A Past That Does Not Pass By

Pearl cotton thread, calico
Dimensions variable

A Past That Does Not Pass By is part of a series of studies that explores personal trauma and anxiety through obsessive acts of embroidery that lie between therapy and torture. Here is the ghost of a text that has been meticulously stitched, then entirely unpicked, the lengths of thread that formed each line hanging loose and frayed. The text itself is illegible, but its absence has been made present in the small residual fibres that have accrued along widened gaps in the weave, like tiny wounds with needle as weapon. It is both ink stains on a page and bruises across skin.

The only indication of the original text is a citation identifying it as an excerpt from a chapter called ‘Life and Death of Speech’ in Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. The piece itself was conceived in response to two texts by Sigmund Freud: ‘Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through’ and ‘Mourning and Melancholia’.

The embroidery, or its echo, thus becomes emblematic of a pain spoken then silenced, revealed then repressed; the unpicking resides in an ambivalent space between letting-go and burying-within.

The original embroidered text can be seen here: Front | Back

This work was exhibited in Mementos: A collective exhibition, at Deptford Does Art in London, United Kingdom, from 13-16 June 2019. The show was organised by students of the Transcultural Memory module, led by Astrid Schmetterling, part of the MA Contemporary Art Theory programme in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.