Back in mid-June we had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Dr Kat Jungnickel and Ellen Fowles from the POP Lab at Goldsmiths University to ETHOS Lab.
Dr Kat Jungnickel is the PI and Ellen Fowles is the Research Assistant and Project Manager on the ERC funded projects Politics of Patents: Reimagining Citizenship via Clothing Inventions (1820-2020). This project explores citizenship and changing socio-political issues via speculative sewing – by researching, reconstructing and re-imagining a collection of lesser-known inventions from 200 years of clothing inventions.
For the workshop Kat and Ellen hosted in the lab we (literally) got into historic research – textually, visually, and materially. We explored hands-on feminist, inventive and speculative methods in theory and practice in relation to socio-technical histories. The research explores connections between citizens and clothing, asking how inventors create new forms of clothing, that resist, subvert or disrupt social and political norms and beliefs, and in the process, bring new expressions of citizenship into being. In their work, the team also explores archives not only in terms of what is present but what is absent, who is silenced and how we might inventively and creatively respond to the ‘telling blanks and perversely wilful holes’ (Kat Jungnickel, 2022).
On the first day of their visit, Kat gave a talk about their project, which was then followed the next day with a workshop hosted by ETHOS. It was such a delight having the workshop follow the talk, because it allowed us to try on the research in a novice way where Kat and Ellen could also gain something from us trying on the garments and analysing some of the materials (patents). They really just allowed us to bring our fresh eyes to the materials, which was a wonderful creative exercise.
One thing we really enjoyed getting an insight into was how this project builds on Kat’s previous work from Bikes and Bloomers (a research project focusing on Victorian women inventors and their cycle wear through the recreation of patented designs) – to extend this concept of patent research to a larger body of data/patents. The Politics of Patents project is a huge undertaking, looking at a vast repository of patents, but it was so nice to see how Kat builds continuity with her previous work.
So, what happens when you handle and wear items of research? In this case at least, it allowed us to experience the sense of self that comes with this method, and the sense of thinking about oneself through clothing in relation to others in a different time and place. Thinking about what it means to try to find and makesolutions – and to share them.
Kat posed questions such as ‘what can clothing inventions tell us about citizenship?’ and ‘which bodies are clothed in different discourses during different times?’.
And indeed, being in this workshop brought us back to a time where there was a sense of possibility for creation and where patents, arguably more so than today due to extreme processing times and fees, were a way to make your mark in the world.
However, as already mentioned, as soon as you’ve managed to get your excitement about the world of patents under control, it of course also inspires questions about missing data. Who is in the archives? And who is not? Questions that the POP Lab members also often ask themselves.
Regardless of the answers to these questions, we are so grateful that Kat and Ellen came to visit us and enchant us with their work. It was a breath of fresh air when a lot of us really needed it. And it was a reminder that perhaps sometimes we don’t need to know all the answers in advance. Sometimes we might just trust the process and try to make sense of things through making things.