Textiles are more than a piece of cloth made from fibres. Textiles contain codes on many different levels that need to be decoded and lead us into different worlds.
There are textiles that obviously tell a story, as they use the textile medium to capture narratives, e.g. in the form of embroidered or woven images. The Bayeux Tapestry is a wonderful example of this. This embroidery from the end of the 11th century tells the story of a medieval ruler's accession to the throne on a 68-meter-long frieze, almost like a comic. The piece has not only been the subject of research for scientists and historians for a long time, but also a source of inspiration for various artistic reinterpretations. Agnes Richter's jacket, which was embroidered all over with characters and was made in the Leipzig mental hospital at the end of the 19th century, impressively demonstrates the potential of textiles to carry messages and to show individual expression.
If one examines textiles more closely, one can also find many clues about their use, repair, wear and tear, about the history of their materials and trade routes.
Besides these individual stories, textiles can also contain collective codes and can be read as the common language of a tribe, a social class or a specific time, expressed through specific materials, colours or forms. The special symbols in Kyrgyz felt carpets, the colours and shapes of Turkish Oya lace or the meaning of diamond patterns in Moroccan Berber carpets - they all contain codes that tell of belonging, natural phenomena, wishes and dreams and are becoming increasingly rare to decode these days. Dealing with them means getting closer to a culture and looking for ways of understanding.
Associations, memories, and social connotations that we associate with various materials and textile objects are also important sources for finding new forms of artistic expression in the field of contemporary textile art and design. The works of the artist Chunghie Lee, which interpret the Korean patchwork technique of the Boijagi in a modern way, or the fabrics of the Venezuelan artists María Dávila & Eduardo Portillo could not be fully read without these cultural references. Other artists and designers, such as Ewa Latkowska-Żychska, Antoni Starczewski or Aleksandra Gaca, have developed a completely independent, unmistakable signature in their work, which can also be interpreted as a kind of language.
These and many other exciting topics will be addressed at the presentations at the 20th ETN conference, which will take place from March 2nd to 4th in Lodz, Poland.
More information about the ETN-conference, March 2 – 4, 2023, on site in Łódź, Poland and online: https://etn-net.org/etn-conference-2023.html
By Christina Leitner