Wise Monkeys and Gobstoppers

Wise Monkeys and Gobstoppers

machine and hand knitted wool, cotton and elastic, pompoms, buttons, glass heads
installed at firstsite at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester

This series of work was inspired by the 17th century “scold’s bridle” which was used to punish scolds or gossips. These were, of course, primarily women as are the majority of knitters. I became interested in the idea of producing your own form of torture or punishment. Sitting down and doing something passive, creative and “useful”, such as knitting, only to have it used to punish or torture you. These cute, friendly, fluffy pieces beguile their actual use. Having the pompom in your mouth is a revolting experience, which would soon choke you. In “Wise Monkeys” the idea is taken further to also prevent you from using some of your other senses. You hearing is muffled by the pompoms. You eyes are blinded, being replaced by the traditional knitted toy’s eyes, the button.

The large bridle piece is based on an actual “scold’s bridle” in the Royal Armouries in The Tower of London. This piece contrasts pleasure with pain. The bridle is “plated” (lined) with cashmere yarn and, where as the original bridle had a serrated iron tongue for insertion into the mouth, this has a cashmere and mohair pompom. This piece also has pompoms to muffle your hearing and fastens around the face by the use of buttons instead of an iron padlock. The title “Wise Monkeys” comes from those Three Wise Monkeys who could “Hear no evil”, “See no evil” and “Speak no evil”.

(Written statement for Ikons of Identity, 
a Craftspace touring exhibition, 2001 – 2002)

07 June 2001