In this section we focus on the work of two contemporary artists, Maurizio Anzeri (b. 1969, Italy) and Ulla Jokisalo (b. 1955, Finland), who have been chosen here for the similarities and also the differences in their artistic practices. Both artists use photographs as a foundation on which they embroider with thread. Whereas Anzeri has embroidered on found vintage portrait photographs, which he has bought at flea markets, the photographs in Ulla Jokisalo’s works are reproductions of her own family album photographs. By breaking the surface of the photographs the embroidery as a practice takes on a role of repurposing and re-evaluating, it becomes a way of interrupting, of making new meanings by cutting into the photographs and integrating into them. The function of the embroidery in these hybrid works is curiously twofold: it simultaneously covers the photograph underneath it, and also accentuates certain parts of it, making them ‘pop out’ both visually and in a three-dimensional and tactile way.
Photography historian and anthropologist Elizabeth Edwards writes that “photographs have a double link as image and as material, two ontological layers in one object”. In this section we inspect how this double link becomes entangled with embroidery, and how this affects the photographs on both levels, as images and as objects. The embroidery is not only a superimposed layer on a two-dimensional surface, but it emphasizes the objecthood of the photographic print, cutting into it over and over again. Perforating and piercing the photographs, the embroidery seems at the same time violent but also something that mends and makes stronger.
By accentuating each other’s qualities the two media, photography and embroidery, start to make meaning through each other. Using Barad’s concepts of intra-action and agential realism, we examine the different agencies formed through and in these encounters. We start by analysing the multiple and complex relations the two media have in terms of temporality, moving on to consider change as ongoing materialization and finally explore remembering as an act.
In Barad’s theory, matter itself is seen as agentive, and agency is described as intra-active and ongoing, something that never ends, something that can never “run out”. Following this, the agencies that start to form between the photographs and the embroidery in these artworks do not fall into stable categories but rather work like an ongoing loop, at times opposing, at times similar. All of the intra-active agencies take place simultaneously, without the need to rule each other out. They are not something inherent to the two media, revealed by the encounter, but rather emerge in and through this encounter. They are like roles taken on, shifting and continually reforming.
In terms of their orientations towards time, photography and embroidery can at first seem quite opposite to each other. A photograph printed on paper is an object very sensitive to the markings of time. Photographs fade if they are exposed to too much light, and they are easily damaged by humidity and heat. In its production-phase in the darkroom a chemically developed photograph is especially sensitive to scratches, fingerprints, changes in temperature and other external factors. An embroidery work is by contrast something that creates at least an illusion of being durable and lasting. The tradition of handicraft is something that weaves time together, whereas photography slices time and makes cuts into it. The transience of the photographs is highlighted by the durability of the embroidery.
In Maurizio Anzeri’s work Yvonne, 2011 (Fig. 1) we see a black and white photograph of a young woman, her head slightly tilted and her gaze directed upwards, partially covered by embroidery made with white and green thread. The photograph has a very soft focus, and the woman’s blurred outlines are in contrast with the sharpness of the embroidery. The embroidery covers the face almost completely, only the woman’s right eye and a pearl earring in her right ear are left unembroidered. The embroidery seems to start from the eye, as its geometric movement is directed towards the outlines of the face. On the green areas around the eye and ear, the thread overlaps itself, creating a circular pattern. The white areas create a contour for the face, and the small holes from which the embroidery thread goes through remain visible on the surface of the photograph, forming an outline of negative space. In this work, the embroidery takes a radial form, not completely filling the embroidered area, so that the photograph remains partly visible underneath.
The surface of the photograph appears smooth, whereas the embroidery has various textures, making visible the time used in the work. The embroidery reveals the time invested as the repeated motion of the embroiderer’s hand is seen in the texture formed by the stitches. In a photograph the process of creation is left outside the picture, regardless of how laborious the making of a single photograph might be. Most typically in a photograph, the whole picture is finished at once, all the visual details take the same amount of time to render, whereas in embroidery we can see the time used in each detail. Taking this into account, a paradoxical shift starts to take place between the temporal aspects of the two media: the photographs easily turn into symbols of stillness, although photography is usually thought of as a very fast medium, and the embroidery for its part, takes the role of the more moving agent, while at the same time being slow and time-consuming. Photography arrests time, whereas the embroidery sets it in motion again. Speed becomes paired with stillness, and slowness with movement.
An example of the agential similarities between photography and embroidery is that they both have a preserving function. Photography has been considered as a medium which has the ability to make its subjects immortal, to preserve them as they are at a moment in time. Because of this, the act of physically damaging a photograph can be seen as violent. The fragility of the photographic print is made tangible by the embroidery, which breaks the photograph’s surface. At the same time however, the embroidery also becomes a tool for preserving, as by covering the photograph it protects it from further physical damage. Furthermore, in Anzeri’s works the embroidery hides the individual features of the people portrayed, protecting their privacy as the photographs, transformed into works of art, are brought from their previous sphere of private use into a public one.
