At a Human-Textile Wellness Pop-Up Clinic at JEM, R. requested that we help her transform a slip she’d never worn. Drawn to the slip by its “a pink apple print,” as she described it on her intake form, R. purchased it from a large department store in Berlin without trying it on. In fact, she says she knew she’d “never wear it in its current shape.” Pressed to analyze what drew her to the garment, and what compelled her to purchase something she knew that would never wear, she remembered clothes with similar prints from her childhood. One red. One blue. But it turned out the print is screen memory. What she really loved about those childhood dresses was their smocking. “Smocking feels like being hugged,” she said. “I love being hugged.” Hanna Astrom helped her recreate this feeling, turning the slip into a skirt, with a wide piece of elastic that will hug R. around the waist. The elastic, itself printed with birds and flowers, was fabricated during the same era of R.’s childhood, and salvaged by Michelle and David of JEM from a collection of dead stock.Hanna Astrom and R. transforming R.’s pink cherry print slip into a skirt, with elastic that will hug R.
The relationship between R. and her garments closely resemble the kind of generative intimacy between human-thing assemblages thought to have disappeared, at least in the west, in the 17th century. At the same time, their relationship begins to accomplish in reality the aspirational hopes for a future materiality as imagined by philosophers including Jane Bennett, Bruno Latour, and Graham Harmon. A world in which people and things will avow and honor their mutual relationships of attachment, entanglement, dependence, and care. A world in which, as Harmon puts it, there is “sufficient room for individual beings such as wood, silk, or apples.”