Back in September, I attended the Textile Society of America’s 13th Biennial Symposium, Textiles and Politics. One presentation I looked forward to was Rowland Rickett’s “Pastoral or Political? Art/Work, Public Engagement, and Indigo Farming”. I’ve posted before about Rowland Ricketts’ work here, and his recent projects are just as exciting. IndiGrowing Blue, as described on the project’s Facebook page
is a participatory art project that through the growing and processing of Japanese indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) aims to explore our relationship to our raw materials and the environment from which they come.
IndiGrowing Blue started in 2010 and is ongoing, with special events organized around the transplanting, harvesting, and processing of the indigo.
He shared photos of himself and the local community harvesting indigo in Bloomington, and went on to discuss the exhibit “Fields of Indigo” at the Kranner Art Museum. Fresh indigo plants were brought into galleries and hung to dry to demonstrate their change in color, and dried plants carpeted the floor of another gallery for visitors to participate in winnowing the leaves from the plants (see first photo above).
The gallery had a live sound stream set up, which tied in with sound streams in the indigo field in Bloomington and another in Tokushima, Japan on the webpage of related project, “I am Ai, We are Ai” (ai being Japanese for indigo). In Japan, traditional indigo dyers were invited to choose their favorite shade and dye a length of cloth. The lengths were cut up and put on display in locations that were once important to the indigo trade, but might now be parking lots or malls. Visitors were invited to cut a circle of their favorite shade and create a button to wear. The strips of dyed cloth with their many holes were left up for the determined period of time, gaining more holes as new visitors arrived. Rowland Ricketts wore the button covered in his favorite cloth to his presentation for the TSA Symposium.