What We Are Made Of

they came with sugar not of sugarcane
sweetness not of cotton but of air
they came with cakes not funneled down to grease
with layers like clouds
they came every day like it was their birthday
or yours
one or both
that was when they first came
* excerpt from M Archive: After the End of the World (Alexis Pauline Gumbs)

When I was in my late teens I sat in a bar with a friend. My friend, who was politically active in the local Labour Party, asked: “What would you like to change in education?” I answered that I would like us to read more poetry in school. He laughed. I had just discovered theatre. What I was trying to say back then was that access to culture wasn’t a given, but imagination was.

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In Flights, Olga Tokarczuk writes: “The ruler who sets up taxes has his sway over what his subjects will eat, what they shall sleep on, and whether they’ll wear linen or silk.”  The realties lived through religion, nation states, identities, communities, families, friends, clubs, work places, sports teams, farms, industries, consumption, leisure time, politics, and administration. Yes, we wear clothes, and textiles help a place to become a home. What would it mean to decolonize cotton? To decolonize clothing and everyday textiles? In Flights one of the novel’s protagonists desires to rule over her own time, and, by spending maybe a little bit too much time in airports, she gets trapped in this privilege of the middle class, its movement stood still. Olga Tokarczuk writes in Flights that the king, when he still had power, never cared about the feeling of his minions, but rather about how soft or rough a material felt on the human body, the general atmosphere of an environment, like a curtain or a temperature in a room. A material quality. How do they transform? Is to name it a symbol or a trap? What are the rough, violent, and hard words for this touch? When the skin of the hands is ripped and left bleeding? When lungs can no longer breathe and tumors are growing inside one’s own body? It is a surface, you say, but haven’t clothes always been used as one of many parameters to restrain and restrict bodies, and only sometimes to let them run, let them stir?

Cassandra—cursed to utter true prophecies but never be believed
Maria—mistress of the sea
Edel—noble one
Aida—happy, or, “run across the field”
Aminah—trustworthy, also the name of the Prophet Muhammed’s mother

Editorial work: Katherine MacBride
Production support: Irina de Graaf, Rianne Groen, Lou Stoppard, Het Nieuwe Instituut

This piece of writing is dedicated to Umida Niyazova, who was forced to flee her native Uzbekistan in 2009 because of her human rights work related to cotton.

What We Are Made Of follows Aida on a visit to her parents’ farm near Nukus in Uzbekistan, where her family is forced to work in the cotton fields on a seasonal basis. We also visit Mike, an LA-based musician, and the Vienna-based influencer Cassandra who is 80% pro-vegan and ‘trying to be against fast fashion’. Cotton – ‘the raw material of our everyday life’ – entangles stories across the globe in an under-layer about sustainability and socio-political issues.    
Angelica Falkeling lives and works in Rotterdam, NL. They graduated with a BFA from Malmö Art Academy and the International Academy of Art Palestine in 2014 and with an MFA from the Piet Zwart Institute in 2017. They received the Swedish Art Grants Committees two year working grant in 2020, and the Mondriaan Fonds Stipend for Emerging Artists in 2018. They make site-specific installations and work with exhibition formats that include live performance, textile, sculpture, moving image, and text-based works. They are concerned about the economic and ecological aspects of artistic production from a queer, feminist, and intersectional point of view. In the scale of the domestic, their persona often appears as a queer instigator, tailor, and storyteller who experiment with different textile craft techniques passed on through cross-generational dialogues, humour and geological time. Their work departs from and within the body. They respond to sites via material recycling and social relations. In their collaborative work, they think through emotional adaptation in relation to the social. They are also trained as a seamstress and regularly create costume designs and take on sewing commissions for other artists such as Rana Hamadeh, Katherine MacBride, Pilar Mata Dupont, Evelyn Taocheng Wang and Katarina Zdjelar.

They are currently working on a chapter-based exhibition together with Selma Sjöstedt and Sara Lindeborg at Signal | center for contemporary art in Malmö. Their work has recently been part of The Hoodie at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Emotional Channel at Rib in Rotterdam, OC, L.A The Car Show: Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung a self-organised RV touring exhibition in California, USA, A tip’s felt dance at Available &The Rat in Rotterdam, Gift Economy at Pracownia Portretu Gallery in Łódź, Poland, tongue break inhaling at CCA Glasgow, Scotland, and Teaser, Tormentors, and the Infinite Dog at CAC Brétigny in Paris, France. Since 2018 they are also one of the facilitators of the queer art and community space Tender Center Rotterdam.