Earwitness and Touch Traces: The Syaesthetic Index

Claire Pajaczkowska in her article  ‚Tension, Time and Tenderness‘ (2010) and Alexandra Kokoli in the article ‚The Voice as Uncanny Index in Susan Hiller‘s The Last Silent Movie‘ (2013) argue sence perception such as hearing voices, softness of touching in the contect of time as memory and indexical traces. Claire Pajaczkowska suggests that textiles are not only used as a cloth to cover to body. Relationshop between sounds, patterns and their meaning. Textile is analysed as a language-like. There is the paralel between Alexandra Kokoli‘s article Silent Sound where she analyses the language in terms of sound and the indexical trace of dead languages and people.

Textiles have been explored within the other categories of research such as cultural antropology, ethnography, social and design history. Textiles differ from other kinds of research objects because ot its initial approach which is a material form. We use textile every day in different ways. ‚ The complexity of the textile‘s capacity to ‚hold‘ meanings relates to the indexical trace of the hands and their movements in the making of textiles, and the unconscious symbolism of ‚holding‘ and ‚containment‘. (Pajaczkowska, 2010, p.147).

The science of semiotics is to help understand the relationship between the signs and their use or interpretation as well as indexical traces. According to Charles Sanders Pierce (1860s) there are three aspects of sighs such as the iconical aspect, indexical aspect which can be found in traces and the most distant and arbitrary relation between the signifier and signified.

Textiles have their own language that is essential to speak out the different cultures, represent nations and cultures, identity. In this way the textiles are analysed in their indexical traces.  Claire Pajaczkowska suggests, ‚that textiles, through this indexical relationship to unconscious memory, convey meanings of complex pre-symbolic relationality‘ (Pajaczkowska, 2010, p.134). Textile in semiotics terms is as cultural object in relationship between materiality and meaning. It is also to convey the wilder, deeper meaning what is behind the words as s in this way textiles are analysed as signs and symbols, the historical and cultural conotation.

Textile as cloth has its position and meaning  in culture. Claire Pajaczkowska says, that ‚Saussure suggests that signifying systems depend on patterns of the combination of signs, as well as the internal structure of those signs (Pajaczkowska, 2010, p.135).

Claire Pajaczkowska analyses the meaning of the stitch of textiles, it different styles and functions, as well as its structure. ‚The stitch then has meaning as one selection from a range of possible ways of joining eges, materially, imaginatively or symbolically. (Pajaczkowska, 2010, p.138). It is that the stetch stands for the verb an action to joing diferrent elements and materials. The stitch exists as a structural element of the different types fabric and as the structuring element of a culture, for example, the textile art of the avant-garde. The craft of stitching may also function to join together sewing and kntting of different cultures, different social groups in times from pioneer homemakers working at home till the artists working with the textiles today. (Pajaczkowska, 2010, p.139). Materiality of fabric has a very important role in its significance and futhermore, there are many functions and  meanings of textile in cultural, ethnic and historical aspects, for example, as wrapping a dead body not to be seen as not existing anymore

Susan Hiller‘s The Last Silent Movie is 21 min audiovisual work. Firstly it operated at Matt‘s Gallery in London. The voices of mostly all dead people, speaking the languages they mostly distinguish or facing the extinction. ‚The selection criteria: not only opaque but elusive‘ (Kokoli, 2013, p.9). There  are many examples of Ntive American languages as well as numerous European examples. The languages to be heard in the movie mostly are unfamiliar or we do not know them. They are extinction languages at home, not only from exotic places.

Silent, blind, nonvisual movie dos not remind a movie at all. Nganasan, blackfoot – in total 25 exaples, each lasts 1 minute with dates, locations and names. Mukalap is thelast speaker, recorded in  Johanesburgh in 1938. His language was lost twice, extinct Kora. He speaks, that people do not know each other languages, but all people are the sons of the sea, we all human beings to leave our trace in the world.  

From the variety of archival collections , from different projects such as national, academic, from diverse genres such as folks, lullabies, fairy tales or daily conversations or vocabulary lists, it sounds more like an audio assemblage.

Dead voices sounds reach us from their past to nowadays leaving their trace in time and space. Black screen, shadows, crackling audoble sounds represent distance, mutual ignorance, lack of understanding, that creates a bigger gap between today and the past.

To sum up, the both articles discuss on the signs in terms of indexical trace, the relationship between signifier and signified. The sign of the voices In ‚Silent Movie‘ and a sign of a stetch in textiles in ‚Idexical Traces of Touch in Textiles‘.

Both Alexandra Kokoli and Claire Pajaczkowska talks about the cultural aspects of the objects analysed in the articles, since the textiles represent materiality, meanwhile, the voices stands for immateriality heritage. Voices and textiles preserves memories as well as their cultural integrity and identity. There is the research in both articles in the relationship between visual (textile) and verbal (languages) knowledge in terms of indexical sign.


Kokoli, A. (2013) ‚The Voice as Uncanny Index in Susan Hiller‘s The Last Silent Movie‘, The Art Journal, 72 (2), pp.6-15.

Pajaczkowska, C. (2010) ‚Tensio, Time and Tenderness: Indexical Traces of Touch in Textiles‘, in Bryant A. and Pollock G. (ed.) Digital and Other Virtualities. London: IB Tauris, pp. 134-146.

John Tomlinson


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