Joanna Rogers. Our Last Cry. Detail II. (1)
the chorus

the chorus

joanna rogers

on view in gallery: february 23 - april 20, 2023

artist talk: 6:00p, february 23
carousel theatre, 1411 cartwright st, granville island

The Chorus consists of a series of weavings, each containing its own morse code message. These create an abstracted Analytical Engine programmed to transform the past into the present and to translate the future into cryptic Cassandrian prophesies. The weavings are approximately 15 feet long and between 12 and 18 inches wide. When displayed they hang down like banners or scrolls pooling onto plinths, resembling sunlight streaming through stained glass windows. They are a visual representation of the Chorus in a Greek tragedy, providing a repetitious running commentary on the fate of our endangered species and, ultimately, on ourselves. 

I am interested in non-verbal methods of communication, like morse code and semaphore, which have fallen out of use. I am fascinated by the patterns they create as well as the messages they impart. I use a traditional Summer and Winter weaving pattern to create the morse code messages, which can be read both horizontally and vertically. The summer and winter pattern is created by blocks of contrasting colours and lends itself remarkably well to translating morse code into a pattern. The blocks set up a binary system which references Jacquard looms, the inspiration for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, the first general purpose computer, created by Babbage and refined by Ada Lovelace who saw the far reaching potential of this machine. It is Ada’s vision that provides the truest link between the  Analytical Engine and my weavings.

The messages I have woven in this series are fragments from poems and could be the last words our endangered species silently scream before they disappear forever. All comment on the transitory nature of life along with its fragility and beauty. These are the prophesies. One weaving contains the message Save Our Souls; not from a poem, but a phrase most of us are familiar with in it’s morse code form of dot, dot, dot, dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot. This urgent call for help draws the viewer into the exhibition. 

Within each weaving, the message is repeated, as if this repetition might make the message clearer. However, most of us cannot decipher morse code and, even if we could, without a cipher to the weavings, the messages are lost to us as will be our endangered species. The warps and wefts are hand dyed by me with a selection of natural dyes.

The warps are all mercerized cotton but the wefts are cotton, silk, wool and linen. These diverse fibres take the dyes in various ways creating a different look and feel to each piece. I have chosen to dye my own warps and wefts using natural dyes to better immerse myself in the process of creating these weavings. The dyes I use have been sustainably harvested, some from afar and some from my own garden. Similar dyes have been used by weavers for hundreds of years and across continents. I am inserting my practice into a global and time-honoured tradition, thereby, again, becoming a link between the past and the present.

The Chorus provides a way of processing possible futures. By translating morse code from sound to visual representation it allows us to see what we cannot hear.

about joanna rogers

Joanna has always enjoyed finding an oddness in things and strives to give visual voice to the incongruities she encounters, or imagines, as she goes about her daily life.

Joanna works with textiles, found objects and photographs. She is drawn to traditional surface design techniques such as hand dying, shibori, and hand weaving. The haptic nature of fibre is very important to her as it creates an immediate connection between the maker and each piece as it is constructed. She enjoys working slowly, savouring the feel of the material. The found objects she uses have been discarded. This detritus becomes precious and significant when presented as a collection.

Experimentation is a key element in all Joanna’s work. She loves the thrill of working with, and exploring, the unknown.

Joanna studied Anthropology at Trent University, Peterborough and Textile Arts at Capilano College, North Vancouver, where she was taught by Ruth Sheuing and Lesley Richmond, two fibre artists of world renown.

Joanna is grateful to have lived on Pender Island, part of the traditional lands of the Tsawout First Nation, since 1999 and continues to be inspired by the natural beauty surrounding her. 
Joanna’s practice is driven by her response to the continued and worsening destruction of the natural environment and the effect this degradation has on native species of flora and fauna.

Joanna has shown her work in galleries across Canada and in the US. Her work crosses the boundaries of Fine Craft and Fine Art and has been exhibited in both contexts since 1994. She was selected as a finalist for the 2017 and 2021 Salt Spring National Art Prize.

Images of Joanna’s work have appeared in local and global publications.