Binding Autobiographies: Torah Binders Revisited

Oicherman, Ekaterina. 2014. Binding Autobiographies: Torah Binders Revisited. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The thesis investigates contemporary textile practice and its links to traditional forms of textile art. It focuses on the 19th century German circumcision binders (“Jewishing cloths”), ceremonial Torah scroll wrappings, which documented male births. The case study examines images on the seams of a 1836 binder, showing that the seams acted as a transitional territory, where the embroiderer consciously played around with traditional images, transposing the concern with birth and fertility into a concern with a cultural identity formation during the Jewish emancipation in Germany.

The contemporary museal staging of the binder is criticised as a nostalgic vision of Judaism, refusing to recognize the binder's contemporaneous position, ignoring its singularity as a contradictory repository of modern Jewish identity hi/stories. On this critique the practical part of the thesis is based, developing as an appropriation or a “re-actualisation” of a traditional textile format in the contemporary textile practice. Such “re-actualisation” is positioned in the relevant textile art context and reflected through my textile practice and an “autobiographical” account of it. Through its practice-based and written components the thesis reflects upon and makes way for creation of works, where my autobiographical female stories of Jewishness in Israel are staged as a fictional binder. The shifting position of cloth in between the historical and the contemporary accounts, in between autobiography, practice and research, is addressed through the concept of subjectile by J. Derrida.

The practice investigated “hands on” the particularities of the 1836 binder, exploring its letters, images, materials and techniques, appropriating and reshaping them. This practical exploration modified the research, shifting its emphasis towards the embodied and performative reading of the binder and related rituals. The thesis proposes a general design for a research-based practice. Alongside its contribution to the history of Jewish textiles and contemporary textile practice, it unfolds interrelated “biographies” of research and textile practice.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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8 September 2014

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Date Deposited:

09 Sep 2014 09:13

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2022 22:09


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