October 2022 : The Work begins
My month started out with my first supervisor meeting. I have two advisors through trans art, Leah Decter and Lynn Setterington. In this meeting, we introduced ourselves, the work we do, agreed to work together and it was suggested by both of my supervisors to alter my research focus/ questions. They suggested that my intended research into non-western protest textiles would not be a good topic for a PhD, though it might be used in the future. So then I was left with what are my research questions and what will I focus on, the plan was to stay with protest textiles, but re-frame it.
I was also applying to a Canadian SSRC scholarship at the time, so I wrote up the following proposal that includes my new thinking. The proposal makes no mention of the practise based element of my research as this was recommended to me to be the best method. The methodology of research through practise, or knowing about protest textiles by making protest textiles is therefore not mentioned in this write up.
My main objective is to categorize different types of protest art, something that as far as I can tell, has not yet been done, though I will mostly be doing this with textiles which certainly has not been done.
Britta Fluevog’s PhD Proposal Subversive Textiles: A Look at Protest Fibre Art
Introduction to My Research Questions
In September 2022, I started a three-year Doctorate of Philosophy program in Fine Art at Liverpool John
Moores University. My supervisors are Dr. Lynn Setterington, Dr. Leah Dector and Dr. Lee Wright.
My research aims to answer the questions: What are protest textiles? What are the different ways that art
and fibre functions as protest? And, how do protest textiles and art relate to broader social movements?
Our current era will likely be remembered as a period of civil unrest and mass demonstrations
throughout much of the world. Along with these protests are many artworks, playing different rolls. Now
is the time to investigate how art has functioned within a protest or political movement. Within my
research I am focusing on fibre art or textiles, such as the pussy hats at the 2017 omen’s March in the
USA. What are the strategies protest textiles have used and what does art have to offer to the field of
protest that is unique to art. What are subversive textiles and how are they used?
The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (1984) by Roszita Parker is the first
recognized text that frames textiles within a political or activist lens. Parker’s research does not garner
much further writing until the do-it-yourself (DIY), internet, craftivist movement starting around 2002,
which can be traced through writings of Betsey Greer, the main founder of the movement. The deeply
political aspect of textiles is explored in The Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism
(2014), by Sven Beckert, which explains the large roll textiles had within colonization. Activist and
protest textiles are discussed in Julia Bryan-Wilson’s Fray: Art + Textile Politics (2017). The most
similar research to my own work is Julie Decker and Hinda Mandell’s book, Crafting Democracy: Fiber
arts and Activism (2019), but this text is more of a historical framework than my research will be.
Craftivism as Key Cultural Context
My research examines the relationship between craftivism and protest. While craftivism is the
portmanteau of the words of craft and activism, I am viewing it through Tal Fitzpatricks’s reframing of
the term, specifically the changing of activism to DIY citizenship or civic engagement. So, while
craftivism can be found at intersections of ideology, history, educational guides, etc., it runs more
parallel to protest textiles rather than residing within or overtop of it. Certainly many activist (rather than
simply DIY citizenship) textiles have come out of the craftivist movement, but most craftivism is more
concerned with civic engagement than protest. Craftivism is very important to protest textiles, but it is
just a small facet to a much larger discipline that I am researching. My research will define and trace the
history of craftivism and discuss why not all textile protests fall within field of craftvisim.
The texts of existing political activist textiles will be threaded into general protest art ideology such as
found within TV Reed’s book The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement
to the Streets of Seattle and Stefan Jonsson’s article The Art of Protest: Understanding and
Misunderstanding Monstrous Events. The this amalgamation of protest theory of the textile art will be
interspersed with various cultural theorist, when pertinent. Intersectional ideology will come from of
Kimberle Crenshaw and Bell hooks. Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein will provide ideology on our
current western governance system and the necessity of activism, the artworks themselves can be
disseminated using Adorno’s aesthetics theories.
Protest art is usually categorized by medium, or different political movements, or what is being
protested. My research will also categorize different types of protest textiles in terms of how they
function within a protest: Personal or Community identity as a form protest like the Molas created by the
Kuna indigenous people of Panama’s San Blas Islands; artwork used within traditional protests such as
the banners at the Greenham common women’s peace camp; artworks where the art is the protest like the
arpilleras the Chilean women made against the dictator Pinochet; art that is the theoretical underpinnings
of a movement such as Khadi cloth was for Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress; artwork
that sits somewhere between political and protest, where the protest is more subtle like Kawira
Mwirichia’s Kangas celebrating African LGBTQ heroes; and peripheral artwork like artwork made about
protests or artwork from protests that is subsequently exhibited in new contexts and what these
peripheral actions can mean.
Methodology and Expected Outcome
My methodology and expected outcome are somewhat commensurate. My research will find, categorize
and analyze different types of protest textiles with the intent of being informative to those who wish to
study the subject and elucidating to those that want to create them. Categorizing will allow parallels to be
made on how the different textile art functions within a protest or a political movement. My research
uses Empirical Analysis and Exploratory Analysis to understand differences between the different
Within the categories my research will provide examples of around two five different artworks or art
series or connected art that demonstrate the particular category of protest art well. The artists or groups
researched will be varied in many ways, with the intersectionality being an integral foundation within the
research. Some art will be well researched, with large bodies of literature to draw upon while others will
be relatively obscure where the artwork will be required to speak more for itself. A global approach will
employed with textiles from diverse countries and communities within them.
Many of the books on activism and textiles are edited collections of essays and as such have a very broad
viewpoint as well as broad definition of activism—this promotes inclusivity, but it does water down the
notion of activism or protest. Lots of research, such as most craftivism, has focused on political textiles
that are quiet, polite fibre works, which admittedly is something that fibre excels at, but is not the
exclusive usage of them. My research will focus more on the brash and unapologetic textile work,
because as I aim to shown, there is value in being loud while protesting like Marianne Jorgensen’s pink
yarn-bombed tank, Pink M.24 Chaffee Tank (2006).
The main argument of my thesis will be that these categories exist and that dividing protest art into
different categories will be useful. My research will analyze and compile previous analysis, but a main
focus of my research will be to initiate further artwork and research within the field of protest textiles.
My research reflects who I am as a person and that is why I do the work. I am a textile creator and an
activist. Through the work of my research, I aim to improve both of these aspects, both for me personally
and for my peers.
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This month, I have also started doing some writing on craftvisim, ordering and reading literature.
I have also been working on a very large waffle weave. I built/set up the loom and am in the process of spinning and warping it. My re-framing of my thesis has been useful because it led me to a greater understanding of this piece. The last few works I have been making are about personal identity as a form of protest.