Threading between the Lines by Konjit Seyoum – Event Recap
KonjitSeyoum’s talk began with a quote and an introduction followed by a presentation of excerpts from her work Threading Between the Lines. The selection consists of three vignettes each followed by a poem. This recap will mirror Ms Seyoum’s presentation with a quote, an introduction, and three discourses analyzing her artistic practice through the concepts of line, body, and time.
“Art is an obsession that functions to distance psychic pain, but can only be redeemed by pain from the self-enduring obsession with form that produces this distance.” – Louise Bourgeoisie
Konjit Seyoum is a multidisciplinary artist who appropriated domestic chores as a medium of her artistic expression. The three vignettes entitled: “Three Lekakit”, “The First Fast”, and “Tales in a Gabi“serve as headlights allowing the audience to follow the line connecting her intimate familial practices with her public voice and the message communicated through it. The metaphorical and literal analysis of the phrase Kemajeteske Adebabay constructs the defining characteristics of her project. In spinning, Konjit is referring to the transformation of the cotton puff into a thread but she’s also talking about the conversion of a cloud of memory into a fine storyline. A series of tales narrated in rhythmic tones hypnotized the audience with images of words birthed from buried and forgotten past. By the end of the talk spinning and storytelling seemed to always have existed together; their relationship felt natural and ever present even to audience members who had no experience with spinning cotton. The poetic manner by which Konjit managed to coalesce the gesture of spinning cotton with the art of storytelling collapsed the distance between Majet and Adebabay revealing the hidden intimacies between these two polar opposites.
During Ms Seyoum’s presentation a slide show of her photographs from the series Turning Points of No Return played on the screen. We observe that for Konjit spinning has become an obsession. She has pulled a thread initiating aswiveling episode of manufacturing lines, each revealing the strain of confronting subtle kinetic destruction of unmaking fabric. The line in Konjit’s work has a loaded and layered meaning. It connects one side with another and also serves as a boundary that divides.
After her grandmother’s death Konjit inherited all her Gabi. The Gabi, a fabric is transformed into a corporeal representation of the grandmother’s essence evoking memory through the scent the threads emanate and through recollections of the body form it so often wrapped. Konjit played with the idea of this implicit transformation by handling the Gabi as direct recipient of her regurgitating mental notes. She wrote on them, cut them, scratched them, and sowed them. She spun her cotton meditating and listening to the tales the Gabitell. An audience member related her experience with quilting where her family told stories with each line of stitching. She compared the lack of intimacy in words written on pages with those orally stitched into quilts that could be wrapped around the body. Such tradition assumes the fabric remembers the words uttered by the storyteller the same way Konjit believes Gabi remember days lived on the back of her grandmother. Konjit’s visceral practice brings her narrative a degree closer to the body than the numerous lines of threads draping the skin. The discourse in transformation of the cotton puff into a fine thread is climaxed by the transformation of the line into the body. The body is a line that divides stored memory from the phenomenology of the environment; it is also a line that connects memories of the flesh with capsules on fabric ready to store and re-member them. The somatic function of spinning further extends towards the event of forming a line, recited in Konjit’s last poem as kind, cruel, harsh etc. – adding with each description character to the line which is the body which is in turn aging through time.
I spin in time, out of time, beyond time, says Konjitrecounting her fixation on spinning. When considering the ritualistic aspect of Threading between the Lines, spinning becomes about time. MsSeyoum in her practice is interested in the passage of time and its abrupt end at the moment of death. She references her movement through time to describe the static pilgrimage she undertakes in spinning. Similar to the way a line occupies a dimension in space, the creation of a line also materializes within time. In the same manner Konjit allows the body a space to articulate movements that tell tales, she also gives time for her mind to untangle knotted stories. A question from the audience was raised asking Konjithow she negotiates her position as a modern woman willingly allotting time for spinning,juxtaposed against women who are forced to perform this chore by force. Konjithas reclaimed housekeeping as a form of expression to reconcile identity conflicts that exist between generations. Her work addresses the polemic of her contemporaries against the culture she came from. The different yet intimate way Konjit and her grandmother each engaged with the art of spinning is literallydemonstrated in the discrepancy that arises from using English as a language of choice to discuss traditional rituals practiced by women who did not speak it. The evolution of Konjit’s identity allowed her to create a body of work that retrieved the power in threading by resurrecting stories to be readwithin the gesture of spinning and the obsession of creating lines.
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