Monthly Archives: July 2014

Entrail Troyen is now 95cm

Entrail Troyen

Entrail Troyen is now 95cm.

The length of the large intestine is 1.5 metres or 5ft. i.e. my height, and so I am hoping to get it to this stage by the On Innards show in October. Eventually it would be great if it was longer, 6 metres, referencing the small intestine, as is perhaps more like this part of the system: For example, a thinner tube, the stitches and loops refering to the villi which increase the surface area, or the tight folds on the walls, that churn the food-turned-chyme in a spiral motion, like the movement of a ‘row’ of stitches in French knitting.

Through this slow and careful act of French knitting (the threads can be very brittle and can break easily), the form of the tubular tract is articulated, loop by loop, through each stitch. It is the knitting and looping of this long thread that is making a form, the ‘skin’ and tube. This looping and stitching connecting previous loops/stitches could be like a metaphor for the research process itself: making connections, making form, making sense, meaning and understanding out of the tangled length of thread, which has been joined together from disparate fragments, collected from a variety of sources. The recent addition is the skin from the salami we had at the weekend for Charlotte’s birthday picnic.

Thread Salami skin

I would like to make a map of where the elements that made up the thread came from. They began with cured saucisson sec saved from picnic meals everyday from my holiday in France last summer. To begin with I saved them without knowing what I wanted them to become. Over the three weeks the idea of joining them together to make a thread to knit with formed in my mind and then (as I was in France) the idea of the form of French knitting to re-create their original tubular form, set in. On the final leg of our trip we visited Troyes, because I wanted to try Andouillette de Troyes in Troyes, where I came across the Hosiery Museum at the Hôtel Vauluisant, which introduced me to the important historical position of Troyes in France’s knitting industry and saw knitting machines on a large scale.

AndouiletteTroyes Knitting machine

The knitting machines making tubes of jersey seemed to me absolutely related to the simple 17 pronged ‘dolly’ that I was to fashion out of cocktail sticks (symbolizing the start of the digestive system, often used at the dinner table to clean one’s teeth, and a part of a toilet roll, signifying the end of the intestinal tract!)

Entrail-Troyen-Looking through-048-sm

The artist/filmmaker Jayne Parker also knits with intestines. Here she writes about her 1989 film K ‘…I bring my intestines up out of my mouth and let it fall in a pile at my feet. I take the end and proceed to knit, using my arms in the place of knitting needles, until I have knitted the whole length. I hold my knitted intestine in front of my body so that it covers me. I bring out into the open all the things that I have taken in that are not mine, and thereby make room for something new. I make an external order out of an internal tangle.’ (Jayne Parker writing in Body as Membrane quoted in The Artist’s Body, p130)

Jayne Parker Inside Out 1990 (Film still relating to K)

For me, she is talking about the ingestion and digestion of knowledge and experience, of research, of ‘things that are not mine’ and is attempting to make meaning through the ordering act of knitting, ‘I make an external order out of an internal tangle’.

Helen Chadwick’s Loop My Loop 1991, with its fairy-tale golden blonde hair draped and wound around a glistening pink inflated sow’s intestine, is a kind of abject love knot that draws you in and at the same time repells, like I hope my Entrail Troyen will do.

Helen Chadwick Loop My Loop 1991

I hope Entrail Troyen’s engaging form and intricate stitches will entice you closer to it and follow the journey of a few loops. But the smell may prevent you getting too close. Employing the olfactory sense in the work breaks the visual-centricism of sculpture, and a body-environment dualism: Entrail Troyen will force itself into your body and will leave a little of it in you even as you leave the space. It is well known that memory is triggered by smell, and Entrail Troyen hopes that its smell will ensure it is not forgotten, at least whilst its odour molecules are bound to the cilia particles into your nose.

I am to be doing a series of reading performances on Friday and Saturday, animating my Reflection on Digestion book and this act of French knitting, the continuous thread which articulates form through loops reminds me of the continuous script in the book where loops and garlands of the handwriting creates a joined up text that remains connected from the beginning of the book to the end, and a new book I am planning using this continual script, but more on that later…

Reflection on Digestion 2012 (detail)

Notes taken from Guts: The Strange and Mysterious World of the Human Stomach (BBC Four, 2012) first aired 12 Jul 2012.
Hosiery Museum at the Hôtel Vauluisant, 4 rue de Vauluisant, 10000 Troyes, France
Jayne Parker K 1989 (film) in Jayne Parker: British Artists Films Vol.4, BFI, 2008, DVD.
Jayne Parker in Body as Membrane quoted in The Artist’s Body, edited by Tracey Warr. Phaidon, 2000: 130.
Helen Chadwick, by Marina Warner, Mark Sladen, Mary Horlock, Eva Martischnig. Barbican Art Gallery/Hatje Cantz, 2004.
Julia Kristeva. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Columbia University Press, 1982.
‘Reflection in Digestion’ in The Book is Alive! Edited by Emmanuelle Waeckerlé and Richard Sawdon Smith. RGAP, 2013: 164-7.

Inspired by a trip to Oxford

Last Sunday, I visited Oxford, with a friend, combining a spot of wild swimming in the Isis via a muddy meadow which gave us many Matthew Barney material moments inspired by our recent viewing of his epic, River of Fundament.

We also went to the Barbara Kruger show at Modern Art Oxford in which there were collages of images of mercury filled teeth, as well as installations of texts which helped me to think about a new bookwork which is to be scribed on the parchment-like cow’s intestines that I have been drying in my studio.

Kruger’s use of the imperative got me thinking about how I ‘implicate’ my participants in my performative meals and how I can more ‘direct[ly] address’* them and their bodily functions. In my meals I am not using the imperative, but a more gentle tone, for example, asking whether you can distinguish the different tastes and flavours of Campri as it passes over your palate? Or what it feels like to have two tongues in your mouth? Or are the gut hormones, PYY and grelim, making you want more or is the idea of tripe, your prejudices or past experiences, of offal governing the present one?

In Oxford, we also visited the Pitt River’s Museum where I was able to see many-a-guts inspired artefact.

1. The plaster mould for making wax ex-voto figures of the stomach and its wax positive.


2. Katharine also spotted an ancient Roman terracotta ex-voto of what looked like an intestine with an anus opening. Turns out it was a womb and cervix, which is a shame, but the Katharine thinks I can co-opt the form for my own interests!


3. And rather amazingly three garments made from seal gut: Two parkas and a cape. All are very brittle and some have been restored using pig intestine, as this is apparently is the closest material to seal gut, but all have beautiful details, embroidered edges and bright coloured furs and threads detailing within the seams.

 gut cape-pitt-rivers-717-smgut parker-detail-pitt-rivers-806-sm

Seeing the gut parkas have clarified some things. I have been racking my brains to come up with the right choice of garment that makes sense with the material, and its, and my history, and which I can feasibly wear during the participatory performance meals. As they dry, the cow intestines have delicate lace-like patterns formed by the variation in fat deposits on the inside surface and the pig’s has lines created by the residue of the mesentery and connective tissues.

Cow intestine dried-detail-007-smPig intestine dried-detail-004-sm

The paperly quality of the dried intestines could refer to stiff blouses with high necks of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. More historically, such a garment could also be connected to the stomacher, which was a panel of fabric worn at the front of the bodice, connecting the edges of the gown. 

I could perhaps make a performance piece in which I am eating a (bloody) or juicy piece of meat or offal and the blouse becomes sullied by the activity, (bears some relation to my sugar tea party performances of a few years ago).

sugar tea


* both terms come from the exhibition notes from the Modern Art Oxford show.