Red Thread Performance

Here's the first of two reports on the work I showed at the Front Room art trail in November.

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The statement I wrote for this piece:
Red Thread
2009
Red thread, white dress, gag, chair, table, plasters, scissors, pincushion, needles.

Red Thread is a brand new piece being performed for the first time at Front Room.

This piece is so new that even I’m not entirely sure what it’s about but part of the inspiration came from Snow White:

"Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony".

Red thread has great magical significance in many cultures and is often used to make talismans or protective embroidery on clothes. It is usually associated with luck, protection or fertility. There is a particularly beautiful Chinese myth that an invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet - in that case, the entire world must be completely criss-crossed with invisible red lines.

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I don't usually like photos of myself but I like the intensity of this one.
Red Thread 02
Kirsty Hall: Red Thread performance, Nov 2009

Wow, I really should have ironed that sheet! But I put it up at the last minute to hide a corridor and didn't have access to an iron - it's always these little things that catch you out. Apart from that, my preparation for this show was very good.
Red Thread 07
Kirsty Hall: Red Thread performance, Nov 2009

Cutting the knotted thread - many visitors noticed that both my pieces contained knots.
Red Thread 05
Kirsty Hall: Red Thread performance, Nov 2009

I enjoyed the way the thread spread over me like a virus. Someone said it reminded them of mushroom spores.
Red Thread 10
Kirsty Hall: Red Thread performance, Nov 2009

Doing the arms was tricky - I had to use my teeth to tie the knots.
Red Thread 08
Kirsty Hall: Red Thread performance, Nov 2009

The little stool that I completely covered in medical plasters - a process that amused my Twitter followers for several days.
Plaster Table 02

Sigh, I love my cute little bird scissors.
Scissors
Kirsty Hall: Red Thread performance, Nov 2009

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Overall this performance went well, although I discovered fairly quickly that being gagged didn't work because people on art trails really want to talk to the artists and I needed to be available for that. So I abandoned that part for the duration. That's one of the joyous things about performances, you can react instantly to things; it's scary yet freeing. If I ever get the chance to repeat this piece in a more formal setting, I think the gag could still work.

I also managed to persuade a few people to join me in sewing. Even without the gag they were quite reluctant, possibly partly because of fears of blocking a narrow space but also, I think, because it's a strangely intimate act.

30 thoughts on “Red Thread Performance

  1. Well done you... I wish I could have made it to the show. Impressed with the level of detail, like the plasters on the stool. Also I like the red thread on the white dress, like the triumph of experience over innocence.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Thanks Yvonne, it was a lot of fun to do. I love your idea that it's the triumph of experience over innocence.

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    Reply:

    Thanks Yvonne, it was a lot of fun to do. I love your idea that it's the triumph of experience over innocence.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  2. Well done you... I wish I could have made it to the show. Impressed with the level of detail, like the plasters on the stool. Also I like the red thread on the white dress, like the triumph of experience over innocence.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  3. Well done you... I wish I could have made it to the show. Impressed with the level of detail, like the plasters on the stool. Also I like the red thread on the white dress, like the triumph of experience over innocence.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Thanks Yvonne, it was a lot of fun to do. I love your idea that it's the triumph of experience over innocence.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  4. This work could be about so many things. I do see a "triumph of experience over innocence".

    Interesting how people were reluctant to participate but it's not surprising, in that indeed it's somewhat intimate; there's touch involved but also concerns about using a sewing needle so close to a stranger's skin.

    The plaster covered stool is wonderful. In the first photo, one cannot tell they're plasters on first glance; they just look like painted patterns, actually quite pretty.

    I really enjoyed this post. Glad you shared. Your work is fascinating, Kirsty.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Sewing on someone is definitely an intimate act, Stephanie. I knew it would be but I was a little surprised at how reluctant people were. I'd have jumped at the chance to do it but maybe I'm odd!