According to Edwards, “[t]he power of the nexus of image and material is made clearest in the destruction of the material object”. Here the photographs are not completely destroyed by the embroidery, but rather altered, manipulated. The embroidery, in its simultaneously disrupting and preserving role, becomes a restructuring which changes both the physicality of the photograph as an object and also its meanings as an image. Because of this bond between image and material in photographs, the embroidery over the faces in Anzeri’s works can feel disturbing, breaking the ‘skin’ of the people portrayed. It forms a mask, making visible only the posing for the camera. Yet the photographs remain under the embroidery, not fully covered, not fully present, like an unsettling reminder of subconscious thought.
In Leopold, 2014 (Fig. 2) a black and white photograph of an older man with eye glasses is embroidered over with petrol blue and mustard yellow thread. The embroidery forms three distinct areas: the right side of the man’s face and the left ear are covered in blue radially meshing, partly covering embroidery, the remaining part of the face in the middle is completely covered in a criss-cross of yellow thread, with the iris of the man’s left eye and a part of his teeth left unembroidered. The clear, sharp outline of the embroidery accentuates its mask-likeness.
In Anzeri’s photo-embroideries at least one eye is usually left bare so that the gaze of the people in the photographs remains visible (Fig. 1 & 2). The atmosphere of secrecy and silence makes the works haunting. Edwards writes about the value of photographs as objects of exchange, their importance as strengtheners of social ties between individuals and groups as they are given to friends and relatives or stored in albums. In the photographs used by Anzeri this social value has been lost as the connection to the people portrayed is no longer there. Seen this way, the embroidery becomes an attempt to regain contact.
Change as Materialization
When the passing of time is presented visually, it usually happens by setting images in a linear sequence, for example from left to right as is done in a comic strip. In this way, the movement of the viewer’s gaze sets the images in motion, creating the feeling of time passing. However, in photo-embroideries the former time represented by the photograph is overlaid by the new time, the embroidery, and both temporalities remain in the same visual space. Nonetheless, although these strata are unified into a single visual image instead of being a succession of several images, a certain linearity is formed between them, a linearity between the then and the now. Instead of being formed on a two-dimensional plane, this linearity has a three-dimensional and voluminous structure, moving from surface to depth and back again. In order to experience this distance, we are to move our gaze back and forth through the temporal fabric that is constructed.
In Barad’s agential realism, spatial separability as the ontological condition for objectivity is replaced by agential separability. In agential realism, matter is “not a thing but a doing”, it is dynamic and “refers to phenomena in their ongoing materialization”. Temporality is inseparable from Barad’s notion of materiality, and change is an essential factor in her theory of materialization as dynamic and processual. Time is not simply there as substance, measure or background, it is relative and co-constituted. Change is what binds temporality and materiality together.
Photographs make us count time between events and situate ourselves in the temporal space we imagine around them. What photography does to time is analogous with what the embroidery does to the photographs in these works: as the photograph makes an interruption into the passing of time, so does the embroidery interrupt the flow of time we can imagine around the photographs. Through the embroidery the photographs as objects are also made unique, a quality that photographs in their reproducibility have been seen to lack.
The idea of time as an ongoing stream is in contradiction with the idea that we tend to think of the past as something that is gone, something that has stopped. We think of the past, present and future as separate, yet we cannot draw a line between where one ends and the other begins. The past and the future are connected with the present through the idea of time as a stream. We act in this moment but in our minds we also inhabit the past and the future simultaneously. Following the lines of Barad’s idea of materiality as temporally constituted, we can start to think of the embroidery as not a spatially separate thing, but simply as a temporal reconfiguring. We start to see it as not something that has been added to the photographs, but rather as something that has grown from them, a new phase in the existence of the photograph, now changed into something ontologically different, a photo-object.
Edwards writes about the importance of photographs as parts of memorializing and therapeutic acts, not only accentuating the material qualities but also the usages of photographs as objects. She emphasises the importance of our physical engagement with photographs, how photo-objects exist in a relationship to the human body. In her view, this makes photographs as objects “intrinsically active in that they are handled, touched, caressed”. In the photo-embroideries the embroidery turns into a material token for the action of remembering, of contextualizing and giving a new meaning and a voice to the images, retouching them.
