Friday, October 23, 2009

Contagious Thinking

In an experiment conducted by psychologists Nemeroff and Rozin, people were asked how they would feel about wearing a particular jumper that had never been worn and in addition been recently laundered.

"Not surprisingly, people said they had no problem wearing the sweater. The experimenters then asked them to imagine that the sweater had been worn by someone who had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion [but] been laundered a few days ago, and that the person with AIDS had worn it for only thirty minutes, but suddenly people didn't really want to wear the sweater. Even though they knew there was no health or hygiene issue, the superstitious theory of contagion kicked in and they could not bring themselves to wear it. Rozin and his colleagues varied the imaginary sweater owners, and discovered that the idea of the sweater having once belonged to someone who personified evil, such as a mass murderer or a fanatical leader, elicited the strongest reaction from people. In fact, Rozin's results revealed that people would rather wear a sweater that had been dropped in dog faeces and not washed (raising genuine health concerns) than a laundered sweater that had once belonged to a mass murderer."

Richard Wiseman, Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Lives, Pan Books, London 2008, p. 105, 106

for more detail on contagious thought, see


"Suits, shirts, ties, and gloves ... hundreds of them, painstakingly recreated on a diminutive scale in a dizzying array of colours and styles. [...]

Resembling places we may have been and things we may have seen or worn, their reductive size imbues the ensemble with a strange and arresting presence. [...]

Once new and desirable, now not so new and not so desirable, the clothes might be stand-ins for identity. They embody a desire to reveal and conceal, to conform or to be different, to be marked out as an individual or disappear into a crowd. [...]

MENS SUITS imparts no specific story, but allows for multiple possibilities. At one and the same time extravagant and introvert, the sculpture - like the material from which it is made - guards its secrets."

from exhibition leaflet:
Charles Ledray, MENS SUITS

for more detail see

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Knitted webs

"This knitted web gives the viewer an opportunity to reflect on his/her position within the woodland area, the wood itself, and the surrounding landscape. It is a device for seeing.[...] Panoramas of distant views, perspectives of middle ground and foreground start to overlap highlighting an effect of 'parallax' created by the specific positioning of the piece.
[...] The knitted web thus becomes a map, a tool for orientation, containing specific information on its surrounding environment. The web is also a trap, its open lacy structure catching, filtering and refracting light, colours and sounds. Ultimately, the web will capture the essence of the place and become a spatial imprint of it."

Shane Waltener, Over here
Jupiter Artland


Today my daughter left home to go to university. Her independent spirit will enjoy new freedoms.

Picking up bits left behind from the floor of her room and taking the overflowing bin down to empty, I choose some fragments to mark the day.


"Nations is an installation of 192 treadle sewing machines, hand-painted flags of country members of the United Nations, and multiples of thread [...].

The treadle sewing machines are connected by a web of cottons threading throughout the installation from spool to bobbin winder, from wheel to the eye of a needle. [...] Each spool holds a reel of coloured cotton, and under the foot of each machine a national flag is held as if being worked on. The ordered lines of machinery draw a scene of a busy working sweatshop.

Threads and remnants of cloth strewn over the floor form barriers to entry to the machines. As a viewer we are called to attend to our own relationship to mechanised labour serving global markets and to our own participation in the fabrication of national identity."

NS Harsha: Nations
18.9. - 21.11.2009
Rivington Place, London EC2A 3BA

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Expanded the army, Recruited thousands, Knitted their socks"

"At the onset of the First World War, the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith appointed Lord Kitchener as Secretary of State for War. Kitchener, at the time Viceroy of Egypt and the Sudan, was the first military officer to hold this post. Predicting a long war that would require a huge army, Kitchener embarked on an unprecedented recruitment campaign, symbolised by the distinctive poster that made his face famous. [...]
Kitchener also associated himself with a Red Cross plan to exhort British, American and Canadian women to knit various 'comforts' for the men in the trenches, including mittens, scarves and socks. He is said to have contributed his own sock design, which included a square-ish 'grawfted' toe. The toe featured a seamless grafting stitch that made socks more comfortable for troops to wear, and which became known as the ‘Kitchener stitch'."

The National Portrait Gallery, London

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Bras get you good press"

"It is no surprise that the invention by a distinguished female scientist of a bra that converts into a gas mask has proved an enduringly popular story on the BBC's website.

When I worked for another newspaper, its online success turned out to be reliant on a report by a fashion writer about having a bra fitting.

So how wise of the designers at the Paris fashion show to have kicked off with some adaptable bras, thus getting the kind of coverage usually reserved for Chanel.

If I were trying to drum up interest, say, in the slightly-hard-going Tory fringe meeting yesterday on decentralisation and social action, (Caroline Spelman and Sayeeda Warsi) I know what I would do."

Sarah Sands, Bras get you good press, Evening Standard, London, 6.10.2009

A boom in the recession?

"Knitting has cast off its traditional image thanks to a series of famous backers.
New figures show a boom in popularity for the pastime that was once associated with elderly ladies but is now the hobby of Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bullock.
Arts and crafts chain HobbyCraft said celebrity endorsement helped push wool sales up 28 per cent in the past year. Chief executive Chris Crombie said people of all ages were adopting a make-your-own attitude during the recession.
John Lewis is also selling six per cent more needles and designer wools than last year.
Gail Downey [...] said the boom meant people were joining knitting circles and swapping wool, patterns and ideas.
One of these grous is run by her design house Weardowney at a Starbucks in Oxford Street. It also hosts classes in her shop in [...] Marylebone, near Tony Blair's house. "Knitting has definitely become more glamorous," she said.
Kimberly Stewart, daughter of rock star Rod, [...] joins Miss Downey and her partner Amy Wear at their shop's classes. She said: "I like to knit so I have knitting parties."

Ellen Widdup & Sri Carmichael, Girls who purl: wool sales soar after celebrities make knitting fashionable, Evening Standard, London, 6.10.2009, p.23

Growing old

The continuous flow of life "is, if you like, the unrolling of a spool, for there is no living being who does not feel himself coming little by little to the end of his spool; and living consists in growing old. But it is just as much a continual winding, like that of thread into a larger ball, for our past follows us, becoming larger and larger with the present it picks up on its way; and consciousness means memory."

Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, A Citadel Book, Carol Publishing Group, New York 1992, p.164