Images: Rosina Possingham, Ruby Red Saltbush, Cyanotype on Canvas; Rosina Possingham, 360 Degree Photogrammetry Scan, Cyanotype on Canvas. Images courtesy the artist.

Soft Hair and Woven Threads

24 July — 1 November 2023

Location: Adelaide Town Hall, Mankurri-api Kuu (Reconciliation room) and First Floor Gallery, 128 King William Street, Adelaide

Featuring: Julia Boros, Lilly Buttrose, Carly Tarkari Dodd, Lucia Dohrmann, Jaquie Hagan, Nami Kulyuru, Rosina Possingham

Curated by Chira Grasby
ART WORKS Early Career Curator 2023

Textile art is one of the oldest forms of creative practice in human civilization, utilized for both practical purposes and storytelling. Its rich history, forged predominantly by women, laid the foundations for contemporary textile artists. Now considered a respected fine art, creatives are continuing to push materials to new realms and question societal norms associated with gallery spaces, and in turn the format of wall-based artworks.

Even though this field of craft has crept its way triumphantly into the world of fine arts, humble origins remain grounded at its core. I’m interested in this embedded history that we continue to associate with textiles despite the shifts it’s experienced in recent times. As technology has evolved and mass production of fiber items became part of daily life, artists still choose the labor of love that comes with the handmade. The process of creating a work becomes as important as the final outcome, with materials becoming physical extensions of the artist’s hands.

Reflecting on this, I was reminded of Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, a research paper by Sasha Haco, Stephen Hawking, Malcolm Perry, and Andrew Strominger. Completed just days before Hawking’s passing in 2018 the paper discusses a phenomena called ‘soft hair’, proposing that when matter falls into a black hole, beyond it’s event horizon, it doesn’t entirely disappear. Instead, a gentle wave of particles would remain along the black hole’s edge, the ‘soft hair’, serving as a memory of what once was. Information lingers in these particles as they blend into an infinite sea of material remnants. Suddenly the original object no longer exists, and yet at the same time it does. Just in a different form.

I can’t help but draw comparisons between ‘soft hair’ and the world of textile art. An artwork of thread and fabric holds within its fibers the memory of its maker, and in turn the memory of textile craft across human history. At many points throughout textile creation the makers and materials were one, yet now they exist separately. Viewing a complete woven or embroidered artwork in the setting of a gallery the artist does not exist, and yet at the same time they do.

Just in a different form.

Adelaide Town Hall is an accessible venue.