Whitworth Art Gallery
'Conversation Pieces' evolved from observation of, and dialogue with the archivist, curators and conservators who work with the textile collection at the Whitworth Art Gallery. Ideas and themes relate to the loss of information, the empty spaces of memory and history as objects are collected and enter the museum environment and to the creation of new histories as efforts are made to recover information and conserve the artefact. Placed in the museum context, and mostly physically disengaged from their historical period and place of origin, new associations and relationships are formed between artefacts, collector, institution, curator, keeper and conservator, recorded through museological and institutional systems.
There are many pairs of hands represented here, engaged in repetitive and rhythmic activity, motion and rest, suggestive of time and care. The activities of making and conserving are recorded in layered images printed onto silk crepeline held under tension in embroidery hoops. Hands of makers are interleaved with those of the conservator and suspended over images of personalised tools and written material from the Whitworth archive. Reference is made to damage and repair and to the activities of previous carers of the collection as they endeavoured to fill gaps in the history and detail of the object piecing together information across time and space. Annotations by hand and the initialled activity of individual conservators demonstrate the intimate knowledge which conservator now shares with maker- ‘Washed by H.W.’ Imagery comes into and out of focus according to viewing angle, half materialised and appearing to be on the verge of dissolution. Colour fades in and out. Poignant phrases relating to destruction and care drawn from the archive, are printed on the outside of the embroidery hoops.