Effloressence: An epidermic communication

by jake moore

“Like a bacteria that indiscriminately grows wherever it finds a hospitable environment, so pattern moves easily across geographical borders, regardless of culture or geography. Pattern travels, adjusts and mutates to fit its new environment and ensure its survival.” With these words, Andrea Vander Kooij, illuminates the notion that pattern – like language – while living and ever mutable, still holds traces of its origins within its very structure. In her recent performative work, *Effloressence*, she sat for for 10 days embroidering linen within shop windows throughout Montréal. The pattern she was embroidering was culled from traditional Blackwork, though the graphic floral lines she is working into the linen surface do not rest there. Her body is covered completely with identical markings artfully applied with Indian henna paste or mehndi. These auburn traces on her hands and feet where the dermis is thickest match the silk thread perfectly and then fade gently into the curves and softness of her body as terrain. It is the hands and feet of the bride and groom that are traditionally decorated with mehndi for wedding celebrations in Bangladesh, Kashmir, Sudan and Rajasthan. Blackwork embroidery, though already present on British shores, was popularized by Katharine of Aragon when she arrived from Spain for her marriage to Arthur Tudor in 1501. These two traditions of mark making with a history associated with union and crossing cultures, are the basis of Vander Kooij’s work. That a woman’s body would bare the traces of this complex history seems appropriate. This is the beauty of the project, Vander Kooij’s *Effloressence* animates a history of pattern, display, body adornment and garment making that has been skillfully integrated into contemporary art practice.