notes from a resilients residency. Coralie Stalberg, April - May 2012


“Débrouillardise et Coquetterie” is a project on DIY textile practices and associated recycling strategies during a historical period characterized by a radical scarcity of material resources — the Second World War and the years right after the war. In the context of research for a resilient future that would be more sensitive and committed to sustainability, it’s quite possible that the inventive solutions imagined by all kinds of people for coping with resource shortages in their everyday realities during the war period can be inspiring for us now, and constitute a playful toolbox to experiment with…

D&C consists in an ongoing registration and documentation process of the WWII textile DIY practices and the narratives around them, mainly through fieldwork in Senior meeting places and elderly houses. The collected material will be hosted in a living archive.

I am further interested to generate contexts for creative re-enactments and playful re-interpretation of those resilient practices in our contemporary context, through workshops bringing together elderly and kids/teenagers. I would love to see in these temporarly constitued collectives gathered around this shared practices ‘emerging community of resilient cultural workers’. I wish hereby to activate and investigate ways for intergenerational transfert of knowledge, skills and imaginaries, and see how active forms of relating to the past can contribute to a ‘theory of cultural Resilience’, seen as a challenge to rethink the invention of the cultural and the political.


at the crossroad of History, Ethnography and Textile Conservation.

History, according to a Microhistory approach (‘search for large answers in small places’), also Altagsgeschichte (history from ‘below’)

An inspiring text from Dominique Veillon :

« Longtemps, les documents écrits ont seuls eu droit au statut d'archives, à cause du support palpable et de la trace visible qu'ils laissaient, permettant l'administration de la preuve. Le chercheur pouvait les compulser à loisir, légitimer son travail en alignant les références. Rien de tel pour l'oral, dont le côté éphémère et fragile réduisait à néant les espoirs d'accéder à une conservation dans son intégrité. Jusqu'à une date récente, en l'absence de magnétophone, on transcrivait en les résumant, les résultats d'une conversation ou d'une interview. Dès lors, aux yeux de l'histoire positiviste, l'enquête orale restait “annexe”, voire pour les plus sceptiques, un objet fabriqué de toutes pièces pour les besoins de la recherche»

-Anthropology: °Experimental Ethnography :

- Experimental Ethnography locates the value of the anthropological intervention, however, not in the teleology of the objectified results (e.g., social change, policy/political action, or cultural revitalization), but in the process and, thus, valorizes the actual dynamics of fieldwork as the primary locus where the “real-world” relevance and significance are to be measured, evaluated, and appreciated. »

-Fieldwork practices are being “recombined” to explore their utility in the recirculation of given knowledge in a relevant manner by the very activity of the exploratory bricolage.

-Bricolage of fieldwork in which concepts, methods, techniques from various fields of art (scenography, museumography, art installation, performance arts) are recombined with the inherited methodologies of anthropology. °Anthropology of Transmission / Generational Anthropology

Transmission is a topic of crucial importance for anthropologists. However few are the studies which make transmission their focal point, a subject for and in itself. In this paper I show how cases of transmission haunt the very foundations of our discipline and how they lie at the back of such notions as memory, re-invention and continuity. I conclude by asking how we can study ethnographically the fleeting reality that is the act of transmission. David Berliner – Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains.

Anthropology of cloth / Costume History

« Pour une anthropologie du vêtement » Yves Delaporte, CNRS/Musée de l’Homme

«Le vêtement est l'instrument de la dignité de l'homme et le symbole de sa fonction humaine »
André LEROI-GOURHAN Link to Fashion Theory, the Journal of Dress, Body and Culture.

°My own ‘bricolage’ : In search of an incarnated practice of anthropology : a Poetical Ethnography inspired by the gestures, tools and strategies of Textile Conservation, as a textured and concrete way of touching the past (object).

Out of my desire to collect stories from the past as precious fabrics….

The most important thing that my journey through textile conservation brought me is a deepening of the understanding of the ethical dimension of my practice, throughout the whole process of the fieldwork (from the encounter to the collecting of the story - of the constitution of a living archive of stories - to the transmission of the past story and their transformation by younger generations)

Methodology / Experiential (in construction)

  • Phenomenology of the encounter (cf fieldwork)
  • Assessment of the relational complexity induced by the dynamics of the gift/countergift. (cf fieldwork, the giving/receiving of the stories from the past)
  • Design spaces/conditions/games to foster creative engagements with the Past, as part of a Living History, (through artisanal textile workshops for older and younger generations, re enacting and reinterpreting DIY text practices from WWII) – intergenerational dramaturges

Some Notes on my way of hybridizing ethnography with the ethics of textile conservation

DOCUMENTING the research topic

Fields of interests :


Shortages – rationing– interlace of recyclage and DIY blossoming from bellow / impulsed from above (governmental decrees), as vehiculated by fashion magazines, advertisments, fashion magazines, tips from red cross and women syndicate magazines.

