text: Line Dufour
Social media was constructed to allow the creation and exchange of user generated content. It provides an interactive platform wherein individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify. Not only has it precipitated substantial and pervasive changes in communication, but it has profoundly impacted our practice as tapestry weavers and artists. Social media has connected us together virtually, has diminished the sense of isolation endemic to the practice and has been instrumental for me to connect to other tapestry artists all over the world. This has transformed my work, my growth and development from a solitary practice, to a collaborative and community building one. Consequently, I was able to launch the Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination/Le Sort, Destin et l’Auto-determination, an international tapestry installation project, which could not have been as successful without social media and in a sense was formed by it.
Real connection with others, however, comes in the physicality of doing, in materiality, in actions, interactions, processes and events shared by an assortment of individuals and groups. Weaving is an appropriate metaphor for engagement and activity with others. Both can be described as a means of producing a coherent united whole or collaboration through the combining and interlacement of various elements. Tapestry weaving is a slow, laborious and manual practice, a contrast to the speed at which social media weaves word threads of connection to others.
Weaving is an activity where one exercises a fair amount of control and in my attempt to mirror life, I wanted to give over some of that control to others. I also invited the element of risk into this work by having others contribute in an expressive, authentic and creative way. I also took a risk by deliberately having unwoven areas in the larger tapestry panels, not even sure about how I would resolve these issues technically. I learned from this as well as from how others resolved the technical dilemmas that presented themselves in weaving irregular shapes, so in this way, aspects of the installation were left to chance – fate and destiny. In the past, my tapestry weaving has been a solitary practice, as many contemporary tapestry weavers do. Much as I cherish that, it is also isolating. Having others weave a tapestry references historical periods and traditional practice where artist and weaver were/are separate roles.
Inherent in the idea of Fate is that one has no influence over events and outcomes. Fate is defined as a force, energy, principle, element or power that prescribes to each person a set of limits, boundaries and confines. In Islam it is called Kismet. The Greeks called Fate, Moira. Greek Mythology speaks of the three Fates: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos who supposedly controlled each person’s fate. The youngest, Clotho, is a spinner and she determines the time of birth and spins the thread of life on her distaff. Lachesis measures the length of the thread to determine the length of one’s life; the time of death is decided by Atropos, who cuts the thread. Mythology and psychology distinguish between Fate and Destiny. Destiny, is considered an expanding field of possibilities alluding to our potential to influence our Fate. This makes Destiny kinetic. “The lives we construct are an inextricably woven fabric of influences, possibilities and accumulated consequences of choices made.” (James Hollis)
Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination/Le Sort, Destin and l’Auto-determination was generously funded by the Ontario Arts Council and is a tapestry installation composed of three sections. The first panel measures 5’ x 3’ and exemplifies the contemporary practice of tapestry weaving, where artist and weaver are one and the same. It is woven entirely by myself in my studio. The second panel, measuring 5’ x 18” and was woven on the Gobelin loom at the Toronto Weaving School. Participants ranged from the inexperienced and amateur to the professional. Having others contribute to the weaving of the tapestry makes reference to traditional tapestry practice and historical conventions in that many weavers worked on the tapestry at the same time or at various stages and that weavers , often, did not create the tapestry design. As many of you know this still happens in well known tapestry making enterprises. I documented those who wove this section both in pictures and video and as the project progressed, I kept participants updated via Facebook and emails.
The final section is composed of irregular shapes positioned between the two main panels, floating freely in space, as though the tapestry is pulling apart or coming together, like two tectonic plates. Propelled by social media, it’s function parallels the creation and exchange of user generated content. As each shape arrives at my home, I photograph each one, post it to my Tapestry blog, as well to as to the Facebook page for the project. I also include information about the participants such as their website if they have one, and other comments they have made about the project or about their work. 193 completed shapes have been received from 18 countries, and a total of about 150 people have participated in the entire project thus far. The project continues to accept woven shapes and will do so indefinitely, meaning that the installation will keep growing and building community.
At the launch and for the duration of the first exhibition of the installation at Craft Ontario in Toronto, Ontario Canada, volunteers, many from various weaving guilds who had some experience with tapestry weaving, helped visitors to the gallery learn how to weave a shape. This is a great way to engage the local community and perhaps entice new members to the guild or organizations such as the American Tapestry Alliance or other similar organizations in other countries. A compilation of both video and still images are part of the exhibition of the completed installation, and a large section of a gallery wall is devoted to listing the names of the participants, as well as the countries they come from.
Threaded together by social media, individuals are woven into a community fabric through this one shared activity, a permanent reminder of our shared history, cultural practices and multicultural origins.
Line Dufour has been building weaving community for the last 25 years through her teaching of weaving at the Toronto Weaving School as well as through community weaving projects. You can learn more about her work at www.tapestryline.com. To participate by weaving a shape, please contact Line Dufour at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Facebook page for the project of the same title – www.facebook.com/pages/Fate-Destiny-and-Self-Determination-An-internatio…. Line will send you a shape or as many shapes as you like as well as the information sheet.