artist / participant
Stephanie Syjuco has adopted the tactics of counterfeiting, re-appropriation, and fictional fabrications to address questions of cultural biography, labor, and capitalism. Recent projects include re-creating several 1950s Modernist furniture pieces by French designer Charlotte Perriand but using cast-off material and rubbish gathered in Beijing; starting a global collaborative project with crochet crafters to counterfeit high-end consumer goods; photographing models of Stonehenge made from cheap Asian imported food products; and instituting a live and on-site reproduction facility to bootleg and display works of art found at the Frieze Art Fair.
Currents: Stephanie Syjuco furthers her interest in issues of authorship, craft, labor, and the capitalist production process. It is inspired by the Museum's Don and Jean Stuck Coverlet Collection of more than 300 nineteenth-century hand-woven coverlets. The foundation of CMA's extensive textile collection, these coverlets were produced by a cottage industry of independent, professional weavers in Ohio and other northeastern states. Many of the weavers were immigrants who had fled to the U.S. from the growing mechanization of the industrial revolution in Europe. The coverlets incorporated intricate and colorful designs, many with personal inscriptions woven into the borders or corner blocks. They rapidly became a treasured and popular bed-covering for middle-class American households. The peak of production for hand-woven coverlets was the relatively short period between 1820 and the end of the Civil War, by which time the weaving industry was rapidly becoming mechanized in the U.S. too. After the war, the weavers struggled to remain in business and soon succumbed to the proliferation of more expediently produced and affordable goods.
The Currents project will combine the story of the coverlets with Syjuco's recent research into the creation and use of plastic, woven, commercial shopping bags that are produced in huge numbers in plaid patterns of various colors, largely in China. Because of their low cost and ready availability, these bags, which are used mostly to transport personal belongings and food, have come to be visual indicators of immigrants in communities around the world. Different countries refer to these bags colloquially as "Turkish Suitcases" (Germany), "Chinese plaid," (US) or "Ghana must go," (West Africa) bags.
For her Currents project, Syjuco will oversee the manufacture of plastic fabric by commercial producers in Beijing, using several designs from the CMA coverlets instead of the familiar plaid patterns. She will then design and create a "product line" from this fabric. The final collection of works will become integrated into the exhibition space along with the original coverlets, presented on a viewing wall with museum labels and signage.
The Currents series is supported by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
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