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.
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.
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!)
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)
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.
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…
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.