I’m going to revisit some work centered around the idea of natural electricity in this post. The hot and humid weather that we’ve been having in Britain this past week has ended up getting to me and firing my neurons in every direction. When the epilepsy comes to the forefront so much, I find myself wanting to make work about it,to engage with it, write about it, read about it, think about it. I suppose, to live it more clearly.
I have been thinking about Brainstorm 1.0: my BA Textile Art degree show work a little lately – I came across one left-over piece in a box a couple of months ago – and the ideas have been there, bubbling under the surface for a little while now. I had already revisited the main body of the work about 2 years after the end of the course, in order to try and resolve it as a project called Brainstorm 2.0.
I’ve been making work about human electricity for a few years now. I made a lot of intricate pleated work at university in which I was trying to talk about the brainwaves, and the correlations between epilepsy and storms. Below is a piece from my degree show.
Brainstorm 1.0 version 27.8 -2005. Copyright Ingrid Murnane.
The work, and the concept lay dormant for a while before coming up for a second reinvention. While I think I took it as far as I could with pleating, I don’t feel like it ever was fully resolved.
So about three years ago, I started to learn to spin on a drop spindle, exploring the ways that the fibres ply together to form a new yarn. There seemed to be a lot which I could draw on and use in this technique to take the electricity idea in different directions. I was thinking of nerves and neurones, insulation, and the ways that the actual action of spinning can lend itself to talking about these ideas.
In these first experiments, I tried to make a yarn with the look of the earth wire in a UK electrical plug for a hat that I was planning. I plyed this as an exercise in seeing how these two yarns would work together. Although not entirely what I was expecting, it worked well enough to be used in exploring the ideas further. It is a purposefully slubby single handspun wool, corespun around a yellow commercial DK weight yarn. The plyed yarn’s texture is reminiscent of brainwaves in some places; of the yellow and green earth wire in others.
I had decided to make a small garment with the yarn. A hat, I’d thought originally. It was to use the language of insulation at cross purposes. The idea of keeping a head warm, but using a visual of electrical instulation makes a certain kind of sense to me and a hat made from the ‘Earthed’ handspun yarn enabled me to talk about epilepsy via this and other visual cues.
The yarn that I had spun was used eventually in this hairband. Ironically, I used a couple of hours of recovery-knitting time after a seizure to make it. Adding further to the wiring colouring in the body of the knitting: Earth is yellow/green, live is brown and neutral is blue.
I wanted this garment (accessory?) to talk about the electrical circuit and what might happen if it went awry. Beginning by mixing the language of wiring with the language of a human EEG printout. The ‘electrical activity’ part of the hairband can sit over my temporal lobe (actually a bit further forward than in the picture) which is where my own epilepsy originates. Looking again at the hairband, two or three years on from its making, I reassessed it somewhat. While I do feel that the work is getting towards a visual understanding of my ideas, it definitely needs to be pushed further. Perhaps a hat may work better in favour of insulation/electricity after all.
I feel some experimentation coming on!
As a post script, something interesting and unexpected happened when I first saw the hairband worn by somebody else. I had very uneasy feelings in response. Almost as if they weren’t entitled to wear it because they don’t have TLE. That doesn’t sit very well with me (not only because it is just stupid) and I think I need to explore it more. I wonder what my response might be now.