Mordant is a word that describes a chemical compound that binds dye to the fibers of a textile. It is also a verb that means to color fabric using this method. Both mordants and dyes can be found occurring in nature, including in familiar foods like blackberries, turmeric, spinach, saffron, and pomegranate.

In the experiential artwork Mordant, textile artist Victoria Manganiello collaborates with filmmaker Kristin Kremers to create communal dinner experiences that combine food, fabric, and art-making. The project explores these intersections as they differ across culture and space. After weaving a white table cloth, they design a dinner menu that utilizes natural color-fixing local foods. The meal is served so that the food comes into direct contact with the fabric, which then becomes a piece of visual art, serving an homage to the experience.

The above photographs taken by Kristin and Victoria provide glimpses into the experience of participating in the project, and feature the textile artworks that were created in the process. Kristin and Victoria have adapted the project to four locations: New York, USA; Frederick, MD, USA; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Cincu, Romania. In each location, the creators collaborated with local artisans and chefs, reflecting the identity of a particular place and evening. The project also serves as a tribute to the matriarchal tradition of artisans who have created and maintained cultural foodways and weaving techniques throughout history.

The visual pieces that result feature exuberant colors that seem to celebrate the particular joy that can be accessed through tradition, commonality, and the pleasure of food. Just as the mordant binds color to the fabric, participants are also connected through the shared experience of the meal. Likewise, the interwoven nature of the fabric echoes the collaborations that made the project possible; as Victoria notes, “just like a group of people coming together to create something with their shared hands, a piece of cloth is only able to survive with the participation of all threads.”

Kristin and Victoria are in the process of expanding the concept into a documentary film that will highlight textile weaving and food customs from around the world.

VICTORIA MANGANIELLO is an installation and mixed media artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been exhibited throughout the USA and internationally including at the Queens Museum, Museum of Art and Design, the Tang Museum, Sara Kay Gallery and Pioneer Works. She is currently an artist in resident at the Museum of Art and Design. Exploring the intersections between materiality, space, philosophy, and storytelling, Victoria Manganiello’s installation work, abstract paintings and performances are made meticulously with hand-woven textiles using hand-spun yarn and hand-mixed natural and synthetic color dyes. Victoria is an adjunct professor at NYU and Parson’s The New School.

KRISTIN KREMERS is a New York based filmmaker who travels the world to uncover and capture unique heartbeat moments that set her subjects apart. She shoots, edits and produces music, travel, and lifestyle content for brands, nonprofits and celebrities. Kristin approaches every project with a curious and collaborative spirit, working with her clients to arrive at heart of the story, together. Inspired by the power of storytelling to drive change, Kristin seeks out meaningful projects and purpose-driven partners. She donates her time and skillset to nonprofits creating change around the world and is the co-creator of a documentary film project on the Romanian textile industry. Her work with YellowBrick Education, a tech education company helping millennials align with their passions, and The Female Quotient, an organization committed to advancing education in the workplace, allow Kristin to tell stories that move the world forward.

PARTNERS AND COLLABORATORS: Marlene Stanciu and Kraft Made, Zayaan Kahn, Abigail Doan, Florica Zaharia, Second House, Wynne Noble, New York Textile Month, Blue Birds, World of Co,Frederick Arts Council, Dierdre Shea, Textile Arts Center, Museum of Arts and Design, Frederick Arts Council, and The Wine Kitchen.

Rebecca Bacon Ehlers is founder and editor of Culturework.