A poetic engagement in reproduction #1

For my Melbourne Now installation, A poetic engagement in reproduction #1, I was drawn to a group of eighteenth Century brocade fragments from the NGV’s Fashion and Textiles Collection. These works were a reference point for the production of a large-scale weaving that was later reproduced as a digital textile print. The large scale work has been woven progressively in situ over the duration of Melbourne Now. A second and final digital print reproduction of the woven work has just been hung in the installation and is on view until March 22nd.


The fragments were a starting point for this cyclical work because the brocade loom enabled hand embroidery to be mechanically reproduced. I was also enchanted by their decorative motifs which capture a fleeting moment of perfection such as a fluttering ribbon or scrolling pieces of lace in their design. I also liked how ribbons and lace which are normally applied to the top of a garment have been embedded into the textile.

Before I commenced this weaving I prepared a small sample that referenced my favourite historical brocades; much like a preparatory sketch or watercolour that precedes a larger oil painting. This small sample served as a starting point and guide but the work on the loom took on a momentum of its own as it unfolded over a larger scale. The size of the loom has allowed me to unpack a great variation of colour that reflects the working atmosphere of the installation and  the palette of the brocade fragments.


The piece I have been weaving has become increasingly three-dimensional as a result of working alongside the original brocades and observing responses from the public. Viewers think that the digital reproduction is guiding the weaving and not that it is the direct result of it. It is great to share conversations about how we go about reproducing things and to tap into common concerns for reproduction to be driven by more than simply the desire for cheaper goods.

Susan Dimasi