Last semester I made some wrapped books by wrapping cloth around books. Drawing from the idea that during the Cultural revolution in China the people would bury their books to save them from being burned.
Unwrapped after five months of storage played around with revealing the memory of the fabric, its action and its history. Does it matter that the books are not present?
Bottari is a Korean traditional package that is wrapped with a simple square cloth; depending on its content, it can be a luggage for a long journey, a gift for a loved one, or storage for someone’s precious memory. Tied bundles, the Bottaries are common everyday objects. Any objects become the Bottaries when they are wrapped by a square piece of traditional fabric in shape of a square, called “Bogagi.” In the past, women made Bogagi cloth out of leftover pieces of fabric and recycle them to bundle various things to transfer or store. Today, Bottari often refers to a bundle of contents or context, often as a story or laughter to be unwrapped in Korean culture. Wrapping Bottaries means packing to leave.
The conceptual ideas that can be drawn from the Bottari really fascinates me… the memory imparted onto cloth of the objects held within it, the relationship to journey or journey’s, its recycled nature of fabric being sewn together by women. Its need for protection or preservation of belongings. The fabric itself is also interesting – holding a history from elsewhere to then protect new objects. I have read that some use transparent fabrics so that the interior is visible but not completely known. For me, these bottari represent belongings and a belonging to somewhere (or nowhere), a nomadic existence. To wrap this bundle, feels like swaddling and caring for a baby, the action of wrapping feels ritualistic.
The nomad is an interesting link. As a parallel I had spent my childhood from home to home, living in and out of cars, chalets, caravans, houses, flats and half way houses… 44 abodes at the current count. How strange that this object should represent Korean culture so strongly and draw notions of my life thousands of miles away. There is something here to explore further.
The role of sewing and women draws me back to a piece I made in 2010 titled ‘Sewing Circle’ a series of sculptures which reference the role of women in bookbinding – how they would only be allowed to fold and stich but not glue or create the covers, a task only undertaken by men. What’s interesting is the gender roles across the two cultures. Men making the wrappers of books in the west, women stitching cloth to create wrappers for objects in the east.