A meditation on the warp and weft of militarism


Constructed not only of armies of men (and increasingly women), of weapons and their delivery systems, militaries are also made up of the mundane objects necessary to nurture and sustain life—clothing, food, shelter. Unravel is an embodied inquiry into the loss and fragmentation that results from the violence of war, and into the relationship between gestures of care and the potential for empathetic connection within the context of anti-militarist struggle. Through its seam-by-seam, thread-by-thread deconstruction of a military uniform Unravel is part mourning ritual and part meditation on the warp and weft of militarism’s fabric. How do the threads of the military-industrial-complex connect us to one another? What labour might be required for the disentanglement of militarism’s geopolitical fabric?

Artistic Statement

UnravelMy work employs task-based actions as a means to focus attention and intention. Each gesture is part of a largerinquiry into the intersection of our everyday acts and the affective and publicly situated body in the performance and production of social empathy and into the role of public mourning practices in the construction of narratives of death related to militarism and war. Through embodied action I seek to engage the public body in a dialog about relationships (and lack there-of)—not the intimate and interpersonal relationships of romance, family, or friendship—but the collective relationship of multiply located human beings concurrently inhabiting and manifesting history.

Here’s an article I wrote about Unravel:  Piece/Peace Work: Engendering “rationalities of care” through a thread-by-thread deconstruction of militarism. Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts Volume 18, Issue 2, 2013

Unravel had its debut at Visualeyez 2011, Sept. 13-18, Edmonton

One of the many gifts of the festival were the daily visits from festival animator and blogger, Karen Elaine Spencer AKA Dream Listener. I am deeply touched by Karen’s articulations of Unravel: BeginningDay one; Day twoDay threeDay fourDay five; Day six

Since the festival I have continued to Unravel daily and will be organizing public “unsewing circles.”

3 thoughts on “Unravel

  1. Hi Helene,
    I read about you and your work on the TIGA page – I am just starting Level II.
    I wonder if you know about the Combat Paper Project, where vets from all wars (but mostly the recent ones) cut up their uniforms and make paper out of them. They use their sheets to print photos and write, and sometimes they give a public performance of their work. PBS did a piece on them recently: http://video.pbs.org/video/2229156127/
    You can also read about them here: http://www.printnj.org/combat-paper/
    One of the founders of this, Drew Cameron, has just moved to San Francisco and hopes to work with vets in the Bay area.
    Your work is beautiful and brave.
    Jill Littlewood

    1. Hi Jill,

      Thanks for your kind words and the link to the Combat Paper Project (I will definitely have a look). A good friend sent me some info about the project which looks fabulous. One of my hopes with unravel is to work with a veteran (or veterans) who would like to unravel their uniform. In my experience of unraveling alone, the repetition of the task facilitates a process of reflection, and in my experience of unraveling with others, that reflection extends into a process of sharing.

      I wish for you a great adventure as you embark on your Level II journey!



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