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Discussion focuses on textile culture and possibilities of its development in Lithuania, relating it to such categories as







Janis Jefferies is Professor of Visual Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. She is an artist, writer and curator as well as Director of the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles and Artistic Director of Goldsmiths Digital Studios, an interdisciplinary research centre across art, technology and cultural processes. She was one of the founding editors of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Berg Publishers, in 2002 and edited Digital Dialogues 1 and 2: Textiles and Technology (November 2004, January 2005), a collection of specially researched and commissioned essays that represent research collaborations between textile artists and designers, cultural theorists, sociologists, architects, computer scientists and engineers. She is a Chair of the Jury, TEXTILE 07 – Wide Examination.


Victoria Mitchell has written a number of articles about textile issues relating to drawing, craft, fine art and architecture. She is Course Leader for the MA Textiles Culture and Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies at Norwich School of Art and Design. She came to TEXTILE 07 for research for an article to spring edition of Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. 


Fiona Kirkwood is an artist, art lecturer and cultural activist, living in Durban, South Africa. She grew up in Scotland and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. She obtained an MAFA from the University of Kwa- Zulu Natal. She has for many years been a pioneer in the field of Textile Art in South Africa. She was awarded 1st prize (Excellence award) in the category of “Place” in Kaunas Art Biennial TEXTILE 05 (2005).  She was, as a result, invited as a curator for TEXTILE 07 to introduce a South African collection, which she named “Skin to Skin”. Through this Fiona Kirkwood exposed some of the main issues, past and present of life in South Africa, skin colour, HIV / AIDS and cultural rituals, spirituality of small tribes and their connection to skin and textile – tactility.


Dr. Ed Carroll was born in Dublin1960. Following on from 20 years experience in the related fields of higher education, arts and culture, he completed a Masters on ‘Art Out of School’ and a PhD on ‘Lifelong Learning in the Arts in Ireland’ through CITY University, London. Since 2000 he worked as an independent researcher for a variety of statutory and voluntary organisations, in Ireland, England, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Russia.  He is co-author of a range of publications including Traineeships in the Arts (1999, MJP); Someone who Believed in Me (2000, EU Youthstart Programme); The Well Being of Children (2002, Irish Youth Foundation) and Measuring Child Wellbeing (2007, National Children’s Office).  In 2004 he took up position as the Community Programmer for CityArts and was a key advocate within the Civil Arts Inquiry 2003-2005 and the arising developmental period within the organisation up until 2007. He is currently a board member and activist of the Kaunas Art Biennial. 


Fernando Marques Penteado lives and works in Sao Paulo and London. Penteado i a visual artist with MA in Fine Arts / Textiles at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK. Works predominantly with textile surfaces where he incorporates different techniques of machine and hand embroidery and where he discusses gender politics and constructions of masculinities, artworks that he signs as f.marquespenteado. Works as visiting lecturer in both Brazil and UK and facilitates embroidery workshops for endangered or suburban communities, such as prisoners, scavengers and outskirts large cities urban communities. He is a clandestine illustrator, essayist and photographer. Curator of TEXTILE 07, who presented a collection “Sheer and Shallow”.


Moderator: Virginija VitkienÄ—, an Executive Director of Kaunas Art Biennial, art critic and curator of international projects. 




Janis has already mentioned speaking about selection process in her article (T07 catalogue): What is it to live contemporary? This question being a flag of TEXTILE 07 biennial could lead us to the discussion about relation of contemporary life, time, space and the body. Textile in this discourse arises for us, who are living conceptualizing textile practice and object, as an essence of human living and tactile experience – a primary source of safeness and private being.

Question: How / why can textile (art) speak contemporary being one of the most ancient witnesses of human culture?

The idea of what it is to live in the contemporary emerged from the first selection with Dania and Gerry.  It was a generic observation, marking a tendency of work submitted, coming to terms with and exploring issue based work, work based on experience within the ‘private’ and public domains and across an increasingly global culture.

Textile Art speaks of the contemporary by showing some of the latest developments of textile technology, computer generated work and high technology, by reflecting society, politics and culture as they exist locally and globally today in this Time in the subject matter, themes, images and media shown. 

i see textile being contemporary  at  any new pair of socks you buy in the shopping mall: you wear it, it is embedded in textile technology and it makes you contemporary. Regarding textile art I really do not believe in such a position/ a ground, which is something I discuss since textile 05 : i would rather listen to something like “textiles as platform for arts” which multiples the entries for textiles in one’s contemporary living existence

Because PATTERN is a powerful medium of semantic invention and re-invention, carried by textile’s duality as both structure and surface.  Patterns not only reference remote antiquity through their appearance (which is, typically, formed through repetition), but also through their continuous and ubiquitous re-making through textile practices across time. Pattern as structure and pattern as surface figuration (decoration, embellishment etc) have always been linked through cultural-material conversations (thus Amazonian basket weaving and body painting share the same pattern vocabulary). 

