Weaving is synonymous with world-making. In numerous cultures, the loom is a metaphor for creation; a person’s life often represented by a spun thread. And for imagery of connection we need go no further than the ‘web’ or ‘net’ that still binds us all together.
Appropriately, then, Make the World Again turns to textiles to reweave a fractured globe. Myth and legend aside, the exhibition’s title also inverts the brash slogan of the Trump campaign (‘Make America Great Again’), responding to what exhibition curator and craft writer Kevin Murray describes as “the call across populist movements to restore some sort of past glory—which itself had led to fragmentation and increasing distance between countries.” With the added layer of the pandemic— a mass unravelling that has stranded us in place—this exhibition seeks, Murray says, “to look at how we might come back together again.”
Originally planned for Canada’s Crafted Vancouver festival (postponed to May 2021), Make the World Again has been reimagined at the Australian Tapestry Workshop, a site that links many of the exhibiting artists. Several works forge tactile bonds with our geographical neighbours. Liz Williamson’s eucalyptus-dyed weavings are made in collaboration with textile artisans in Australia and India, while Siri Hayes uses eucalyptus and indigo to connect Australia and Japan. The dazzlingly innovative geometric tapestries of Shuklay Tahpo have their roots in the traditional patterns of her native Burma, while Kay Abude’s focus on the repetitive labour of garment making both honours and reclaims her family’s experience as migrant pieceworkers from the Philippines.
Other pieces create connections on a different scale, such as the textiles woven by Mary Burgess from clothing left by the deceased, or Ilka White’s delicate form made from fragile dried grass: objects to mend the rift of death, or evoke the mysterious connected threads of life.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2021 print edition of Art Guide Australia.