TO HAVE / TO HOLD
On an April evening in 1968, artist Christina Ramberg and her future husband Philip Hanson went to one of those crowded bars at Brighton Park in Chicago. Inside they tore through the crowd. Christina was dressed moderately, concealing her peculiar taste in fashion. The couple sat down at the counter. Philip ordered two beers. Christina looked for a coin to pay for her drink, in her corduroy jacket she found nothing. The contents of a small pocket in her cardigan were also empty. Resigned, she checked the contents of the pocket in her jeans. The pocket was holey, and the loss of the dollar was dreadful.
On September 19, 1991, two German hikers in the Ötztal valley, Tyrol found the remains of the man Ötzi. Ötzi lived in about 3300 B.C. and is thought to have died at the age of 40-53. He was grey-haired, probably had brown eyes, and suffered from lactose intolerance. He was dressed in bear, chamois and deer skins, with shoes and socks made of soft grass and bast. He had a strong belt with a pouch attached to his clothes, and in the pouch: a scraper, a drill, and flint flakes. Ötzi was the first pocket owner the world met. After him it is likely there was a long period of pocketlessness until Europe was finally reacquainted with pockets in the 13th Century. The first pocket-like containers appeared in men's clothing. The end of the 15th century is when the pocket appeared with more regularity in men's fashion, and finally, in the 16th century, it gained popularity and became permanently fixed to men’s apparel.
The Polish word "Kieszeń“, meaning pocket, is of feminine gender. A pocket is a kind of container, a piece of material in the form of a pouch sewn into clothing, the wall of a bag or luggage. However, the pocket was originally a male-only affair, and by the end of the seventeenth century men already had an established tradition of integrated, solidly sewn pockets in their clothing. Men's pockets indicated an orderly attitude toward things. One pocket carried the key to the house, another pocket pocketed a small coin, and another for other necessary items. Women's clothing was deprived of these "hiding-pockets," and if they appeared they were given a temporary character – a pocket detachable from their clothing, or tied around the waist, and mainly used to store knitting utensils.
An exception was one maiden who reportedly stole a duck from the market in her 60-inch detachable pocket. By the early 20th century, women's clothing was still not permanently familiar with the pocket. Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1914 wrote a short story entitled "If I Were a Man." The author successfully depicts a young woman named Molly’s landscape of thoughts, who wishes with all her heart and soul to become a man. Molly got lucky and for one day she wore her husband's body.
It was no surprise to Molly to have male genitals or a strong beard, but the new and most surprising sensation was to have pockets. Of course, she knew about their existence, sometimes she even mocked them, mended them, maybe even envied them, but she never dreamed of having them. In her husband's suit she was delighted to know the feeling of a hand in a pocket. Her hand wandered from pocket to pocket. Everything she needed was at her fingertips - a key, writing pen, notebook, checkbook, cigar. She felt a riveting sense of power and pride, felt what she had never felt before in her entire life – she felt what it meant to have money. Her own, earned money that she could give or keep, not have to beg for, tease for, scam for.
Tania Perez-Bustos gave Donna Haraway a small fabric bag. The bag was a gesture of friendly concern and would accompany her on her 2019 Colombia trip. Donna quickly became attached to the satchel. She liked the big, embroidered flower on the front of the bag that said "Flore ser". To her, this flower was sort of a promise of a flourishing and fertile world. Tania told Donna the story of this bag, which was made by a woman who is a member of the textile activist collective Flore Ser Habitat. This collective works for environmental justice and gender equality. This small bag carried an aura of great concentration: it was slowly hand sewn with the conviction that in these hard times this type of practice is essential to personal healing, to rebuilding human relationships and telling the story of the land, displacement and still possible futures.
The pocket in its inconspicuous form carries the heavy burden of history. But our story is not over yet. The stories of pocket 5, 6 ,7...are yet to be told.