„entwürfe“ no. 41, magazine for literature 2005

Knitting! Constantly knitting!

As a child I must have listened to a Punch cassette at least a thousand times, much to the dismay of my mother: the one in which the dainty princess is held captive by the dreadful giant. Because he loves cacao, she has to make bathtubs full of it for him. She also has to knit him a scarf, which is naturally about as long as the distance from Switzerland to Honolulu and back. She knits and knits this never-ending scarf, exclaiming over and over again in despair: “Knitting! Constantly knitting!” This was something I could fully relate to, for I had just learned to knit. Knitting is women’s work. This seems to be self-evident. And it is machine work. This is taken even more for granted these days, because knitting something yourself is no longer an everyday necessity but rather a hobby.
Patience is required to bring a woollen thread into a desired shape or a three-dimensional form using two needles and constantly the same motion. The perseverance, love, concentration, or even boredom and impatience, required to produce an object over time by repeating a sequence over and over again, successively, step by step is indeed a metaphor for life. Knitting, constantly knitting: we weave the tapestry of our life, knit our life story. We move along recurrent themes repeatedly redefined, knit the contexts of meaning and weave our network of relationships. Perhaps insight can only be successively acquired, and every now and then we attempt to escape from the labyrinths of everyday life, like Theseus along Ariadne’s thread. “Living means knitting tights” is the title of a work by the German artist Rosemarie Trockel, whose knitted pictures and objects, among other things, have brought her fame.

Since the end of the 1980s, Brigitt Lademann has also dealt with the world of housekeeping and cooking, a realm largely associated with women. For example, vacuum cleaners are used to inflate plastic bags; or sugar, in various stages of caramelization, layered on baking sheets – a colour palette ranging from white to yellow, brown to black. And then there is a work comprised of fruit tarts, or her “Educational soup,” one of her earlier works made from some 90 different instant alphabet soups incorporating stories, sayings and lyrics from her (and our) childhood and adolescence. Lademann creates installations which examine quotidian tasks – repetitive, yet existentially essential – with a discerning view and appreciation of absurdities. For her it is also about rendering visible structures, lines, colours and shapes, a more obvious theme in drawings and paintings, by means of household and kitchen objects and thereby evoking stories. Implementing materials divergent from their designated mode of use and hence putting them up for discussion enables her to tell something about the social consensus associated with them. Moreover, this provides a new perspective of their sensory qualities, be it vacuum cleaners, sugar, fruit tarts or wool. All of a sudden ordinary objects, used habitually and therefore without thinking, develop fairytale magic, reveal their philosophical and their comical side.

For some time now Brigitt Lademann has worked on large knitted objects. In parallel, knit drawings, in a sense, are created on the computer: knitting with a single thread is not far removed from drawing with a line. Joining stitches together has a kindred serial character. Like stitches, the letters of the alphabet have to be strung together and only make sense in the proper sequence. With her work made especially for “entwürfe,” Brigitt Lademann has knit a drawing using the computer and, as is right and proper for woollens, the front and back match. From the surface, the eye gradually zooms in on the individual loops and stitches, until these become a symbol and individual characters – like the individual letters of the alphabet in a woven text.

Nadine Olonetzky
Sharon Kroska e