The Sewing Machine’s Text: Mixed Media

Artist Statement

When we look at a book on our shelf or laying on a table, we can estimate how long it would take for us to read it or how long it took [the book’s author] to write it by guessing the number of pages it contains. The page of a book is a unit of time as experienced by an individual; an hour or a minute are the same for everyone, but our time on a page is defined by our emotional and physical experience. To this date I have been working on several projects aimed to the exploration of time and space within the book format, and my Apollinaire is one of them. The book consists of 16 pages of sewing machine embroidered, watercolor painted pages.

The text, from Méditations Esthétiques by G. Apollinaire, is handwritten first in French and then in English through the book, every word finding its space within the embroidered or pen drawn lines:

J’aime l’art d’aujourd’hui parce que j’aime avant tout la lumière et tous les hommes aiment avant tout la lumière, ils ont inventé le feu. I love today’s art because first of all I love light and all people love light most of all, they invented fire.

Because of the sewing machine’s ability to produce a real three-dimensional line embracing the two sides of the paper, it is possible to define time and space while working through the page: when I worked on side one of the first of the 16 pages of Apollinaire with my sewing machine, I could only imagine what I would see on side two. As soon as I was able to turn the page, I would be confronted with the future side of the present on page one, along with the memory of its past, and therefore I could proceed by sewing on page three, again reaching into page four with my needle, drawing my embroidered line that embraced the two sides of my page. This process was repeated throughout the 16 pages of the book, defining my exploration within a signature made with a 22 x 30 sheet of paper.

Elena BerrioloElena Berriolo was born in Savona, Italy, in 1959. She moved to New York in 1994. Since 2012, she has engaged in collaborative performances with musicians and writers, including “Sewing Music into Visual Art,” with sewing machine, piano, and violin; and, in 2013 and 2015, “Feed Me The Line,” with sewing machine and poetry.

Her work has been acquired by a number of institutions, including: Biblioteque National de France; Smith College Northampton, MA; University of Delaware Library, Newark, DE; Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, Germany; Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, La Jolla, CA.