Thursday, 20 October 2016

Woman’s Work - A Soft Armour by Monique Besten




Monique Besten is a nomadic artist who was born in the Netherlands and is at home where her feet are. She works site-specific using different media with a special focus on long distance performative walking, crossing countries on foot collecting stories and researching life. Themes in her work are slowness, sustainability, borders and simplicity. She likes to be in the here and now by creating poetic bridges between the past and the future, the real and the virtual world, analogue and digital ways of working.


A Soft Armour #2, currently on show in the AirSpace window, is a suit Monique wore for 108 days. Everyday she sewed a new image or text on the inside, slowly creating a growing mind map of how she experienced the world around her. Monique states ‘Time and observation are inextricably bound up with each other, in my work as in reality, because time is only truly visible through the changes around us and in ourselves.’ Throughout the performance Monique also wrote texts - reflections on her experience of acutely observing the world whilst in a suit. Some of these are on display alongside the work and give insight into Monique’s thought processes and her accumulation of research on life.





(day 7)

suit thoughts


since last week I'm wearing a suit

i wore it on the train, in the optical museum in Jena, in a mild snowstorm, in a cafe,

in another cafe (where I spilled coffee over it), eating diner at a friends’ place, holding a ladder while two people were painting a wall, at a concert, in my own house, in the supermarket and everywhere inbetween

i will wear it the coming weeks, months, while sewing my thoughts on the inside and wondering what this is all about

is it a diary? a mindmap? a performance? an egocentric ego-­‐document or can it communicate something more than what is on my mind?

what is the role of inside and outside? how can I use the voyeuristic element? is the value in my perseverence to wear it?

does the content matter or does it only matter there is content, any content? should i go on a trip again and wear it while walking?

it makes me more attentive to the world but does it makes others more attentive?

while sewing in the train to jena I sat next to a woman who was shouting the private details of her life in her phone so we could all hear it but nobody took notice of it. do you have to be secretive to make people interested these days? silent? on the inside?

i had some nice conversations during the process. and saw a kingfisher in the snow. only because I am wearing a suit. i'm sure.




A Soft Armour #5 is currently on show at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. A 3 piece suit Monique wore from Amsterdam to Austria. 1364km in 96 days. 

Every day I wrote a story. Every day I collected pieces of thread, ropes, strings, rubber bands and I tied them together in the order I found them. Every knot a story. Every line a piece of the road. Spheres, globes, condensed days.

I wore The same business suit every day. Traditionally it is called a ‘walking suit’ A three-piece walking suit. I call it my soft armour. It keeps me warm, safe, sound, it opens doors. It is my uniform, my costume, my house, it has many pockets. It is as comfortable as any outfit I can think of. I use it to collect stories in.

The suit is my interface between the worlds I move through. Between the land I walk, the body I walk it with, the place people refer to as ‘the real world’ but which I consider to be just as real as the other world I move around in, the ephemeral world wide web. The stories I encounter, hold in my hand, find a new home there.


Everyday bought new encounters, new landscapes, new stories. I wrote them down on my  solar powered iPad. Two embroidered QR codes on my trousers and my jacket linked to my weblog. At the same time I embroidered the stories on the outside of my suit. Small drawings and texts. It reads like a book. The people on the road read my story. And while reading it, they become part of it. Like I became a part of their story.


Woman’s Work is a partnership project between AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. Woman’s Work seeks to make visible the hidden and unsung labour carried out by women in the home, the workplace and public life, and in particular seeks to redress the imbalance in history and the arts, where work made by women has been undervalued, or simply not recognised.

The exhibition is open at AirSpace Gallery 11am - 5pm, Thursday - Saturday, 30th September to 5th November 2016. The evolving Woman’s Work programme at Potteries Museum and Art Gallery runs through to November 2017

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