Unsettling the Fiber Canon: Unraveling a Culture of Whiteness
Paper presented at the College Art Association Annual Conference, Los Angeles, 2018
This presentation begins with the questions: Why has so little scholarly attention been paid to issues of race in the field of contemporary fiber? Why do canonical texts in the field devote so little attention to the histories of enslavement and colonialism in textiles? How did the field coalesce around themes of gender from the near-exclusive perspectives, lived experiences, and creative practices of white women? It traces a trajectory of Eurocentrism and white dominance in the fiber canon, from the very first curatorial texts of the 1960s and 1970s that served to define and delineate the field (and continue to wield great influence), through to writings and frameworks that remain entrenched today. Suggesting that contemporary fiber remains rooted in a culture of whiteness, the presentation seeks to unsettle the foundations upon which the field was historicized and theorized. Organized in the form of a manifesto, series of questions, declarations and images, the presentation revisits canonical texts and frameworks to identify historical blind spots and elisions, while proposing paths for reconsideration and rectification.