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Textile Epistemologies (theory)

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How do textiles embody knowledge, histories and languages? What are the haptic, material and spatial distinctive aspects of textiles? What stories do textiles tell and how do they archive them? What conditions are fostered by textile production and circulation? What is the political performance of textiles throughout history, and in diverse locations, communities and artistic practices? What heated aesthetic debates has textile practice triggered and continues to provoke today?

The seminar begins with an introduction to the history of textiles as a technology, specifying terms, basic techniques and the labor and strategic use of fibers, threads and dyes. First from plants and animals, fibers such as cotton, wool, linen, alpaca, silk and later synthetic ones fostered textile cultures, textile ecologies and geopolitics, shaping society, influencing even mathematics, modern chemistry, commerce and bank notes system.

Departing from the introduction of the seminar, the group will collectively develop a glossary of terms to enhance our vocabulary and understanding of textile epistemologies (first assignment).

Through analysis and discussion of various significant textile artists and related theoretical texts, the seminar will continue to trace crucial debates and artists' practices across regions and histories. We will begin by discussing the fundamental debate against ocularcentrism of western culture (Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, 2010) which is of utmost relevance to textile works, as it questions the primacy of the sense of sight and the hierarchies that relegate touch, such as the discussion on the spatiality and haptic aspects of textile over their visuality by Bauhaus weaver Otti Berger in her essay “Stoffe in Raum,” (Fabrics in Space), published in 1930. Textile is a medium that can awaken our ability to “read with the fingers”. Therefore, weavers have often worked spatially, going away from the support of the wall, such as the works by Venezuelan-German artist Gego in the 1960s-70s, made of complex system of knots of steel wire that expand into space, or the more recent works by weaver Olga Amaral, an earlier practitioner of the fiber arts movement in Colombia since the mid 1950s, whose painted fibers are suspended within the space, as rhythms of plain-weave that transform weaving from a flat medium into a spatial experience. Contemporary artists incorporate as much as traditional asunconventional materials, like Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who uses discarded aluminum bottle caps tied by copper wire, transforming humble materials into precious spatial weaving works, while also doing a recycling act. Every student is invited to do a short presentation in class on a textile artistic practice, stressing its haptic and spatial aspects, materials, context and debates (second assignment).

During the seminar we will engage with artists dedicated to work with and research on textiles, and we will get textile samples for a haptic experience of textiles. We will also visit current exhibitions dedicated to textile practices and genealogies.

Attendance and participation are important. A third final written assignment will be defined in the class.



Modul I: Theorieseminar: Raumanalyse


Sommersemester 2024


Freitag, 10:00 – 13:00

Erster Termin





Seminar Room