The choreography behind “Textiles for Men and Machine Breakers”

Arts / Article

Carrie Sieh’s exhibition “Textiles for Men and Machine Breakers,” curated by Bernice Steinbaum, has been extended through March 30th at the Audrey Love Gallery at the Bakehouse Art Complex (a Knight Arts grantee). Sieh’s exhibition “is anchored in the idea that the history of crafts(person)ship is central to the formation of contemporary gender identities.”

“Textiles for Men and Machine Breakers.”

However, what drew me to the exhibition is the theatrical behind-the-scenes choreography that goes into creating Sieh’s work. The hum of sewing machines, the rapid-fire rat-a-tat-tat of needle puncturing fabric, and the methodical and repetitive hand movements of the seamstresses all can be looked at through a performative lens—a lens that expands the notion of gender and machine.

“I’m looking at the history of masculinity in post-industrial America and tracing the ways in which expectations of male gender performance have been shaped by technology and by changing meanings and conditions of labor,” says Carrie Sieh. “I use textiles as a base from which to approach these ideas, both because technologies in the textile industry were instrumental in bringing about these changes, and because women and domesticity—with whom textiles are currently most associated—have figured prominently in the construction of masculine behaviors.”

Sieh deconstructs the notion that textile work is exclusively a feminine activity and demonstrates the nuanced connections between masculinity, technology and labor. With the rapid transformation of the workforce and home life, gender roles and work are quickly changing, despite ever-persistent gender stereotypes. As gender roles shift, so does our understanding of culture. Through Sieh’s use of traditional sewing materials and non-traditional materials such as burlap, VHS tape, plastic, wire and wax, the work constructs a more complex vision of gender within the context of rapid technological change, the post-industrial economy and the challenges we all faces—regardless of gender identity.

Carrie Sieh’s “Textiles for Men and Machine Breakers” rusn through March 30th at the Bakehouse Art Complex. The exhibit is open to the pubic and free of charge, daily from 12-5 p.m. through March 30. For more information, call 305-576-2828 or visit www.bacfl.org.