Monday 20 March 2023

‘Stitching soft matter’ Artists Book Launch

Simon Whitehead

31 January 2023. ARC Atrium. University of Glasgow.

A procession of many hands holding, touch touching itself…

A limited edition artists’ book, Stitching soft matter contains an archive of performed touch, pandemic touch diaries, drawing, sewing, photography, scores & an essay by movement artist Simon Whitehead. 

During 2022 I conceived this text-image document as a physical place to re-compose, archive and consider the processes, writing, responses, images and materials of my practice based research. I see this text as  an assembling of traces and it fulfils part of my practice portfolio for my PaR thesis. At a time where the bodied/material aspect of my practice had been greatly altered by the pandemic this became a medium to engage creative and scholarly communities with my thinking. soft matter is an iterative process of research-creation that provides a ground for thinking through the materialist nature of ‘diffraction’. [1] By doing so, an ‘ecology of touch’ is produced through the intra-activity of bodies that are entangled with non human materials. In this case, the exoskeleton-like remainder of a pair of cotton gloves which were used to archive human touch during the Covid-19 pandemic. Activated in performance, the ecological forces inherent in these materials irradiate living bodies opening them up to affect. (For a more detailed analysis of these practices please refer to the short essay ‘POSTAMBLE’ in the book Stitching soft matter. (2022: 67-71))

‘The evening launch was well-attended by a lively mix of University researchers and visitors from beyond. I became aware, that for me, this was the first time in 3 years I had been able to share my practice in a physical context, the event was both celebratory and emotional. 

The evening proceeded with a contextualisation of practice by Professor Carl Lavery and myself and a live improvisation by dance artists Joanna Young and Saffy Setohy and myself, performing with the conjoined gloves and text made during the project.  As everyone had left their seats, a proposal followed to those present to participate in a touch score together(one of the 4 pull-out scores included in the book), the experience set the tone for a culminating discussion. We talked about ecologies of touch; the imperatives, complexities and the process of re-turn to others following the pandemic. It seemed that in small ways the event offered ways to express and experience these themes together. 

People then browsed the books (some were sold!)’

(The ARC atrium was later to provide the space for the culminating performance of the Stitching soft matter project on 24 February 2023.)

Stitching soft matter is funded by SGSAH (The Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities) and published by shoeless. 


Watch the February 24 performance here.

A Big Thank you to Dear Green Bothy – to Kevin Leomo and Mark Banks for supporting this launch & to Casi Dylan from ARC for generously providing the space. 

Simon Whitehead is currently a 4th Year Phd(PaR)Researcher in The Department of Theatre Studies, University of Glasgow. He is funded by the AHRC and supported by SGSAH.

[1] Diffraction is a term introduced by Karen Barad. In my project, diffraction allows  a method to attune to differences and differentials which, in this project, relate to the movements involved in boundary crossing between materials, bodies and experiences.

Related event

Stitching Soft Matter