text
teeters on the edge of legibility. Any reading of it relies heavily
on pattern recognition, projection and guesswork.
recent embroideries are based on newspaper pages. Unlike the earlier
works, they are not "copies". I adhere to the formal layout of the
original newspaper page, but selectively edit (i.e. I embroider the words
where they fall on the page, but I don't embroider all of them) in order
to translate the objectified public language of news and advertisements
into subjective personal signs.
The embroideries place different value systems into conflict and demonstrate
the out-of-control nature of language and the provisional quality of meaning.
Ultimately, what I'm interested in is this ambiguity. I want to make
things that are not easily classified, to radically slow down the process
of recognition and naming, in order to study how meaning and identity are
constructed, and to notice and question the cultural assumptions
and values underlying those understandings.