Passport

The Passport has become my business card; I use it to introduce myself as an artist. The main point, however, is not the piece itself but rather the train of experiences that led to it, and the time spent chatting and drinking tea with people who worked on the embroidery. The „Passport“ embroidery was made in Kathmandu, Nepal and the artisans who worked on it happened to be exclusively men. Men take great pride in whatever skills they have, often bordering with being full of themselves. I walked into their workshop in downtown Kathmandu and, among the noise of antiquated sewing machines, started my careful inquiries. „Can you do this? Can you do that?“ „Yes, yes, we can.“ „And how about this?“ „Also can!“ I commissioned them the embroidery of the biodata page of my passport, with my photo, personal data, certainly the most difficult page in the whole document. The work took 24 hours and I was very pleased with the result. I did not touch the embroidery myself. The idea was born reflecting on male psychology, their sense of confidence. I gave them a job which, in my understanding, was far beyond their league. But since men would rather die than admit they were unable to do something, they struggle hard to prove they can do the „impossible.“ The Passport piece is not about travel documents or evidence of identity; rather, it is about a dialogue between different genders and different artists, professionals and artisans. The men in the Kathmandu sewing shop had no idea I was a professional artist who had her own idea how „proper“ embroidery was to be made. Were it my work, I would have never dared to allow for such crooked letters and design flaws. After having spent more time in Nepal and getting more familiar with its culture, I increasingly started spotting in the Passport the features of Nepalese primitive art: the image is flat and two-dimensional, a particular shape of the lips, specific colours, including blue whites of the eyes.

The memories of Nepal resurfaced recently when I was working with handicapped children at the Vilnius professional training centre for the deaf. We had embroidery classes and I asked Darius to make the embroidery of a photograph. We had few photos available and he chose a pair of my black and white passport photos which I used to carry in my wallet. In Darius‘ work (Double Portrait), the whites of the eyes were as blue as in the Nepalese piece, with black pupils. My red coral necklace turned blue (in the Nepalese version it was black). Darius‘ work was his emotional diary reflecting his mood and experiences. Some threads of the embroidery are quiet and orderly; the others are untidy, expressive and radiating with quiet anger. Darius worked on the embroidery with two pictures on his desk, a postcard-sized image of Our Lady and my passport photo he was copying. His embroidered piece, small as it is, presents diversity and is full of emotional contrasts; one portrait is somewhat greyish and impersonal, just as photos in official documents tend to be, whereas the other portrait is vibrant and radiating with life and colour.

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