Textiles in documenta 14

Textiles in documenta 14

It is all about the story. That is the story of documenta 14. Textile is there in this frame just like all the other exhibits. The focus points immigration-democracy-disparity must be present even when talking about reindeers or indigo dye. The work is not what you see; the story is. In this sense, textile works have taken an equal place next to the other works of art: that of incidences of non-importance as such, but rather means of illustration of the general concept.

Further, the included textile works are a sample of the tolerable:
naïve with a story of meaning, high aesthetics with a story of meaning (hanged up high as well), size related with a story of meaning (size is imposing no matter what it is for the rest), memorabilia. The latter is covered in the case of textiles through the show of costumes or ordinary clothes, exhibited amongst other objects and photos. Memorabilia carry anyway a tamed sentimentalism, always attached to a story and within the agreed contextual history. Within the frame of documenta, all that is translated into conceptual folklore (because folklore as such is related to colonialism and that is not tolerable).

If you don’t understand, it is because the show is for those who recognise the structure, exhaustively repeated from one contemporary show to the next. As general rule, this is to be kept: a work can be anything as long as it is not what it is. In short, there is no work, there is only a concept containing variables (variable: a symbol that can represent different values).

P.S. 1 It goes further to the notion of art as social science or any science, and the accomplished move of institutionalisation of art (fitting in the programmes of government-fed or otherwise-fed bodies like museums and academic institutions).

P.S. 2 Putting aside how limiting that is, it is debatable whether documenta 14 is on this side or the other (because it does take sides). And, yes, there is such a thing as ‘over-institutionalisation’; this comes from a very interesting piece of writing: “‘Over-institutionalisation’ might therefore suggest that of all the countless individual activities that contribute, day by day, to this contemporary art world, the typical and predominant kind is shaped, whether we know it or not, by those policy goals based on standards, access, and the national interest. On the other hand, however, there are different kinds of activity, based on different values and interests.” By Michael Ascroft, ‘Contemporary art and over-institutionalisation’, Un Magazine 6.1, online: http://unprojects.org.au/magazine/issues/issue-6-1/contemporary-art-and-over-institutionalisation/


Lower photos: Right, Quipu gut by Cecilia Vicuna; Left, Fundi (meaning ‘uprising’ ) by Aboukabar Fofana.

Top photos: Historia by Britta Marakatt-Labba, see text here:

Kassel2017 083

From Lausanne to Beijing – 8th International Fiber Art Biennale

September 30—December 16, 2014 
From Lausanne to Beijing 8th International Fiber Art Biennale 
1895 creative cultural industry park
Nantong (Jiangsu Province)

The works are already hanging, the organisers are making the last arrangements for the official opening today, 30 September at 3:00 p.m. East China time (about 9:00 a.m. CET). I won’t be there this time; will have to wait patiently for news from co-exhibitors and the catalogue after the end of the exhibition together with the return my works. The exhibition is of course  certain to be big again, but not exhausting I must say. The former factory where it is held is something like the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam or the Technopolis-Gazi in Athens.

But here is a part of the forward from the organisers*:

“…Since 2000, “From Lausanne to Beijing” international fiber art exhibition has been held for 7 sessions which has come through 14 years. It has gradually become an international well-known brand with a development pattern of popularization, socialization and internationalization…

…There are 655 pieces of artwork applying for the 8th  Biennale (including 363 works from China and  292 works from other countries).  186 pieces of artwork were admitted into the ‘From Lausanne to Beijing’ 8th International Fiber Art Biennale Exhibition(including 75 works form China and  111 works from other countries. In 2014, with the invitation of the Nantong government, the 8th biennale will still be held in 1895 creative cultural industry park in Nantong City…”

I volunteer for tele-transportation! (…have been volunteering since the 80’s in vain…)

Patience promotes!

* organization: Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University People’s government of Nantong Fiber Art Committee, China Arts & Crafts Association Fiber art institute of China National Academy of Painting

The photos are from the previous edition of the Biennale; once I have new photos or news I will publish them as well.



