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Clothing the Pacific: The Study of the Nature of Innovation
Director of collaborative research programme, UCL, Goldsmiths College, and The British Museum. The first project submitted under the auspices of The London Centre for Visual and Material Culture. The part historical, part contemporary project investigated the co-occurrence of the introduction of clothing into the Pacific and the conversion to Christianity. The research team investigated archives and collections and conducted primary fieldwork in a number of strategically placed areas. To my role as coordinator of research and output was also added primary ethnographic research which I conducted in the Cook Islands where highly innovative fabric quilts have taken over the role of Pandanus mats as exchange items. The research led to the theoretical exploration of material translation and the systemic relation between media and material technologies in the Pacific. Theoretically, this question of innovation and of a sociality with objects in societies where objects are tokens of knowledge, is currently being developed in relation to the development of ‘smart fabrics’ and ubiquitous computing. In relation to the Cook Island material, the implication for material culture was explored primarily in relation to the existing analysis of pattern as the starting point for an object based theory of knowledge, incorporating a mathematical and cognitive perspective on design. The publication of Pacific Pattern (2005) with Thames&Hudson made it possible to shed light on the materiality of pattern in the everyday and to direct attention away from male-dominated ritual arts to works in fibre and fabric whose examples have lingered in collections and have largely been eclipsed from analytical perspective.
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