MCA Curatorial Assistant Kelly McDonald discusses Lee Mingwei’s The Mending Project.
You have been monitoring the pile of clothes over the weeks since the Biennale opened. Are there as many items as you had predicted?
Yes I have! I wasn’t sure if we’d use every thread but the table has gradually grown full of clothes, with piles stacked quite high.
What is the strangest item that you have spotted in the pile?
There is a (clean) disposable nappy which now features some lovely hand sewn embroidery.
And the cutest?
There are a few gorgeous teddy bears down there!
How many spools of thread have been connected to the artwork?
There are over 700 spools of thread on the wall and roughly 500 have been connected to a piece of clothing.
Were all the spools of thread meant to connect to the artwork to complete the work or is this a never-ending work in progress?
This work is an on-going process. Lee Mingwei often uses ideas of time and duration as part of his work. The Mending Project has previously exhibited at the European Capital of Culture, Guimaraes, Portugal in 2012; Lombard-Freid Projects, New York in 2009, and Re-Thinking Trade, Liverpool Biennial 2010, UK.
Have you found that people are reluctant to leave their clothing for the duration of the exhibition?
I’ve actually been surprised by the sentimental value of some of the pieces that have been left as part of the work. Most people have been happy to be part of the artwork, even if it does mean leaving behind something they own. There is an element of trust in this work, with people leaving their possessions in the Museum, and with the artist or volunteer for the encounter.
Do you think that people understand the work’s “mending” concept and the idea that they are encouraged to bring in their own items of clothing in order to create a connection with the artist/volunteer sat at the table?
Quite a few visitors knew about The Mending Project and brought garments with them to be mended. There were visitors who improvised and left something they were wearing, while some made a second visit to the MCA so they could participate in the artwork. Once people understood the idea of mending as a gift and a way of adding something to the object as part of the mending process, they were usually very keen.
Do you have any idea what people talked about during the mending process?
I don’t know what was discussed as these were private conversations. One of the big ideas of this work is the gift of having a conversation with a stranger. Each conversation would, therefore, have been quite different and the possibilities for topics is almost endless.
Is there a time limit to each mending process?
Most people participated in the work for 15 minutes. The only limit to this was if there were other people waiting to participate.
With just under two weeks left until the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations wraps up, when will the audience be able to pick up their clothes and where?
Garments can be collected until Friday September 21, by phoning 0413 916 876 to arrange a time during business hours.
Will they walk away with any signature alterations that will transform the items into a work of art in their own right?
Hopefully people feel that way. This work is so much about the gift of having something broken being mended by a stranger, and the gift of having a conversation with a stranger. The mending is deliberate and visible, and frequently quite decorative.
The 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations runs until 16 September 2012.
For more information on the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations, check out the website
Posted by Kelly Stone