UPCOMING - 5 Needle, 5 Wire | Thames-Side studios, London
5th August – 22nd August 2022
I N F E M S - I n t e r s e c t i o n a l F e m i n i s t A r t C o l l e c t i v e
c o m e s t o London @ Thames-Side studios
Art Exhibition: 5 Needle, 5 Wire
InFems @ Thames-Side studios
Harrington Way, London SE18 5NR, United Kingdom
InFems art collective presents 5 Needle, 5 Wire
Thames-Side studios sits on the site of the old Siemens factory in an area with a history of factory workers, engineers, and makers. InFems’ exhibition takes its name from the five needle telegraph system, patented in 1837 at the start of the Victorian era. Designed by Charles Wheatstone, this diamond-shaped open dial was alphabetical, with five needles worked by five different wires that could be manipulated to point to the required letter. If the name for this innovation was prosaic, it is rich in associations. 5 is a key number in so many systems. Religions - Five Pillars of Islam, five-faced Shiva, the Hindu god, Christ’s Five Sacred Wounds, the Five Books of Moses, five sacred Sikh symbols; the five elements of the Ancient Greeks - earth, water, air, fire, and spirit; the five virtues in Chinese philosophy - generosity, kindness, gravity, sincerity, and earnestness, and so on. Needle recalls the domestic sphere. Stitching, a history of women making samplers or quilts, a pulling together. Sometimes that sewing was subversive. The sampler of nineteenth- century needle-worker Lorina Bulwer, imprisoned in the lunatic ward at Great Yarmouth
Workhouse, reads "I HAVE WASTED TEN YEARS IN THIS DAMNATION HELL FIRE TRAMP DEN OF OLD WOMEN OLD HAGS". Needle as verb. Women who needle, who won’t let something go.
Wire A tangle of wires buried underground, transmitting messages, unseen communications beneath our feet. Like secret languages that travel and evolve: African braids to Egyptian braids to Ancient Greek braids; Polari, the C18th code of vagrants, itinerant performers, sailors, and travellers, adopted and altered by the gay community to protect itself; an artist devising her own personal language of symbols; shadow play and scribblings in invisible ink. 5 Needle, 5 Wire. Where there’s communication, there’s the potential for miscommunication. For women to be silenced. The system could only hold 20 letters. C, J, Q,U and X were left out. What was garbled, or left unsaid?