In an image-saturated and technically-explosive ‘contemporary’ society, pattern has acquired additional semantic reference via the computer and via the repetition of imagery through mass production.  But in addition, significantly, pattern also draws on critical theory from cross-cultural studies and from a questioning of identity. Such questioning (I think of it as criss-cross cultural, as in reference to a typical stitch-work pattern) helps to frame and to flesh out a relationship between others (across time and from one place to another) and ourselves.  Pattern carries memories – it is a vehicle – not only from one place to another but also through the internalized workings of the mind and the interior of the body through to the skin, the surface.  It enables us to be clothed from within.

At Kaunas 07 the many references to inkle-weaving sash patterns resonated with cross-cultural perspectives linking Lithuanian heritage to the wider world (in place and time).  The highlight (for me) was the painting in henna by Lina Jonicke of traditional ‘Lithuanian’ patterns onto the back of the British artist (of Indian parentage), Hetain Patel.   Through a combination of pattern book, painting, video and mirror, Patel was able to translate the painting on his back into a mirror image on the front on his body.  Pattern lends itself to translation and conversation.  It is the semantic of choice for contemporary textile practice!

What does a time add to the textile experience, practice and perception?

Ads curiosity and the attempt of get rid of historical notions of ‘textile art’ so that different crossroads and scenarios are searched in order to represent and to talk in behalf of textile culture

Cloth and culture are always time based, not just in terms of production (ie the work takes time) but is also marked by time and history as it unfolds its markings.

What does it mean 10 years of experience for biennial? (For problem-oriented biennial such as Kaunas art biennial dedicated to textile culture?)

--- you tell me

The point about Kaunas is that it is open and ready to discuss change.  There are roots in textile culture and there are disciplines that are represented but it also notes and observes that which is happening around it.  It is not static.

Textiles are one the most ancient and enduring technologies, they are part of every culture and every society.  Over 25 years ago there was a paradigm shift in writing textiles from a gendered and primarily art based perspective, 10 years ago there was a paradigm shift in thinking textiles as both a material set of practices and as part of a complex semiotic sign system within discourses of translation, today the paradigm shift concerns the artist as researcher, participating in the development of technologies that are our shaping our society, pioneering research in the development of technologies in partnership with engineers and scientists.  This in itself should surprise nobody—textiles and technological invention have often gone hand in hand—but it does raise fascinating and fundamental questions about textiles and new technologies.

Among these practitioners is a new type of multi-disciplinary worker or collective: the artist as researcher, participating at the same time in artistic practice and the development of technologies that are shaping our society, pioneering research in the development of technologies.  A new generation of artists are researching and functioning within a computer mediated culture.  How their work unfolds will become a crucial part of our cultural heritage.

For example, the technologies of the hand—the hand tool, mechanical devices, the computer and digital processes—affect the ways in which we perceive, process and respond to information.  These technologies are growing in importance in computer sciences and their development is fundamentally influenced by textile practice. For example, consider the work being done by artists and designers in the area of reactive clothes: “second skins” and aesthetics surfaces that can adapt to the environment and to the wearers. 

When we look at the evolution of the Biennial over ten years (6 productions) it is important not to conceive it as a single line starting from T01 proceeding through T07 (2007) and towards T09 (2009). The idea of a flow of time into the present closes down the field of lived experience and can wrongly presume that the older is somehow obsolete.  For sure the Biennial has shifted and responded to the contemporary moving from the thematic select exhibitions (T97,T02,T03) to an open call for work and parallel curator-led exhibitions (T05, T07).  A curators’ view of textiles from Europe, Japan, North America, Brazil, and Britain introduced the idea of ‘narrow’ exhibition. But our perspective needs also to keep in view the social, political and economic life of the city and country.  For example, look at the throes of people flying out of Kaunas Airport these last two years to Dublin, London, Glasgow and other places. These places have become home to almost a quarter of a million Lithuanians. I use this example to illustrate that it is never enough to simply see the unfolding of the Biennial as a closed-off event to human experience.  It strikes me that the Biennial in a city like Kaunas can re-build capacities for the production of culture that can ventilate the dramas that take place in and beyond the city. This means we have to dislodge ourselves from the comfort of the known, of the centre, of tried and tested formulae.  Otherwise we too risk becoming a cultural institution that sits like an old house in the country covered with moss.  Surely the experience of a fearless and brave textile biennial will be the paradox that in exile from textiles we discover our unique contribution.

