Some say that there is depth to flesh and the surface is shallow.
Some say that the surface is shallow, and that depth is in abstract thought and the ideological frameworks by which to live by. A cacophony of circling values, positions, and manners exist to choose from, adopt, and embody.
Some say that there is depth to flesh. The body holds knowledge, a phenomenological binding; a soup of history, emotions, and memories are embedded in flesh, blood, bone, and marrow. A rewiring of neurons triggers access to this trilogy, and fractures of them can rise to the surface at the oddest of times, pressuring the body’s encasement of skin. Creating: A twitch. A gesture. A change of gait.
The division of brain and body is not universally agreed. Abstract thought and ideology is a form of knowledge, and they can also bind with flesh. The tribes of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea say: ‘knowledge is only rumour until it lives in the muscle’. Abstract thought presses down into flesh.
On top of skin sits fabric encasing the body for warmth, modesty, and adornment, becoming a second surface. Some forms of fabric, such as nylon, cling taught over the body, a needy child with hands stretched in a multitude of directions. When removed it springs back into place, its original form. Linen, however, rests on top of skin. An entity in its own right with its thick and static texture, yet it absorbs the body below. Flesh to surface, skin --- > fabric.
Linen is made from flax - a course stringy plant best grown in the full bore of the sun. Dried and splintered into threads which are woven into a grid. A solid bind of flatness ready to remain as is, or shaped into an item of utility.
The architect Gottried Semper wrote that weaving was one of the first skills learned by individuals. And from this prototype everything else follows: ‘the decorative moldings and bands in architecture can be related to the textile seam, and the decoration façades to the clothing of the body’.1
But perhaps we may regress and consider the internal components of our body; the bindings of its internal parts were the first point of melding together: a layering beneath the skin of cells, tissues, sinews, and the like. The threads of our muscles mimic the threads of fabric. Body to cloth, cloth to dwelling.
After being formed into a garment, linen rests, drapes, and sits abreast its allocated subject. It is prone to absorb the leaks of the body: the salt in sweat, flaking skin cells, blood, the grime of pores. The inside comes outside and linen sucks it up. A corporal integration of body to fabric.
The edges of the body – the elbows, curve of shoulders, rounding of the hips - all press into the structure of linen, a corporal iron. And within this heated imprint the body transfers the individual’s distinct gesture, gait, and form. And within gesture, gait and form lies the amalgam of individual knowledge, memory, emotion, ideology. This amalgam is fluid: prone to shifts and change. And as a person transforms the linen that he or she wears adapts.
Linen is lived and depth comes to surface. Surface is depth.
1 Markus Bruderlin, “Introduction to the Exhibition: The Birth of Abstraction from the Spirit of the Textile to the Conquest of the Fabric Space,” in Art and Textiles: Fabric as Material and Concept in Modern Art from Klimt to the Present, edited by Markus Bruderlin, Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2013.