In January 2020, The Weaving Mill got word that Notre (a clothing store in Chicago) was seeking a home for some 500 pounds of partially-processed cotton waste material. It had come from a manufacturing plant in South Carolina where, if it hadn’t been diverted to Chicago for display purposes, it would have been cleaned and processed to produce a recycled cotton yarn which would then be made into t-shirts by the company Everybody.world.
A few months later, with the pandemic putting the freeze on most projects and programs, TWM decided to make this raw material the centerpiece of the 2020 W.A.R.P. (Westtown Artist Residency Project) cycle. From April-June, they sent out 97 boxes of cotton fluff to artists around the country to do with it what they would. They received a great variety of responses back, which are documented and showcased in an exhibition and publication, Cotton: Raw Material & Precious Metaphor.
The timing of this material-prompt felt particularly potent, with continued protests against systemic racism and police brutality forcing re-evaluations of racial inequality in our nation’s history & present. Cotton—its production, processing, profitability—was the driving force in the antebellum plantation slavery system and the removal of Native Americans from their lands across the Southeast. And even if those histories aren’t always immediately apparent in the material itself, they are there, and if one listens closely, the material may just offer a means of understanding where we’ve been and where we might go...
Emily Winter & Kendall Schauder Curation & Publication Design with Matt Wagstaffe Exhibition Design Alice Gong