Cottonopolis Chronotope – Lessons from a Cinesonic Loom
Deleuze posits in The Fold (1988), that history, arriving through rupture rather than continuity, is like a loom, with its warp and weft and sudden break of threads by ‘an accumulation of forces and timings’. Shamji Vishram, Kutch master weaver, says ‘the powerloom has only one song, it tires the mind...but in handloom if you stop, you might be playing for a while and the mind freshens…sometimes the design and count change the sound and this is a voice for the handloom’ (interview, 2012). The loom is a powerful symbol of craft and village as much as work, city, and imperialism, with a specific temporal choreography defined by factory or workshop locale. The feature documentary Cottonopolis (Greenhalgh, 2012), considers power, time and agency in the manufacture of powerloom and handloom cotton in contemporary India, through the reflections and consciousness of people from “Manchesters”. Expressing this complex film fabric required texturing a cinesonic chronotope and an aesthetic mirroring affective relations with cotton processes. In this sensory ethnographic historiography, time exists within the stories of individuals: cyclical, progressive, sacred, ancestral, historical, traumatic, meditative, memory, machinic, digital, crafted, spontaneous, creative, political, economic…time. Naficy (2001) suggests filmed chronotopes are ‘organizing centres’, involving the ‘human sensorium and memory…temporality often structures feeling’. “Cottonopolis” (Manchester’s old nickname) is still there as a “state of mind”, for impressions of the “great industry that once was” mingle feelings of pride and loss for textile city inhabitants and descendents. Whilst Manchester’s decline and rising mill heritage took several decades, re-industrializing cotton cities, such as Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and Lodz (Poland) discard and recycle, reinvent and rebrand, displace migrants and outsource skills at alarming speed. For this short talk, a film sequence and description of filming weavers and looms will encapsulate different temporalities and suggest ways we might rethink the importance of allowing a “variety of time” in life experience.
Cathy is Principal Lecturer; Film, Sound and Television Programme, Media Faculty, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Originally working as a cinematographer in the film industry, Cathy has produced a long term ethnography with feature film cinematographers and directs and shoots films with elements of choreography, animation, ethnography and documentary for cinema, gallery and museum spaces. Her interests and publications centre on collaborative and interdisciplinary creativity, filmmaking practices and communities of practice, cinematographic phenomena and aesthetics, textiles and colour, performativity and narrative.
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from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013