As seen before, Barad describes agency as an enactment, rather than as something that someone or something can have. It is not an attribute of subjects and objects but something that is formed through intra-actions. In the photo-embroideries, the embroidery settles as not simply an overlaid stratum but as something that penetrates and reshapes the photograph. It is not a question of overlap but of envelopment. The embroidery has power over the photograph, which in turn works as the initiator for the embroidery’s existence. The photographs and the embroidery start to operate together, to activate each other, and new agencies start to form through this process as the surface of the photographs becomes a site for acts of alteration and reconfiguration.
This act of repurposing suggests that the past can be changed from the viewpoint of the present. By breaking the surface, the illusion of the photograph as a window to the past is broken. The embroidery comes in between, and changes how we see the past through the photographs. There is a certain violence in this, as we are no longer allowed to see the photographs as they were, they become changed without the possibility of ever changing back. This ongoing dialogue between the past and the present is especially evident in Ulla Jokisalo’s work. She has used reproductions of her own family album photographs, usually in black and white, which have then been embroidered over with red thread. In some works the thread takes the form of images, while in others it moves more freely, becoming a symbol for memory itself.
In Inspiration, 1999 (Fig. 3) a black and white photograph of a wooden house is taken over by red thread, wildly coming out of the windows of the house, in some places out of the walls, forming a pool of red thread in front of it. The embroidery needles are left in the work, pushed through the photograph to remain in place. The thread does not form a controlled pattern, it is more like a dynamic flow. This goes against the traditional rules of embroidery, where control of the design and flatness are considered essential.
In Untitled, 1997 (Fig. 4) we see the mirror image of the same house embroidered in an outline stitch, the mirroring reminding us of the negative-positive processes of photography. The embroidery is made over a photograph portraying a truck and group of men in front of a large spruce tree, apparently about to cut it down. There is also a child in the picture, whose clothes are colored in red, as the photograph is otherwise in black and white. In both Jokisalo’s works analysed here, the photographs are made so that there is also a white area of the photograph paper around the photographic image. The embroidery extends over this white area.
As seen before, a fundamental part of the impact of the photo-embroideries is that the photographs are disrupted in the process. Therefore, the fact that Jokisalo’s photographs are reproductions is important. The original family album photographs are safe somewhere, untouched. This raises an interesting question about locating originality: is it in the family album photograph, or the film negative before that, or the house itself (Fig. 3 & 4)? In Jokisalo’s works the embroidery becomes a re-imagining of personal history, questioning the likeness between photographs and the memory of actual events. The past, which is represented by the photographs, is opened up by the embroidery. The past is present in the now, not as a separate aspect but more like a simultaneous facet of temporality, proposing that the past is not something that has stopped, but of which the present and future are an inseparable continuation.
In both examples discussed above, the photographs and the embroidery start to serve as anchors for time, opening up a space between the moments of then and now, making the passing of time visible. In these works, time does not flow in a single linearity but in many directions at the same time, from the present to the past and vice versa. The two media are not simply overlapping but they become inseparable, one could not work without the other after their intra-active agencies have started to emerge.
 Parts of this section have been presented in an earlier conference paper by Jane Vuorinen at Helsinki Photomedia 2016.
 Besides these two, there are many artists currently working with photographs and embroidery, like Diane Meyer, Stacey Page, Julie Cockburn, Mana Morimoto, Jessica Wohl, Flore Gardner and Jose Romussi, just to name a few. Combining photographs and embroidery is not a new phenomenon, the history of it as an artistic practice reaches at least to the 1970s, with artists like Betty Hahn and Annegret Soltau. As a vernacular practice, combining photographs and embroidery goes well beyond that, to the very early beginnings of photography (see Batchen 2004).
 See Barad 2007, 170; 177 -178; 180; 183.
 See Barad 2007, 141; 235.
 We discuss the thematics of speed, duration and latency related to photography further in section 3.
 Edwards writes about how popular clichés on photography, such as being frozen moments in time etc., actually “encapsulate a cultural expectation of the medium” (see Edwards 2009, 332). With the embroidery, this expectation becomes subverted.
 See Edwards 2009, 338 – 340.
 See Barad 2007, 172 – 175.
 Edwards 2009, 335. Photography historian Geoffrey Batchen has also written about photographs as aides to memory, and the long history of vernacular practises of embellishing photographs with other objects and materials. (See Batchen 2004.) Both Edwards and Batchen also mention embroidery used together with photographs, although not quite as directly as in the photo-embroideries here, but rather alongside.
 Interestingly, as artworks the photo-embroideries are not to be touched by the viewers if they are exhibited in a gallery or museum space, or much less if they are brought to the viewers as images on a screen, like they are here.
 See Barad 2007, 214.
 See Alford 1978 , 71.
 The reproductions have been made by photographing the family album photographs and enlarging and retouching them in the darkroom. (Jokisalo 2017.)