Folding as Re-stating

Surabhi Saraf, Fold (2010), video installation, Image courtesy of the artist


As artist, Surabhi Saraf folds pieces of clothing, her trail of motions become captured as multiple snapshots; close to a 100 micro-recordings are drawn together in this obsessive chronicling of the banal. "Fold" is part of her ongoing series Video Choreographies. There is a reverberant humming in the background, is it her singing? One cannot be sure, however, quite like her unbroken folding, the singing is cumulative and punctuated by the soft rustles of cotton fabric.  

Far from the synchronic impetus as well as functionality of an assembly-line, Saraf's personal labour performs as an utterance of inhabitation and collapse (as a falling into).

Her geometry of folds is restless.  


An aging textile merchant unfurls meters of handspun linen and stretches them across his body; the length of his arm serves as a relative scale. While this mode of placing the self in service of measure is here a voluntary (read: productive) act, one inevitably considers the beginnings of forensic anthropometry that imprisoned bodies into grids of evidence, scales of moral and racial superiority. Back to the present: muscle joints curved into the shape of an indigo shawl. 2.


The geological fold is considered a deformation.


The act of folding is also a methodology in making anew—of re-stating a material configuration. 


"Perhaps no more entertaining form of indoor pastime has ever been devised than the rapid folding of a sheet of pleated paper into various shapes,  such as those reproduced in the following pages. First of all, however, let us acknowledge our indebtedness to Mr. David Devant, the well-known prestidigitateur (horrible word!) and popular entertainer, of the Egyptian Hall, who very kindly gave a complete "lightning paper folding" séance to our artist at these offices.

[...]Dexterity will come with practice. Mr. Devant evolves from his figures no fewer than forty different figures in five minutes; his record is ten in thirty seconds. The proper folding of the paper in the first instance is an absolute condition sine quâ non. It is necessary to bear in mind that you don't fashion your figures directly from the plain sheet, but from the cunningly pleated folds of the paper.  

Text excerpt and accompanying image: Paper Folding by L.S. Lewis in "The Strand Magazine: Illustrated Monthly" (c. 1900)