Could you see some parallels of Kaunas biennial and other textile-orientated international events (Lozana, Lodz)? Could you see future perspectives for such kind of art exhibitions?

Lausanne ran out of steam over a 27 year period. It was reliant on institutional funding, Lodz is stagnant because it has not questioned itself.

I can not see parallels since I do not know any other biennale apart from Kaunas….perspectives will always depend on demand and inspiration…if a bunch of people are enthusiastic about the presence of textile in arts and the discussions it generates I definitely think there is a light at the end of the tunnel…I personally believe that some more informal, less erudite interfaces of presenting ‘textile when experienced by artists’ should be looked at, say … more unconventional public and private spaces where the ‘art piece’ has to manage to adapt rather than the space has to conform to the piece…more risks have to be included, otherwise there will be long term talks around insurances, travel expenses and logistics.

How contemporary cultural and social context does an impact on strategy, structure and visual expression of event?

--- they necessarily reflect demand and people’s interest in the event…important would be to collect some more information of how wide, extensive, broad and real are people’s wishes and imaginations on  getting to go and see getting a piece of textile art in the place where they live. Strategies, structures and visual expression of events organized around such collected imaginations might change dramatically from what they are today. Do people ‘praise’ art or the leisure aspects art events are determined to contemplate?



Please characterize a relation of textile object and space (textile installations) in the contemporary art scene.

--- Christo and Jeanne Claude still propose an unique visual, environmental presence of textile ‘read as art’ in the art scene today…their work is definitely a landmark in terms of artistic entrepreneurial domain and achievement. They dialogue and deliver an impressively evocative textile presence with their work.

The increased opportunity for ‘site-specific’ textiles would be invaluable. Responding to buildings, public spaces, factories, empty shops, churches, historic landmarks, houses, museum collections (etc.) would allow textiles to embed itself as a powerful and articulate medium of communication within culture (both contemporary and historic). Arguably the art gallery is an outmoded context – at the very least its importance as the primary space of display should be challenged and questioned.


Comments on the space of TEXTILE 07 exhibitions

they were the best response for the real, feasible aspects of a show that was desired and fought for and…under such terms they were sublime. I personally liked more the arrangement of textile 05 in Zilinskas Art Gallery under the ‘misfortune of picture’s gallery had fallen off’... I somehow think that the contemporary work presented then established a more ‘tormented’ situation vis-à-vis to the historical pieces of the gallery and…this was really funny.


The large white space for Textile 07 Narrow Examination worked well with the high ceilings of the Kaunas Picture Gallery. More space would have been ideal to avoid works overlapping and to give each work ‘more room to breathe’ independently.

The SPACE for the Wide Examination was too crowded, especially in the smaller area at the front. The carpeting lowers the sophistication of the gallery space.  These need to be renewed OR preferably replaced by another flooring surface.

Contemporary textile art can be exhibited in many situations as the Biennial Textile 07 has shown, from the walls of a ruined church, in a site specific location which reflects the concept of the work, to the many and varied gallery spaces in Kaunas, to shop windows and in pre designated urban outdoor areas.

I like the fact that there exists this diversity in the SPACES of the biennial.

Kaunas already has made a name for itself as one of the few cities in the world today to host a major contemporary textile biennial, where art textiles reflect some of the best work available today from around the globe.  It has also shown itself consistently as very committed to this and what is wonderful about Kaunas is that like Lodz in Poland it has a long history of textiles production. Lithuania today produces many very talented and skilled artists in this field.

The Biennial has represented 6 countries since 2005 in Narrow Examination.  It would be interesting to expand this to include more curated exhibitions from other countries.

The ‘open call’ is a good idea to maintain as it opens the door to new names in the area of the contemporary, but of course lack of funding is often an obstruction for many international artists to participate.

More site specific work should be encouraged.


What kind of exhibition space does the contemporary (textile) art require?

Space has to be strategically akin to popular public spaces, from malls, theatres, raves, street markets and ‘requirements’ of ‘art pieces’ have to accommodate to the scenarios.


Kaunas as a SPACE for biennial, Textile biennial: opinions, suggestions...

excellent space for a biennale to take place…atmospherically charged, lovely people, tradition in constructed textiles, industrious culture…there is the need for more run down churches, bazés, clothes second hand shops (they are huge), underground passages and experimentation in future displays otherwise we will all get into new decades of the XXI century playing safe and hostages to regimental spaces

It is a very rich experience to have been part of this biennial and I personally have great respect for the leaders of it and what they have been able to achieve.

