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Still Alive


A journey in mind and reality

    Lithuania is not far from Sweden. But if you choose to travel the slow way, by ferry, it gives you time to think.
    When I boarded the ferry in Karlshamn one evening at the end of August, I was occupied with thoughts about the location of the lifeboats, not getting sea sick – and the jury process in which I was going to take part. I’d been in Kaunas before. I’d met some of the artists living and working there. And I also knew that some of the world’s most interesting textile artists, according to my own preferences, are located in this city.
    On my way back a couple of days later, I had some other thoughts in my mind. I remembered the beautiful colour of amber and honey, the joy of meeting people who are not only pleasant but also professional in what they’re doing – and the status of textile art.
    For those of us who have the slightest of interest in definitions, traditions and mutations of textile art, I’m sure this exhibition, Right and Wrong Sides, will be a great joy, disappointment and delight. It’s a real joy to once again realize how international art projects connect people. It was a bit of a disappointment that not many of the artists took the opportunity to relate to the theme. But I was delighted to see some really great works, with high quality both concerning concept and technical treatment of the material.

From the visitor’s point of view
    When visiting the exhibition, the theme probably puts us on our guard: “Is there really a right and a wrong side? Is this a riddle? Am I going to be fooled here?” Or maybe we choose to trust the organizers and regard the theme as an indication of their expectations on both artists and art viewers to be competent enough to think complexly and abstractly.
    The textile techniques and materials reassure us and make us weaken our defences: “Mmm, woolly things - this I know, this I remember.”  Yes, it’s true that textile in general can be defined in so many different ways.
Today the genre has a very “elastic” or broad definition. If we want to be really basic, it all starts with the wish and ability to join, transform, refine and organize fibers according to our intentions and needs. I’ve gradually become more and more interested in the background of textile art. It’s very much about body, touch, memories, isn’t it? It’s also about giving warmth and protection as well as decorating and honouring. We all have body memories of a warm blanket, and our fingertips remember the texture of an embroidered tablecloth or a newly mangled sheet. Whether one is an archeologist, anthropologist, theologian, historian, designer or artist, the world’s textiles constitute a rich source of knowledge and information about the cultures, which produced, use both for pleasure and out of necessity. There’s the shroud, the veil and the robes along with the rag and the bandaged wound.

From the artist’s point of view

    Yes, we know and we remember. When it comes to textiles, we are all experts, with personal references and preferences. So then, explain to me what happens with this insight when we move on from textiles in general to textile art in particular. How do we as artists handle these “body memories”? Do we lose interest in them since they are so ordinary? Maybe they are not important enough for representing our artistic ambitions.
    The fact that we all have such a strong relation to textiles is both a means and a problem when it comes to artistic expressions. It’s obvious that
for some artists, textile can mean neutral materials and techniques, for others it can be considerably more conceptual—and yet we all want progress, and we wish to raise the level of, and the interest for, textile art. How exactly do we do that? By looking at contemporary art in general, and try to follow its example? Fine. It’s totally okay to be second best.
    We could, on the other hand, do some qualified analysis of the fundamental existence of textiles. All these joined, transformed, refined and organized fibbers represent something beyond itself. No other material is so closely related to human existence. How do we deal with that in our studios? I think we should improve our art on crucial points if we accept this relation and seriously regard it as energy.
    Textile art has a strong identity and a clear individuality. So do the specialized textile artists. The genre is
still alive – I can feel its pulse and hear its breathing. So are we as artists. We are legitimate and not replaceable. I really wish we could nourish and stimulate textile art, let it grow – still being itself.


Annika Ekdahl