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Rewriting the Red

Detail from Rewriting the Red (1995).

The following was embroidered on a tablecloth which I sewed out of old pillowcases, that I dyed red:

A friend told me about something she read in a camp (Angler) commander’s journal at the National Archives … a note about dying the pillowcases and all the bedding red as winter was approaching, so that the “prisoners” could not use them as camouflage to escape. I went to Ottawa since I wanted to read his exact words and see his handwriting. I inquired and searched but ended up frustrated at the end of a long day and returned home telling myself I would go back and search again. I still have not located this passage or his journal. I am no closer to his words and yet they cling to me.

Shortly after my friend told me about this, I went to Vancouver. On the first night at the hotel, upon the bed were two plump pillows with bright red pillowcases — odd since they didn’t match the rest of the bedding. It seems red will not escape me. It follows me everywhere but I will not let this colour that I loved so much as a child fill me with such discomfort. I will undo the seams. Re-stitch. Re-build. Re-write the red.

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In August 1995, Rewriting the Red was installed as part of Hikari, a 10 day multi-disciplinary arts event in Montréal, Québec organized by the ad hoc group ‘Nikkei Artists’ Network’ to mark and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Actually, Rewriting the Red was created specifically for this event. I started to embroider the piece before the event began but wanted to do most of the embroidering during those ten days, while sitting in the space and visiting with people that came by.

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