A collaboration between textile artist Rowland Ricketts and sound designer Norbert Herber, this installation leads visitors through the process of making indigo, a plant dye historically derived from a variety of plants including Polygonum tinctorum (also known as “dyer’s knotweed”). Indigo-dyed cloth was highly sought after for centuries around the globe and has long been identified with Japan, where Ricketts trained in the dyers’ shops of Tokushima. In his work, Ricketts focuses on the corporeal aspects of the dye’s production; color is imbued with the memory of movement. Thus, through sound and video collage, the movements of visitors in the gallery will illuminate how indigo is grown, composted, decomposed, and concocted into a pungent dye. As visitors tread on the indigo, separating leaf from stem, they take part in the winnowing that initiates the plant’s decomposition.
The sounds emanating from the gallery were collected at various sites, threading connections among them: Illinois’ Sustainable Student Farm, where the indigo was grown and harvested; Ricketts’s farm-studio in Bloomington, Indiana; and the fields and dyers’ shops in Tokushima, where Ricketts is supervising part of the 2012 National Cultural Festival in celebration of indigo and helping reinvent a craft largely abandoned. The installation embodies transformation: a sensuous domain, displaced from a tilled field and juxtaposed with the deep surfaces of dyed cloth, which embodiesboth a history of work and the generative force of seed.