GPS Embroidery is an ongoing project which aims to broaden ideas about who-gets-to-write-what-where in and about the British landscape.
The title refers to the way the GPS signal to the satellites mirrors the to and fro of the embroidery needle, as both create their path across space. Embroidery is historically associated with women and domesticity. Embroidering with GPS subverts these traditional understandings, making a claim for self-expression outside the home and in public space, too.
The landscape as mother – a 21st century approach
I began to use this tool of imperial power as a response to ideas we have inherited from Romantic literature. These frequently frame the landscape as mother, but don’t leave much room for her as individual within it. In contemporary politics, these understandings still remain emotive (think of mother country, home office, domestic policy, and their recent (mis)uses).
In 2016, as a way to query the reactionary politics implicitly justified by the phrase “as a mother” (Andrea Leadsom, 2016), I embroidered texts by Romantic mothers across the British landscape. Since 2017, I have been running GPS embroidery workshops with other people who mother; to talk and walk with purpose but without direction, enjoying the conviviality of embroidering together. Walking with others offers new ways of understanding them that goes beyond words. This is a project about shared ideas rather than individual perspectives. Participants have composed some texts, others were chosen, and all have a connection to the place where we embroidered them.
Embroidering with GPS
This performance of writing slows down the process of composing words, drawing attention to the shapes and interrelationships of letters, and to the peculiarity of English spelling. The landscape itself weaves its way into the work, and in the interactions and imperfections that create these embroideries, new scripts are formed, and tired, worn phrases are rewritten.
Eventually we will create a multiplicity of 21st century embroideries, legacies to pass down like the domestically-produced examples from the past.
Home isn’t the only place that’s sweet.