Nantong_2012_main hall entrance view
Nantong_2012_main hall entrance view
detail of a stupendous embroidered work by Chang YoungRan from Korea
detail of a stupendous embroidered work by Chang YoungRan from Korea

Did you like this article?
Come aboard! Subscribe to receive the latest articles, freshly published, by just entering your email address in the subscribe box; go now to the main page and join!

(No) Textiles at the Venice Art Biennale 2013 (no55)

In the vastness of the Venice Art Biennale, textile art is still seen only sporadically and never as a complete and autonomous art proposal. It is mostly hidden behind contexts as at the Venice Pavilion where a group of artists recalls  Venice’s historic fabric production or – again in an historical context –  as example of the 60’s-70’s avant garde of a country as with the works of Geta Bratescu from Romania; in the “Encyclopedic Palace”, the main exhibition at the Italian Pavilion.

I spotted a room of tapestries by the Senegalese artist Papa Ibra Tal  and the digitally printed fabric work by the British Alice Channer, both in the Arsenale. Further, a thread installation by Faig Ahmed from Azerbaijan in the exhibition “Love me, Love me not”- Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its neighbours at Arsenale North and the big size embroideries by one of the artists of the exhibition “Voice of the Unseen Chinese Independent Art 1979/Today”. I haven’t been able to find a button for English on their website to extract the name of the artist.

There are some exhibitions containing art on fabric – I could not see everything as understood –  but in total the textiles do not exceed our ten fingers. To that respect –  if only –  La Biennale has not picked up to a wave of handmade works; the few handicrafts that again are exhibited in conceptual costumes do not change much of this impression.

deatill of Geta Bratescu's (Romania) textile work
detail of Geta Bratescu’s (Romania) textile work
tapestry by Papa Ibra Tal (Senegal) at the Arsenale
tapestry by Papa Ibra Tal (Senegal) at the Arsenale
detail of digitally printed fabric work by Alice Channer (UK) in the series "Reptiles"
detail of digitally printed fabric work by Alice Channer (UK) –  series “Reptiles”
embroideries on big size stretchers at the Voice of the Unseen Chinese Independent Art 1979/Today
embroideries on big size stretchers at the “Voice of the Unseen” Chinese Independent Art 1979/Today
detail of embroidery work
detail of embroidery work

Leaving Nantong and the opposite of innocence

The shock of the new (…) was replaced by the shock of the opposite of innocence. Simply by changing location suddenly from curiosity I became a tourist; a naive prawn for those working hard to earn on foolish non alert “others”. The first hit happened at Pudong airport where the organised by our hosts buses dropped everyone off. Many would travel away but I had to go in the city. A young woman with a tag “Nancy-airport” saw on me a moment of hesitation and approached me offering a taxi for only 550 Yuan; she would call, taxi would come, fixed price, receipt, no tip…as I was nearly dreaming I went along for a while until I could calculate in my mind what was this amount. Then by mentioning numbers I somehow confused her and that gave me the chance to say “no that’s too much” and turned away. Only then I realised that this is the scam that is mentioned everywhere in the guides and is told by every one that has travelled to China. OK, Westerners, no need to feel superior. In a more or less obvious way, foreigners become prey in your countries too; only when we are at home we can not know that; the “others” do.

Anyway, I took an official taxi that cost me 170 Yuan. On the way, I relived a sequence of dreadful feelings that I had gone through at a young age. Leaving a protected environment is a liberation; I always prefer to be independent and do my own plan, but then my energy is also spent in building a barrack around me. So, innocence finished around and inside; I had to put the heavy face on (and that hurts!).

My hotel in Shanghai is close to People’s square; a very good one. I actually can see the Shanghai Museum from my window on the 12th floor. At the reception I was told that it is 15 minutes walk to the museum but it is much less. Gush, Shanghai is a huge city! Seventeen million people and it shows! I walked down there to find my own familiarity, inside a museum, but without luck. Outside the big museum there was a queue, but anyway I was looking for the contemporary art museum called MOCA; no luck there neither as it is showing Finnish design and photography which I do not need to see now. To top that, three youngsters, including one girl, asked me to take a picture of them in front of the garden flowers, with their camera. Then they started making questions and finally asked if I wanted to join them at the opening of the tea ceremony festival where they were going. How many times I have heard this story already? I said I was busy and left, but my mood was shattered. I walked around the square which is in fact an area packed with anything you can imagine; and trees. It did not take long to decide that I had nothing to find there and turned back to walk opposite direction to the Yuyuan market, a bazaar really Chinese; with red decorations for the new year, decorations for Christmas (even a full Xmas tree!), the plastic toys that go around also in Europe, plenty of fabrics, ribbons, faux jewellery and of course food; all in big quantities in a very tight space. I walked further and further in this labyrinth. It was impossible to get the big picture of the area so I focused on details; just to find my way back to my shelter. Word of the day, without looking at the book: “barricades”

