25 Sep 2020
In Focus - the textile work of Emily Lazerwitz
In this article, we look at artist Emily Lazerwitz’s new politically charged rugs and textile work.
This week, we look at the inner workings of an Emily Lazerwitz textile. Textile pieces and rug works are an integral part of Emily Lazerwitz’s practice. Art, craft and science come together in these intricate works.
Emily Lazerwitz textile work
Importantly, this recent Emily Lazerwitz textile marks key historical moments in her textile work. In her latest work, ‘The President’s Daily Brief – April 6 1968’, 2020, the rug takes as its source an excerpt from the US president’s 1968 daily brief and highlights it. Lyndon B Johnson’s government made this statement on 6 April, on a day of rioting following the assassination of Martin Luther King. Made in August of this year, Emily describes – “I was reading through the daily briefs from 1968 as a way to reflect on what is happening today. This phrase really struck me and felt apt as a response to the present status quo.” Importantly, dark humour always plays in Emily’s work and for her, this piece is more explicit.
The President’s Daily Brief – April 6 1968
Hand tufted wool rug hung on butcher hooks, 2020
80 x 100 cm
Lazerwitz made this new work once she was able to access her studio during lockdown. In an effort to understand and gain perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and the Trump Administration’s response, Lazerwitz started reading through the President’s Daily Briefs from 1968 – a pivotal year in American politics and the Civil Right’s Movement. Whilst Lazeritz read through these briefings, she came across the phrase ‘There is nothing significant to report at this time.’ This phrase really struck Lazerwitz and to her it encapsulated all her feelings about how the government was responding to Black Lives Matter as well as the pandemic.
Crucially, the phrase came from a report made two days after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Although the phrase itself was not necessarily in direct comment to that event, Lazerwitz felt that it represented how the US government has so often responded to issues surrounding civil rights and racism throughout the country’s history. By taking this phrase, and making it the subject of a rug, Lazerwitz is giving it weight as well as taking it out of a forgotten government document and putting it back in the public realm. Finally, she uses the strategy by the current administration – taking a phrase out of context – but this time the result is anything but ‘fake news’.
In this earlier Emily Lazerwitz textile, ‘USD-GBP-EUR-JPY-AUD-CAD-CHF-HKD-KRW’, 2016, Lazerwitz uses the currency exchange on the day of the EU referendum results as her source. Tracking the different currencies at this pivotal moment, the work becomes a document of an important historical moment. Lazerwitz transcribes the currency figures on the rug, making a monochrome where the seemingly abstract work is in fact an image of Brexit.
The use of the rug also implies a sense of craft and the hand-made. It connects the work to a long heritage of contemporary textiles, most specifically the work of Anni Albers, or more contemporary artists such as Sheila Hicks or Brent Wadden. As such, Lazerwitz presents a multi-layered and complex work, part historical document, part art-historical. It is a striking piece that marks a defining moment of history.
Hand speed-tufted wool rug (statistics courtesy of the Global Terrorism Database), 2018
148.5 x 115.5 cm
Lazeritz’s artwork ‘DOC_00000200100.pdf’ is from an ongoing series – referred to as ‘The Archive’ (2017). The series currently consists of 3 textile works. Each “document” displays data representing terrorist attacks in the United States sourced by the Global Terrorism Database from a certain period of time. Predominantly, the style of redacted government intelligence documents is mimicked by data. Each ‘attack’ is represented through a series of letters followed by black bars. Finally, at the bottom right corner, the time period shown by the rug is listed.
Lazerwitz explores themes of patterns and codes in her work as well as the act of redaction. It appears in her redacted books series, as well as in other objects such as rugs and scarves.
In another new work, ‘Proof’, 2020, shown below, Lazerwitz created the piece by allowing the equipment to in part dictate the pattern. The work was created while she had previously had been looking at a lot of redacted documents and the pattern is reminiscent of that but has now become abstract.
Tufted wool rug mounted on frame, 2020
92 x 122 cm
Whats more, Emily Lazerwitz will be showing ‘The President’s Daily Brief – April 6 1968’, 2020 and ‘The Library of Babel’ . This will take place in an exhibition at Copeland Park & Bussey Building – 22 – 27 September 2020.
‘The Library of Babel’
‘Importantly, ‘The Library of Babel’ is an on-going series of redacted books begun in 2014. Since, she has revisited them at the start of the government imposed ‘lock-down’. Unfortunately, Lazerwitz was limited in both space and materials without access to her studio.
Specifically, she makes the series of works by using books and black sharpies. Using this method, Lazerwitz removes all words in these texts that are not Semantic Primes. To explain, Semantic Primes are words that exist throughout all languages at their simplest form. Through this, Lazerwitz initially choses texts she has read and redacted very purposefully when she started the project in 2014. As a response to her current situation, she thought it apt to allow the texts to be chosen by chance. As a result, the collection of texts play with the reduction of language at it’s core.