Repertory of - Governmental decrees / rationing tickets -civil societies reactions : from patriotic adhesion to the expression of complaints, black market, smuggling with rationnong tickets, or finding strategies to circumvent the regulations - punishments in case of contravening the regulations on clothes (procès verbaux)


dignity – history of the bodies that is sensitive to a memory of emotions and affect (from proudness to shame, the hiding of precariousness) – costume as overstatement/overacting – choregraphies of the body (costume landscapes) – polarization of ideology – class – gender representation – manipulation of the women body through dressing.


Moral, social and cultural resilience

serie of attitudes for protection (textile as a protective skin) and as potential for creativity comme potentialité créatrice (DIY creativity) ,

development of capacities allowing for the psychic transformation of human suffering : in the playfull act of recycling/transforming clothes we find healing strategies for psyche through body dignity and ‘coquetterie’.

Humour is said to be an important strategy for resilience, a lot of textile practices struck me by their ‘drôlerie’.

1.1. consultation of specialized literature, articles and archives

contacted archive centers for resilient WWII textiles

1.2. consultation of experts:

Irène Guenther

– Specialist in modern German cultural and gender history « Nazi ‘Chic’? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich » current research on the trench postcard art of German soldiers

Jonathan Walford

Founder and Curatorial Director of Fashion History Museum of Canada, Writer wrote « Fourties Fashion, from Siren Suits to the New Look », 2011

Dominique Veillon

« La mode sous l’occupation », 1990, éditions Payot. “Vivre et survivre en France 1939 - 1947”, ed Payot, 1995 interesting review:

Hannelore Vandebroek, Nel de Mûelenaere, and Carmen Van Praet cf ETUDE :

Le travail des femmes dans la fabrique d'uniformes E. Reitz à Merksem, 1940-1944

Cette recherche analyse le travail des femmes dans l'industrie de guerre allemande en Belgique. La participation et l'intégration forcée de la femme belge dans l'industrie de guerre allemande pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale est un thème peu connu dans la mémoire collective. Pour combler cette lacune, Hannelore Vandebroek a, en 2007, entamé une recherche au CEGES qui sonde les expériences de travail des femmes qui ont travaillé pour l'occupant allemand. Elle se focalise principalement sur les femmes qui ont travaillé en Allemagne. En complément, des recherches sont effectuées depuis novembre 2009 par Nel de Mûelenaere, puis par Carmen Van Praet sur le travail des femmes en Belgique même. Ces recherches ont lieu sur base du cas des ouvrières de la fabrique d'uniformes E. Reitz à Merksem.

Sidenotes historical readings WII - Tex - Resilience

Communities of Resilients // from the perspective of Clothing as a resistance strategy


Senior centers interested in participation :

  1. Résidence Arcadia (elderly house Molebeek/OCMW)
  2. LDC Randstad (social restaurant for Seniors, Molenbeek)
  3. the Institut Pachéco (elderly house in 1000 Brussels),
  4. ‘Ages et Transmissions’:
  5. ‘La Mémoire Vivante’ :

The first interviews:

Observations /ethical-conservational reflections.(des)archive the testimonies. (in process)

(in construction)

Search for critical/playful archive practices


Michel Foucault « The Archeology of Knowledge » : Chapter 5: The Historical a priori and the Archive

Discursive practices involve systems that allow statements to emerge as 'events' and to be used or ignored as 'things.' Foucault proposes to call these systems of statements, collectively, the 'archive.' Thus, the archive is not just a collection of texts that define a culture, nor even a set of institutions that preserve texts. The archive is 'the law of what can be said' and the law of how what is said is transformed, used, preserved, etc. Thus, the archive is defined as 'the general system of the formulation and transformation of statements.'Our own, contemporary archive is impossible to describe clearly because it is the very thing that gives what we say its mode of emergence and existence. It is 'that which, outside ourselves, delimits us.'

Paul Ricoeur « Arcives, Documents, Traces »

“Any trace left by the past becomes a document for historians […], the most valuable traces are the ones that were not intended for our information.” (2006: 67)

Giorgio Agamben « The Archive and the Testimony » in « Remnants of Auschwit », 1989 “the archive is situated between langue, as the system of construction of possible sentences – that is, of possibilities of speaking – and the corpus that unites the set of what has been said, the things actually uttered or written.”

Archive Practices in Contemporary Art

General writings :

Schaffner, Ingrid et Matthias Winzen (éditeurs). 1998. Deep storage: collecting, storing, and archiving in art. Munich ; New York : Prestel, 303 p. Mokhtari Sylvie (éditeur). 2004. Les Artistes contemporains et l'Archive. Interrogation sur le sens du temps et de la mémoire à l'ère de la numérisation. Rennes : Presses universitaires de Rennes, 282 p.

Dans Archive Fever Enwezor : production de « contre-archives », affirmant que « les archives sont tributaires de leur fonction d’autorité manifeste en tant que source principale de vérité historique »

Aby M. Warburg, «Mnemosyne-Atlas», 1924 – 1929 Mnemosyne-Atlas, Boards of the Rembrandt-Exhibition, 1926 |

Gerhard Richter, « Atlas », 1962

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