Real-time Documentary Embroidery

Or, why is it that we feel that embroidery is the best method for documenting reality?





Using real-time documentary embroidery (with no sketches or previous planning) is a challenge in the field of drawing, regarding the representation of reality. The restrictions imposed by the technique: the slowness of constructing a line, one stitch at a time, forces us to economize and abstract, limiting our choices, making us consider and select the most important thing to represent. By this we are forced to follow a process of encrypting, creating symbolic graphics where details and decorations are considered excess. We find ourselves summarizing and combining elements for maximum capacity of transmitting information. At the same time, the slowness of the proceedings, is considered an advantage, being that it gives us the opportunity to spend some time together on the street, where the events, which are the object of our interest, take place. We get together to embroider, forming a group in which we exchange opinions and impressions. Our activity attracts the attention of passers-by. Intrigued by our work they approach. We let them intervene, adding their suggestions and point of view. In this way, we create a base where we integrate in our environment, giving us a heightened capacity for observation, for perceiving social dynamics and for learning.

Being that we are a group of 'strangers' engaged in an uncommon activity in public space, puts us under the scrutiny of the public, creating a new balance between 'subject' and 'documenter', a bi-directionality where the observer is also observed. As part of this new balance the 'documenter' becomes 'subject', having to respond to questions and events that come up in the social environment.

As a result of spending more time in public space, real-time documentary embroidery promotes a consequential attitude and a more in-depth knowledge of the social reality being documented.


"Consider the differences between what in different societies is considered men's and women's work. This varies endlessly across the world, but there are also some surprisingly consistent patterns. The main one is that short and relatively intense tasks, particularly those involving moments of danger, are almost always relegated to men; the most repetitive and monotonous sorts of work, to women....

....One way to state the matter is this: men tend to monopolize the sorts of work framed in terms of an implicit dramatic structure. Men, one might say, tend to get the sorts of work one can tell stories about afterward, women, the sort one tells stories during, to pass the time....
...What such a division of labor does, one might say, is to attribute to men the sorts of activity defined as memorable, narratable action; to define men as actors, and woman as non-actors....

...The pattern is not limited to gender. It continues, to a lesser or greater extent, through every social hierarchy: the more exalted a group or status, the more their typical activities will tend to take dramatic form, one which lends itself to being told as stories afterward. The political domain is usually the most dramatic one of all."
Lost People: Magic and the legacy of slavery in Madagascar, David Graeber

"Learning the contexts of life is a matter that has to be discussed, not internally, but as a matter of the external relationship between two creatures. And relationship is always a product of double description. It is correct (and a great improvement) to begin to think of the two parties to the interaction as two eyes, each giving a monocular view of what goes on and, together, giving a binocular view in depth. This double view is the relationship." G. Bateson


Real-time Documentary Embroidery

BBVA / Aviv Kruglanski & Vahida Ramujkic