Monday, September 12, 2022

Notes on Stitches

(Clockwise from top left, ektor garcia, Diedrick Brackens, Brendan Fowler, Helen Mirra)
Why does "stitching" make a comeback? ... Do we need proof of work? ... the ornately etched lines of paper currency prove scarcity... the labor of its reproduction becomes more expensive than the bill it represents. Thus time equates to money. Thus representation equated to money. But now we have copy machines, CNC routers, child labor and interns. Perhaps proof of work is just nostalgia for an era before there was infinite time, for when there was time. 

A stitch is correlated to time, it is a labor visible. While brushstrokes may have been the impressionist equivalent of stitching, later modernism seemed orientated toward removing the marks of labor (first for a performative "expressive," ...painting not labor but expression, sprayed) before culminating in Minimalism and Conceptual art, two legacies infatuated with things springing from ether. (The instructions being the art, not the 40 museum interns drawing it.)

Minimalism's infatuation for the industrial process, of say Judd et al, was, in part, premised on these industrial processes deletion of the body and its "expression" (if not a promise of subjectivity lifted entirely) in looking "pure," like objectivity, removing the human. Of course this was the lie of any commodity: that the clean aluminum sheets comprising boxes or laptops weren't simply wiped of their indentured sweat.

...but it's still a desire today, no wants want to imagine fingerprints on their new iPhone. So the workers hands are latexed. Work, labor, sweat is the parcel of something we denigrate to the great purity of "good design," that cerebral craft we revere, which should be clean, elegant, and without a trace of sweat.

Commodity fetish was, confusingly named, our mistaken relation to capital's objects as an economic relation rather than a human relation. It was a concealment: the aluminum clamshell of your laptop being seen as economic product of capital innovation itself, rather than the hand-sweat of laborers distanced beneath gloves. A price tag for a face. Almost nothing is this world is actually automated - everything you touch is hand-made by workers.

This separation of our social relations we've so completely assimilated that labor itself returns as a literal fetishism, stitches mark this labor, look compelling, can be brought out onto white walls, as aura, as artwork. Labor itself becomes auratic, the look of it. Simulacra. Because every cheap objects is an equal tapestry. The stitches in time are smoother, hidden. Hold up your child's plastic toy and feel another at its end.