These pictures are details of works of the 7th “From Lausanne to Beijing” Fiber Art Biennale, Nantong.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last day in Nantong

What a day! A total contradiction to what textile art promotes, which is peace. It was raining all night and the morning was dark and misty, so much that I had to wear my glasses to see clearly in the distance. I walked, having a few hours free of any programmed plans, towards the centre of the city, passing through the “Moat Haohe Scenic Area”; first little stop at the Jugue Pavilion where people do their morning exercises looking a the river water.

the Bonsai garden

I felt a bit of their energy and walked further on the riverside; second stop at the Bonsai garden, another place of peace. Then my walk became more adventurous, battling against cars, motorbikes, mud of the constructions spreading all over and of course the rain. All this was happening before 8am; I walked and walked and as much as I wanted to look around I felt that something was missing. I will not be embarrassed to say that I stopped at a KFC to have a coffee; then life could be reasonable again.

On my way back to the hotel to get ready for the day’s activities, I stopped at the Nantong book-store where they also have books with English titles but that was all that was in English. Of course the people felt embarrassed for my sake so I did not stay long; the only book that could make sense to buy was the dictionary but I found this a bit premature. This embarrassment or surprise to see me, is something I myself face with equal surprise; so, we are all a bit surprised but with good or indifferent intentions. I must say that the young people that have been around us, coming mostly from Universities and working for the show as volunteers, have the most innocent eyes and did their utmost best to accommodate us. Their English is fantastic especially if I think that they don’t really use it! They look more used to “the others”.


But it is already late; after a seminar, which was basically a panel discussion between consultants/ jury board members, an award ceremony and then a deadly diner a the Four Seasons hotel, it is time to pack my bags and get some rest. Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am a bus will take us to Shanghai; other stories there. Still, I have more to say about the deeds in Nantong, but that will come later. I got the catalogue and can be more precise with the photographs of works but now, in a little haste, I will only publish some generic photos (apart from one, check the captions). Goodnight or good day; word of the day “Grassroots”

the 7th “From Lausanne to Beijing” Fiber Art Biennale, Nantong, China

After a good night sleep I stood up ready to attend the day’s main event. The opening of the exhibition took place at 10 am with girls in costumes, drums, speeches, pyros and balloons. Nantong, being a city of textile industry of long tradition, has passed to its people and apparently to China’s conscience a certain respect for fiber works and fiber art as extension. The idea that fiber art is a form that comes from the people and therefore people can understand and associate themselves with it was not only sensed but also proclaimed aloud and with conviction. Yet, I did not expect it to be such a highly appreciated event. The ceremony of course was bathed with importance but the exhibition itself is the actual festivity; it is filled with inspiration reflecting it back at every step. If you are around do not miss it. The area of the venue is also interesting, making the after taste of the day somehow edgy; at one side the pyros and at the other side people standing outside the gate getting a glimpse of the festivities of others.
This is the address: “1895” Cultural and Creative Industrial Park, 18#, West Street, Gangzha District, Nantong City, Jiangsu Province.
I am publishing here a few photographs of the exhibition without names of the artists nor titles and materials used (added on 18 Nov.), as I do not have the catalogue in my hands yet to be able to be precise. Tomorrow, since we are supposed to be there for the seminar and other activities I hope to get the catalogue and finish my tour in the actual show which today proved to be squeezed in a very tight programme. The last visit today was at the new Museum of the City of Nantong a fabulous building of human dimensions made of white marble and black stone. The word of the day (continuing reading the book China in Ten Words by Yu Hua): “Disparity”

see images at http://www.chinafiberart.com.cn/news1.asp?Id=223

This slideshow requires JavaScript.