Weaving as resistance: crossing thresholds, crafting identity, and lines of conflict

London-based artist Raisa Kabir will speak about her practice; discussing concepts of the embodied landscape, ‘performative’ textiles and the languages of weaving. The talk follows on the heels of Kabir’s performance, “Build me a loom off of your back and your stomach…”, at The Whitworth, Manchester, in April 2018. Also on view at The Whitworth is the group show Beyond Borders, where Kabir’s work, including the video “Warping the borders, fringes; fractured…” (2017) is on display until the 3rd of June 2018. The show traces memories of partition, disentanglement and the psycho-geographies of national identity; exploring the intertwined textile histories of Britain and South Asia.

Kabir’s oeuvre draws from her research into textile production in Bangladesh, Mexico and the UK. Her presentation will provide an overview of her work; concentrating on her “woven poetry pieces”; tapestry works and what Kabir calls her “(un)weaving performances”, of which The Whitworth’s video documents one example. A British born Bangladeshi artist, Kabir’s performances seek to make visible the intensive labour involved in the production of hand-woven cloth in the region. According to Kabir, her performances allow textiles to “articulate the violent creation of India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan – as well as the aftermath of the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and its impact on indigenous communities on the North Eastern Border.” How have these seismic conflicts shaped craft in the new nation of Bangladesh and can textiles be used to resist the forces of cultural imperialism?

Kabir’s talk will be preceded by a short paper, Textile Entanglements in South Asia, by art historian Dr Virginia Whiles and followed by a Panel Discussion.

Raisa Kabir is an interdisciplinary artist, who utilises woven text/textiles, sound, video and performance to translate and visualise concepts concerning the politics of cloth, labour and embodied geography. She addresses cultural anxieties surrounding nationhood and borders; examining the encoded violence in histories of labour in globalised neo-colonial textile production. Her (un)weaving performances comment on power, production and the body as a living archive of collective trauma. She has exhibited work at The Whitworth, The Tetley, Raven Row, Textile Arts Center NYC, and The Center of Craft Creativity and Design NC.

Virginia Whiles has worked as critic, curator and lecturer in cultural studies for over 40 years in the UK, France and South Asia. Author of Art and Polemic in Pakistan – Cultural Politics and Tradition in Contemporary Miniature Painting (I.B Tauris 2010), she has written many articles and curated exhibitions in India, Japan, Switzerland, U.K. and France. She has published in Third Text, Art Asia Pacific, Art in America, Art Monthly, Studio International, Quinzaine Litteraire, Artscribe, Contemporary, Flash Art, Sohbet, The Friday Times, Times of India, Dawn (Pakistan), Critical Collective (India). Currently Associate Lecturer at UAL, University of Arts, London , she lives in London and Southern France.

The talks will be followed by a reception in the Institute’s front hall.

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6:30pm, 27 Apr 2018

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London