    I'm glad you like the plaster covered stool, it is quite decorative - more so than I intended actually. I want to do more furniture with plasters on them & experiment with different patterns. I liked the stool more when it wasn't completely covered - it looked like a virus was spreading across it. I've got some ideas about bandaging things happening at the moment too.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Sewing on someone is definitely an intimate act, Stephanie. I knew it would be but I was a little surprised at how reluctant people were. I'd have jumped at the chance to do it but maybe I'm odd!

    I'm glad you like the plaster covered stool, it is quite decorative - more so than I intended actually. I want to do more furniture with plasters on them & experiment with different patterns. I liked the stool more when it wasn't completely covered - it looked like a virus was spreading across it. I've got some ideas about bandaging things happening at the moment too.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  5. This work could be about so many things. I do see a "triumph of experience over innocence".

    Interesting how people were reluctant to participate but it's not surprising, in that indeed it's somewhat intimate; there's touch involved but also concerns about using a sewing needle so close to a stranger's skin.

    The plaster covered stool is wonderful. In the first photo, one cannot tell they're plasters on first glance; they just look like painted patterns, actually quite pretty.

    I really enjoyed this post. Glad you shared. Your work is fascinating, Kirsty.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  6. This work could be about so many things. I do see a "triumph of experience over innocence".

    Interesting how people were reluctant to participate but it's not surprising, in that indeed it's somewhat intimate; there's touch involved but also concerns about using a sewing needle so close to a stranger's skin.

    The plaster covered stool is wonderful. In the first photo, one cannot tell they're plasters on first glance; they just look like painted patterns, actually quite pretty.

    I really enjoyed this post. Glad you shared. Your work is fascinating, Kirsty.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Sewing on someone is definitely an intimate act, Stephanie. I knew it would be but I was a little surprised at how reluctant people were. I'd have jumped at the chance to do it but maybe I'm odd!

    I'm glad you like the plaster covered stool, it is quite decorative - more so than I intended actually. I want to do more furniture with plasters on them & experiment with different patterns. I liked the stool more when it wasn't completely covered - it looked like a virus was spreading across it. I've got some ideas about bandaging things happening at the moment too.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  7. hi Kirsty! was so nice to see you on my blog. thank you for your thoughtful encouraging words. i like what you said about just showing up and being still to listen to those voices within. i often think of it as just one voice that i'm always trying to find and when will it ever just be there?? ...perhaps that is the wrong approach.

    i love the connection you made with red thread. i didn't know about the meaning behind it nor the Chinese myth. how interesting. i started a little spoon with something like that in mind (that long distance connection) without knowing its meaning. maybe it is something we naturally associate with from birth (our umbilical cord?). i would have loved to see your performance in person, see you completely covered in the red threads, the red knots, and perhaps some white spots that could not be reached...

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Hi Mien, great to see you commenting here. Yes, the Chinese myth is a lovely idea.

    I presumed that if I did this performance for long enough then eventually I would be completely covered with thread & actually, it started happening quicker than I'd imagined because the dangling bits of thread took up more space on the white than I'd expected - it turns out it doesn't take that much red to be present for our brains to read something as red instead of white!

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Hi Mien, great to see you commenting here. Yes, the Chinese myth is a lovely idea.

    I presumed that if I did this performance for long enough then eventually I would be completely covered with thread & actually, it started happening quicker than I'd imagined because the dangling bits of thread took up more space on the white than I'd expected - it turns out it doesn't take that much red to be present for our brains to read something as red instead of white!

    [Reply]

    Reply
  8. hi Kirsty! was so nice to see you on my blog. thank you for your thoughtful encouraging words. i like what you said about just showing up and being still to listen to those voices within. i often think of it as just one voice that i'm always trying to find and when will it ever just be there?? ...perhaps that is the wrong approach.

    i love the connection you made with red thread. i didn't know about the meaning behind it nor the Chinese myth. how interesting. i started a little spoon with something like that in mind (that long distance connection) without knowing its meaning. maybe it is something we naturally associate with from birth (our umbilical cord?). i would have loved to see your performance in person, see you completely covered in the red threads, the red knots, and perhaps some white spots that could not be reached...

