“And so (while they talk) let down one’s net deeper and deeper and gently draw in and bring to the surface what he said and she said and make poetry.”
-The Waves, Virginia Woolf
Noeuds d’écoute Listening Knots includes text-based installations, a video projection and a continuous performance inspired by Virginia Woolf’s, The Waves. Originally published in 1931, she called it her “play-poem”. Imagine myself as Virginia Woolf with a camera and a desire to play with bodies of text, the human body, the tide, the ocean and the land. This thought guided the making of the work during a two-year residency at the Université de Moncton, Moncton and Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick. Students, friends, the ocean and the land were active participants.
Artists make the invisible visible. People around the world have different stories about the origins of their particular culture; commonly they include a spinner/weaver and most often she is a woman. In Greek mythology, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, the Three Fates, or Moirai represent the past, the present and future, youth, adult and elder, they are also women: Clotho spins the thread, Lachesis measures or weaves and Atropos cuts the thread.
A colleague observed, “If it had been a man who discovered spinning and weaving, the invention of the wheel wouldn’t even come close in technological importance!” The threads of that importance although hidden, are still present in our stories, in our expressions, in the very history of our words, woven into the fabric of our society. We are hanging by a thread. Let me spin you a tale.
I often imagine an older woman sitting quietly in a nearby corner, knitting or mending, busy doing something with threads in her hands. The beauty of this image for me is that as long as she is there, there is hope. As long as there is a thread in her hands, the world will continue to exist, that the relations between people will be maintained. She holds life in her hands.
I often use the ancient art of spinning paper into a paper thread, otherwise known as shifu to make sculptural works. Central to the Noeuds d’écoute Listening Knots project was the making of a fishing net using paper-thread spun from the pages of four dictionaries relevant to south-eastern New Brunswick: Le Glossaire acadian, Le Petit Larousse Illustré, Silus Tertias Rand’s English to Mi’kmaq and Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate. A variety of actions using the net were filmed and are presented as part of a series of video vignettes. Listening knot is a literal translation of the French term (noeud d’écoute) for the knot used to make nets and is otherwise known as the weavers knot in English.
The Waves by Virginia Woolf is at the heart of this exhibition. The very words of the book are present as titles, and as material in the work. I tried reading The Waves in my twenties and abandoned it. I was too impatient. What I didn’t understand then was that it is poetry. To let the story come through, it must be read slowly, letting the words resonate. Essentially, it is the intermingled soliloquies of six characters voiced over the span of their lives interspersed with descriptions of the ocean from dawn to dusk. I have since read it many times, and what is at the heart of that book for me is that we are all connected, that there is a thread between me and everyone else, that our bodies and our genders are blurred.
Growing up on a farm, I developed a profound respect for the rhythms of nature, but as a teenager, I watched in horror as my father, like many others at the time, cut down trees and brutally straightened a meandering creek to make room for a few more rows of corn. Noeuds d’écoute Listening Knots has allowed me to connect to the land and the water.
Karen Trask 2019
The artist acknoledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. She would also like to thank the visual art departments of the University of Moncton and Mount Allison University, as well as the Casino of New Brunswick.