Critics’ Picks

Emelie Röndahl, Rana Plaza - the Collapse, 2016, recycled wool, recycled clothes, linen warp, handwoven rya tapestry, 118 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 1 5/8''.

Emelie Röndahl, Rana Plaza - the Collapse, 2016, recycled wool, recycled clothes, linen warp, handwoven rya tapestry, 118 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 1 5/8''.

Lodz

“Breaching Borders”

Triennial of Tapestry
282 Piotrkowska St. Central Museum of Textiles
October 5, 2019–March 29, 2020

The International Triennial of Tapestry is one of the oldest artistic fabric exhibitions (and competitions) in the world, and its sixteenth edition, “Breaching Borders,” stretches the definition of a medium historically limited by specialist rules and workshop techniques. At long last, it appears that debates over terms such as fabric, tapestry, and textile-object are being swept under the carpet.

If the works selected by the jury are any indication, the contemporary textile has shed its physical integrity; it appears as fragment, as remnant, sometimes even as waste: the product of the overproduction of commodities, especially clothing. In Rana Plaza – the Collapse, 2016, Emelie Röndahl uses recycled wool and clothes to build up an abstraction composed from the pixels of a digital image of the infamous 2013 Dhaka garment factory collapse. She is one of several artists in the triennial who deploy textiles to addresss critical issues such as the climate crisis, xenophobia, and historical trauma. Stitched from a patchwork of shibori fabric and archival photographs and documents, Denise Oyama Miller’s kimono Connecting Threads, 2016, tells the history of American citizens of Japanese origin who were interned during World War II. In Judy Hooymeyer’s Totem, 2018, the blanket, an object typically associated with warmth and shelter, instead reminds us of the Inuit and First Nations children taken from their families under Canada’s Sixties Scoop adoption program.

When Anni Albers wrote in 1965 that “weaving deals with a submissive material,” she was thinking about fabric’s signifying functions and the rituals it has performed across cultures and across the centuries. Today, textiles are no longer limited by decorative or utilitarian functions; they are neither submissive nor innocent.