To translate the dutch verb ‘dragen’

This work was part of the ArtEZ BEAR graduation show ‘Internal Flame, Eternal Fame’ which was on show from the 29th of June until the 3rd of July, 2022.

Photographs taken by Django van Ardenne

To Translate The Dutch Verb ‘Dragen’ is an interactive installation, consisting of 3 main elements. The first element is a videowork, meant to be watched by up to 3 visitors at a time, while wearing a knitted object together. In the video you see handknitted socks, worn by the friends they were made for, in their homes. You can hear the friends talking about receiving a gift, and how it influenced the relationship between themselves and the person who gave it to them. The conversations are in Dutch, shown with English subtitles.

The second element of the installation is a tentlike shape, hanging by woollen thread from the ceiling. The hanging object is made up out of seperate pieces of fabric, sewn together, creating a quiltlike fabric. Under the object is a matrass, made out of the same fabric, with raw sheep wool inside (this is not known by the visitor, but can be smelled upon lying down). The visitor is invited to lie down under the hanging structure, entering a different space. Inside of the hanging structure, the visitor can now see the thoughts written on the fabric. It can be a little hard to read here and there, because of the light coming through the textile, but by lying down in the structure, the visitor has entered a place to dwell in Maki’s thoughts.

The last element of the installation is an interactive performance, in which Maki is sitting in a big chair with a hank of yarn. When the visitor walks by, the yarn is offered to them, and they are asked to sit down in front of Maki. If the visitor chooses to do so, Maki starts knitting. Sometimes conversations arise, sometimes the visitor sits quietly. Maki is knitting a sock, and when it is finished, he gives it to the visitor who is in front of him at that moment, and starts a new one.

(There are also identical knitted socks for sale in the shop at the entrance of the exhibition, with this act pulling the tension between the status of commodity and the status of gift to the surface)

The following texts were written for the accompanying catalogue of the exhibition:

An approximate translation of the Dutch verb ‘dragen’: 

1. To wear (a garment, a home, a dwelling, the responsibility of care, a role, out) 

2. To carry (a garment, yourself, a burden) 

3 . To hold (a garment, a memory, ancestral knowledge, on) 

Does it remind you of home? Does it make you uncomfortable that I spent hours upon hours knitting this for you? Making stitch after stitch, counting in my head all the rows, keeping track of the pattern, all for you? Or does it make you feel at home, all this time that I spent for you? Would you be willing to help me? To take care of this project together? 

So much dwells within a practice of knitting. There is the history of the material itself, and where it’s from. Did this fiber come from a sheep? Where did the sheep live? Who dyed it, and with what plants? Where did they grow? Then, there is the history of the practice, countless women who knitted sweaters for countless fishermen, following roughly the same pattern, customizing it to suit the specific fisherman, following a pattern based on the hometown he’s from. I wanted to get to know this form of caring for another, to experience being a woman, knitting a sweater for a fisherman. But what if I am not a woman? What if I don’t have a fisherman to knit for? What if I don’t have a hometown to base my patterns on?