The Subversive Stitch revisited: The politics of cloth


Exploring the legacy of Rozsika Parker's groundbreaking book, The Subversive Stitch

Podcasts in this series

Femininity: the Feminine and the Feminist as critical terms in Rozsika Parker’s Textile/Textual Imaginary

Griselda Pollock

Keynote paper during the session: The Feminine Stitch to The Feminist Stitch

Mon, 27 Jan 14 0

An Exemplary Embroidery of the Magdalene: how should curators understand women’s historic textiles?

Roisin Inglesby

In 2006 conservators at the V&A discovered an extraordinary 17th - century embroidery of Mary Magdalene. This paper investigates why the maker depicted the Magdalene in this seemingly unique way, and how a curator should interpret and explain textiles produced by anonymous women. I argue that many approaches focus on embroidering as an act or as behaviour, and embroideries only secondarily as physical manifestations of ideas, thus undermining the wider social impact of anonymous women’s work. However, liberated from the expectations of biography, anonymous textiles have the capacity to subvert traditional historical narratives, producing a more inclusive understanding of the past.

Mon, 27 Jan 14 0

Emblems of Childbirth in the Embroideries of Mary Queen of Scots

Michael Bath

The surviving Oxburgh embroideries of Mary Queen of Scots include a damaged panel showing “A Shee Dolphin” which copies Conrad Gessner’s illustration showing “a female dolphin” in the very act of parturition. Mary’s motives for copying this particular illustration almost certainly include political and personal issues which are at play in many of her other embroideries, notably her success as a female sovereign in producing a legitimate male heir, unlike her “virgin” cousin, Elizabeth of England. Issues of sovereignty and gender can thus be shown to be of particular importance in these most significant of historical textiles

Mon, 27 Jan 14 0

“Not a straight line but a spiral”: Charting continuity and change in textiles informed by feminism

Dr. Alexandra M. Kokoli

This paper examines two case studies that illustrate Rozsika Parker’s description of the evolution of feminism and embroidery as a spiral rather than a straight line: the recent retrospective exhibition of crochet and mixed media by Su Richardson (Goldsmiths, 2012), a participant in the collaborative mail art and installation project Feministo (1975-1977); and Bronwyn Platten’s quilted homage to Mike Kelley, ‘For more and more love hours’, which questions Faith Wilding’s dismissal of Kelley’s work as an abject reification of ‘bad boy’ masculinity, to suggest feminist and gender-critical alliances across genders and generations.

Mon, 27 Jan 14 0

Unpicking Queer History in the National Trust

Matt Smith

Unravelled curates and commissions site specific works in historic houses. By enabling a plurality of artist responses, the exhibitions avoid any dominant discourse and adopt a feminist position; histories that are often marginalised are given centre stage. This talk will focus on an intervention I created for Nymans House called Piccadilly 1830. Centred on Nymans’ most famous resident, the stage designer Oliver Messel, the intervention disrupted the traditional role of the historic house as source of dominant ideas about national identity and explored his relationship with Vagn Riis Hansen.

Mon, 27 Jan 14 0