Saturday, September 26, 2009

Euroqual Workshop: Archives and Life History Research, 21 - 23 September 2009, Madrid

A meeting of researchers from many countries with shared interests in and different takes on archives and life stories. Not at first sight a conference that had much to do with textiles, but of course, like all such gatherings, a networking event and like all human enterprise embedded in textiles and stories.

We shared experiences, research narratives and stories around dining tables always laid with white linen, and in the lecture theatre facing a row of solemn flags behind the speakers' table - a reminder to me of the privilege of having been invited, a certain formality maybe lending gravitas to the event that dissolved as the days went on and disappeared altogether once we retired after yet another splendid meal to the Duque de Alba bench with its own aristocratic tale outside La Residencia for la penultima. So many honored guests had stayed and talked at this beautiful place before us: Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Albert Einstein, Paul Valéry, Marie Curie, Igor Stravinsky, Walter Gropius, Henri Bergson, Le Corbusier and Alexander Calder. Calder's wife Louisa, by the way, like him worked with bright colours but in threads, and wrote a book on crochet.

In the mornings which came always too early, after an invigorating shower the faint scent of vinegar lingering in the white bathroom towels mingled with the fresh fragance of the Agua Colonia to clear my mind for another stimulating and challenging day ahead. We make our own sensory memories of time and place.

I took my hyperbolic crochet work into the lecture hall to think through my hands as I listened. There were other textile encounters in words and images - in Cristina Sanchez's paper on public mourning, for example. I was very moved by an image Francisco Fernandiz showed: of two brightly coloured picnic chairs next to the excavation site of one of many mass graves holding the remains of those killed by the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. The chairs with their cheerful patterns, so ordinary and bright, carrying the heavy weight of the past in the people sitting in them and telling their memories of terrible events that happened long ago, but are neither forgotten nor forgiven.

Calder, Louisa & Konior, Mary (1979), Louisa Calder’s Creative Crochet, Penguin Books Hammondsworth/England, New York/USA

for photographs of Madrid, colours & textures, go to


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