High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Unravel Me . . . .

So yesterday my friend, the bunnyfaced one, sent me a link to this knitting blog entry to a supercool exhibit at my very place of employment. (Well, one of them, anyway.)

The pointer was just in the nick of time, as the exhibit closes on Saturday. I managed to subvert my usual slothful tendencies and get there today before my evening class. That's the good news. The bad news is the Sullivan galleries were hosting a benefit for the Ox-Bow School of the Arts.

Ok, so classifying that as bad news is totally narcissitic. But when I got up to the 7th floor, clearly security was on the look-out for slovenly hangers on (like yours truly), and the guard at the desk was totally baffled when I asked for the Redress exhibit. In fact, I had to make knitting motions before I could get her to understand what I was asking about. There is nothing sadder than a mime miming knitting.

The second barrier was the general bustle in the galleries themselves. There were big signs for "BENEFACTORS" to check in. Some people reporting for the caterers were sent around to the non-BENEFACTORS door (which, one assumes, was smaller, out of the way, and generally more scabby). In between me and Redress were tables for ticketholders to check in. The handful of folks milling around them were youngish and had the look of volunteers about them. I asked if it was ok for me to go into the exhibit and they looked at one another in confusion. One said, "Are the galleries open?" I told her that the website said they were open until 6, but I hadn't known the benefit was there . . . so . . . As is fairly typical in my experience, indicating that I didn't want to cause trouble or be an inconvenience won the day, and they thanked me for asking before barging in.

From the photos at Panopticon, I'd been thinking the exhibit was a bit bigger than it was. It's probably about 10 x 10, and I was a little at a loss for where to stash my stuff (eventually settled on tucking it into a corner. I also felt more self-conscious than I had anticipated, ironically because I was the only one there except for those engrossed in setting up for the benefit. Nonetheless, I'd come to knit and knit I would!

There are seven stations set up. On one side of the space, the bicycle wheels are mounted upside down on two stacked wooden pallets. The working strand of yarn is wound several times around the rim, then goes up through a hook above the wheel, swags across the center of the space, goes through another hook above the hanging row of sweaters, and descends along the wall behind the "seats." In front of each wheel is a neatly folded piece of fabric which I assume is a remnant of the garment from which the yarn has been harvested. Next to each wheel is also a small ball of the same yarn, wound. In addition to the pendant sweaters, there are more piled in the corner.

Opposite each wheel is, of course, a station with a piece in progress. There are bits o' pallets for sitting, and needles for each piece. I found myself dithering about yarn to sit down by. None is particularly pretty or soft, which isn't particularly surprising: You can pry my favorite sweaters out of my cold, dead hands, after all.

Finally I settled on a rainbow-colored, chunky yarn. This, of course, turned out to be the one station where the yarn had gotten completely fucked up in coming off the wheel. Furthermore, my dumb cracker mind was, of course, too befuddled to figure out how to right the situation. Plus, I felt weirdly anxious about trying to fix it, as though it was a violation of the imaginary velvet rope that always exists around art in the mind of someone as profoundly unartistic as I am. Although that piece had, at one point, been quite wide, it was decreased to a narrow strap by the time I got a hold of it. I did a few rows of seed stitch on it, then played around with k2togs and kfbs before I just couldn't deal with the lack of slack anymore.

Being fundamentally lazy, as well as nonartistic, I simply picked up the tweedy dark grey piece to my right. This one was more satisfying to me, as it was wider, and I could really play with stitches across its length. Also, I could reach up and give a big tug to the strand and get the pleasant, productive-sounding clicky noise (made by a thin piece of metal arranged to hit the spokes—I rather wished it had been a clothespinned playing card!) as the wheel turned to release more yarn.

I'm jealous of Franklin's experience, as mine was missing the sociability of knitting. Not only was I there alone, I felt in the way because of the prep for the benefit. And to cap the experience, I was rereading an article on female genital mutilation in Sudan in preparation for my class. In other words, circumstances conspired to keep me from my happy art-brain place, which I'm usually so ready to go to. I did have some of the same out-of-context, disjointed, disconnected thoughts he mentions. At one point, I stared down at the next row in the seed stitch I was going to do an I literally could not remember if seed stitch was purling the knits and knitting the purls or maintaining the stitch type across rows. I then suddenly couldn't tell reliably if a stitch had been knit or purled on the previous row. Unfortunately, rather than it being a sort of cognitive sorbet, I just felt frazzled, frustrated, and weirdly alone.

Oh! Another weird thing. I had my Jesus!Phone out to take a few pictures (again, I felt self-conscious and invasive even though I'd seen pictures on Panopticon). The phone rang, or rather, the "Lai-dai-dai, lai-dai-dai, lai-dai-dai-dai-dai-dai-dai" part of Janis Joplin's "Me And Bobby McGee" sounded, revealing the caller to be the bunnyfaced one herself. Without thinking, I answered it. But a few seconds later we got disconnected, and I suddenly thought, "ZOMG! YOU JUST ANSWERED YOUR PHONE IN AN ART GALLERY! YOU ARE LIKE A LEVENTY-SIZED ASSHOLE!" So when she called back, I didn't answer and was all anxious about not answering. (We did eventually have a conversation, the first part of which revealed just how freakin' LOUD downtown Chicago is.)

Anyway, it was a cool and interesting exhibit. I wish I'd been more in the right headspace and/or hit on a more convenient time to see it, though. I won't even bother with my iPhone pictures (I mostly took them for Twittering purposes) as Franklin's are much better. Sorry to not have reported on this sooner for the convenience of my Chicago knitting peeps!

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