Apr 29 2012: Eighteen Plates from The Art of Macrame: Modern Design in Knotting by Joan Fisher (Hamlyn, 1972)
Despite both pre-dating and surviving the 1970s, the art of macrame is nevertheless almost entirely identified with the post-hippie decade in which handicrafts, self-sufficiency, nascent feminist politics and early ecological consciousness converged around the visual symbolism of the knotted string and woollen construction: whether a poncho, a chess set, a headband or – in one bizarre item featured in this 1972 Hamlyn publication filled with all kinds of patterns and instructions about things to make – a full-scale Demoiselles d’Avignon-era Picasso version of an African Mask made entirely of white wool. Some of the items are practical – the wristbands, bag and waistcoats, for example – while others are less obviously functional, like the Eva Hesse style abstract forms or the column of coloured fabrics that might appear to have found its way into the book by way of an Eva Rothschild exhibition if it didn’t pre-date her sculptural career by three decades. This non-functional category, although the items in question photograph as though intended for use, would almost certainly include the rather uncanny-looking doll, with its overtones of voodoo, that seems unsuited to any child, or the bikini seen above, a bathing garment that it’s hard to imagine surviving long in the sun or sea-water, points that render both almost Duchampian artefacts in their considered uselessness. This is even before we come to the very odd veil, which from a 21st century perspective seems to forge a surreal convergence between 1970s hippiedom and the Taliban’s dictates on appropriate dress that would be worthy of judgement as a prescient art project had the unlikely effect been consciously rather than largely accidentally created.