Date of this Version
Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.
In the 2014 London exhibition “Traces and Shiny Evidence,” Jimmie Durham showed on one floor brightly colored oil barrels, car parts, pcv pipes, and reproduction animal skeletons covered with or leaking ooze that shimmered with rainbow hues. On a floor one level up, Durham exhibited wall size drawing-prints he made by throwing stuffed animals coated with charcoal at very large pieces of paper. In the video that recorded Durham making the drawing-prints, the artist wears a workman’s vest labeled “Steiner. Maison de la Paix.” A video that is featured in the exhibition itself shows Durham in a business suit seated at a desk, using a stone to smash varied objects brought to him for which he exchanges a cursorily stamped and signed receipt. In conjunction with “Traces and Shiny Evidence,” Durham delivered an artist talk that was videotaped. In his talk, he discusses his project while covered with cheap, brilliantly colored cloth: striped material draped around his shoulders and translucent, flowered material placed over his head. In his talk, Durham remarked that fabric— or any other substance—are innocent but our ways of using them are not. Noting that the cloth he wears is made of petroleum, the substance referenced and employed in his installations, Durham invites us to consider how traces and evidence of petroleum in our world veil troubling conditions under shiny surfaces. This specific challenge that Durham issues opens out onto many others, each of which asks us to question when material is used to cover up or uncover knowledge. My paper will explore how Durham uses textiles— stuffed animals, workman’s vest, business suit, decorative yardage—to investigate this dynamic in “Traces and Shiny Evidence.”