    [Reply]

    Reply
  9. hi Kirsty! was so nice to see you on my blog. thank you for your thoughtful encouraging words. i like what you said about just showing up and being still to listen to those voices within. i often think of it as just one voice that i'm always trying to find and when will it ever just be there?? ...perhaps that is the wrong approach.

    i love the connection you made with red thread. i didn't know about the meaning behind it nor the Chinese myth. how interesting. i started a little spoon with something like that in mind (that long distance connection) without knowing its meaning. maybe it is something we naturally associate with from birth (our umbilical cord?). i would have loved to see your performance in person, see you completely covered in the red threads, the red knots, and perhaps some white spots that could not be reached...

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Hi Mien, great to see you commenting here. Yes, the Chinese myth is a lovely idea.

    I presumed that if I did this performance for long enough then eventually I would be completely covered with thread & actually, it started happening quicker than I'd imagined because the dangling bits of thread took up more space on the white than I'd expected - it turns out it doesn't take that much red to be present for our brains to read something as red instead of white!

    [Reply]

    Reply
  10. Wow - very interesting and thought provoking.

    I have many ideas and so much to do and don't know where to begin at times!

    Thanks for sharing, and hope you;re feeling better.

    Amelia.x

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Amelia wrote: "I have many ideas and so much to do and don’t know where to begin at times!"

    Oh, I think every artist can probably relate to that, Amelia - I feel like this almost all the time! I find writing it all down helps to quieten those insistent inner voices. But if an idea is persistent enough, then I know it's one that needs to be explored.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Amelia wrote: "I have many ideas and so much to do and don’t know where to begin at times!"

    Oh, I think every artist can probably relate to that, Amelia - I feel like this almost all the time! I find writing it all down helps to quieten those insistent inner voices. But if an idea is persistent enough, then I know it's one that needs to be explored.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  11. Wow - very interesting and thought provoking.

    I have many ideas and so much to do and don't know where to begin at times!

    Thanks for sharing, and hope you;re feeling better.

    Amelia.x

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Amelia wrote: "I have many ideas and so much to do and don’t know where to begin at times!"

    Oh, I think every artist can probably relate to that, Amelia - I feel like this almost all the time! I find writing it all down helps to quieten those insistent inner voices. But if an idea is persistent enough, then I know it's one that needs to be explored.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  12. I love this! Good job, Kirsty!

    I also like that: "I discovered fairly quickly that being gagged didn’t work because people on art trails really want to talk to the artists" because it's always funny tidbits you learn with each piece/project, isn't it?

    Also, learned something new about red thread and Chinese culture, def something to look into more!

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Thanks for commenting on my site, Betsy. You're so right about the things we learn from every project - it's one of the things that keeps me going, I really enjoy those little moments of discovery & the way an audience or a piece can surprise you. It's pretty clear that the experience of making art is usually quite different from the planning stage.

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Thanks for commenting on my site, Betsy. You're so right about the things we learn from every project - it's one of the things that keeps me going, I really enjoy those little moments of discovery & the way an audience or a piece can surprise you. It's pretty clear that the experience of making art is usually quite different from the planning stage.

    [Reply]

    Reply
  13. I love this! Good job, Kirsty!

    I also like that: "I discovered fairly quickly that being gagged didn’t work because people on art trails really want to talk to the artists" because it's always funny tidbits you learn with each piece/project, isn't it?

    Also, learned something new about red thread and Chinese culture, def something to look into more!

    [Reply]

    Reply
  14. I love this! Good job, Kirsty!

    I also like that: "I discovered fairly quickly that being gagged didn’t work because people on art trails really want to talk to the artists" because it's always funny tidbits you learn with each piece/project, isn't it?

    Also, learned something new about red thread and Chinese culture, def something to look into more!

    [Reply]

    Reply:

    Thanks for commenting on my site, Betsy. You're so right about the things we learn from every project - it's one of the things that keeps me going, I really enjoy those little moments of discovery & the way an audience or a piece can surprise you. It's pretty clear that the experience of making art is usually quite different from the planning stage.

    [Reply]

    Reply

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