Friday, March 11, 2005

Knitting guerrillas

Knitting seems to be enjoying a fashionable renaissance at the moment -- not only in Hollywood but also in my humble office. The last time I clicked and clacked was several years ago whilst supervising school children during their prep sessions in India. I could barely master the basics of knitting: just "knit one, purl two" (or is it the other way around?). I never went beyond a one metre long scarf which I then unravelled and reknitted over and over again. For I was interested more in knitting as process, knitting as meditation. Losing myself in the click clack of the needles and the lengthening of the rows, I wasn't concerned whether my knitting was productive and certainly didn't care for knitting's potentially subversive functions.

The Craft Council's Knit 2 Together exhibition is concerned with just this: knitting as subversion and political practice. Pieces knitted from human hair, wire or paper from secondhand books hang alongside photographs of people wearing knitted balaclavas around NYC, knitted hand grenades and knitted furniture. Knit-ins on the Underground's Circle Line are also described and male knitters make statements about knitting being underrated because it's "women's work" and teaching themselves knitting and crochetting because "boys don't".

The relentless politicisation of the pieces (often simply for the sake of it) felt a little over-indulgent and tiring. However, I did enjoy one artist's work immensely: Kelly Jenkins and her humourous and edgy wall hangings based on cliched adverts from the sex industry. Her Knit Uncensored, for example, features a giant magazine cover advertising stories such:

  • Turn your partner on with 22 new and uncensored knitting positions!
  • Remember boys...It's all in the fingers!
  • Real life stories! My knitted condom nightmare
  • Nudist knitting colony uncovered in Wales

Her work gave me a much needed belly laugh.

Afterwards, we relaxed with drinks (Becks and heavy red wine) and food (aubergine and coconut curry, broccoli frittata, Greek salad, chicken with spinach) at the wonderfully bohemian Candid Cafe (part of the Candid Arts Trust centre behind Angel tube). The rickety Candid Cafe looks and feels like an delapidated 19th century French boudoir: antique couches for lounging in, huge wooden table for eating at, oil-painted nudes on peeling indigo and burgundy walls. The fact that it's entirely candlelit makes it an incredibly romantic place to chill in.

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