Vanessa Kauffman

vkauffman Vanessa Kauffman is a writer and visual artist. She completed her MA in Visual and Critical Studies in 2014, and holds a BFA in Printmaking from Pacific Northwest College of Art in her home state of Oregon. Both her scholarly and visual work focus on print culture as a proliferating catalyst for the organization of language, visual information, and codes. Invested in re-imagining the repositories of printed ephemera and the forms to which text clings, her work investigates the flexing boundaries of sensory interpretation and the physical experience of language. Vanessa’s writing has been published in Art Practical, andReview, and Eleven Eleven. Currently Vanessa works at Headlands Center for the Arts.

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About Vanessa Kauffman's Thesis Project

Vanessa Kauffman

Reading Textile: Vernaculars of Kinship in Discourse and Dress

Piqued by the ancient term “corpus,” which in the eighteenth century became descriptive of a bound series of texts, although it meant “body” before it ever meant “book,” this thesis examines artifacts that are exemplary of how text physically matters through ritual embodiment. Foregrounding this inquiry is an investigation of the ritual garments of the Mennonite Church, as they were first codified in the 1800s and have been continually used by some up to the present. Via a study of poetics, this project provides a nontraditional reading that reconditions these garments in terms of textuality and vernacular, to invoke a grammar of communal strength that is built not only by systems of semiotics but also haptic inflections of embodiment. Mennonite ritual garments are evidenced as material interlocutors of a distinct social body—as totemic artifacts constitutive of a rhythmic and horizontal linguistic system, and less so with an untouchable, vertical hierarchy of divine order.

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