In this Biennial textiles and culture are inseparable.  They are happening conjunctly as this biennial bring together artists whose works express culture from many parts of the globe in the subject matter, in the methods of creation, the media, the use or lack of technology and in the final result of these textile art works.  It is this variety of cultures coexisting that gives the biennial such energy, through the contrasts of expression.

CULTURE could provide the focussed theme for the next Biennial.


I am looking into SPACE problematic deeply and would like to make a comment about social spaces and biennials’ responsibilities to make an impact on creation of culture, not only consumption, in two ways: from (i) personal experience of the Biennial and (ii) social experience of the Biennial.

 (i) The Biennial organizers share a responsibility to the Biennial for it to be received critically not cynically, trusted not doubted and have fecundity. By fecundity, I intend that people experience artwork that works to motivate and mobilize others because art is a meaning making activity for everyone. An ambition still to be reached is to communicate magically in a wider way, beyond the thousands of visitors to the exhibitions, events, and discussions.

But real communication requires, what could be termed, a shuttle movement from the institution to the society.  And among culture and education institutions in Kaunas the capacity is simply not there.  Why?  Well people are aware of the symptoms. For instance, artists still depend upon a diminishing state apparatus for support.  Also, the culture and education armature of the state can be compared to an old house sitting in the country covered by moss. It seems to me that the Biennial must do its part to create a platform to refresh and revision new capacities for cultural production. And it has to do it in a way which invites likeminded partners to a civil culture inquiry that will (i) re-mobilize arts and cultural practitioners, (ii) turn the culture away from indifference and apathy and (iii) invite visionary outsiders to share tactics from other contexts. 

(ii) My primary concern is to understand how art functions in social space and how to engage artists and non-artists in the production of culture. In the Biennial, the work that caught my interest often extended beyond materiality towards context.  For instance, look at the ideas and artistry used to ‘relate’ (I. Liksaite), ‘rescue’ (R. Chaves), ‘collaborate’ (H. Patel), ‘dismantle’ (A. Houghton), ‘graft’ (L. Farber) and ‘remember’ (G. Valtaite).  In this regard there is a growing discourse in contemporary art among critical writers like Grant Kester and Rosalyn Deutche in the United States.  If the Biennial process can be significant for the citizens of this city and region we have to seriously reconsider how we mediate the Biennial experience to the city and particularly its children and young people.

Any Biennial faces the temptation to relentlessly programme product that delivers audiences. If the Biennial is to be an icon it has to make its mark in framing and producing the conditions under which Lithuanian art and artists can function collaboratively and critically and embedded in the society in ways that ‘outsiders’ too add value to the process.

Is Kaunas name already an icon of Textile Festival and important point in a map of contemporary textile culture? Why?


--- I am not able to measure the reach of perception of Kaunas as festival…definitely in my country of origin it is an obscure event…what shall be said is that since it is in it’s sixth edition such achievement shows enthusiasm and… this is what shall be preserved in contemporary life



Thinking about textile and body usually starts with connotation of tactile perception. But it has many other connections... Skin, gaze, etc.

The ‘body’ throughout the centuries of our histories was always a site for textile relationships, whether it be through skin coverings of early man or clothes and fashions through the ages or the textile that we used to decorate and make our homes warmer and more comfortable.

Our, bodies, hands and eyes are our primary means of making contact with textile surfaces and of course our hands and eyes and minds find new strategies for working with and physically or metaphorically creating new approaches to textile artworks.

The body as an image plays a strong role in the majority of the works to be found on Textile 07, in Narrow Examination, to be found in the video and photographic work of Leora Farber, where she uses her body and the apparent stitching of a South African aloe plant in to her skin as a method of expressing the adaptation of a colonial from Europe to Africa and her descendants adjusting to life in a post colonial society.

Walter Oltmann in his skeletal wire form of a pregnant woman dying of AIDS with her unborn baby in her womb is another clear example of the use of the body as image.

Langa Magwa, who expresses his identity in his work, through body images -- the tribal rituals that he has undergone on his body, scarification and circumcision-- through his use of drawing and etching on to cow skin.

Fiona Kirkwood makes use of clothing to communicate messages about HIV /AIDS prevention in her Washing Line installation and video and of course this remarks on physical disease in the body.

There are several other examples of figurative work, relating to body image in the South African collection, in the ‘baby skins’ of Tamlin Blake, the beaded portraits of Karin Lijnes, the stylised images woven in to Angeline Masuku’s basket and the safety pin works which reflects the skirts made famous when worn by Nelson Mandela.  Yda Walt’s work also shows brightly coloured images of African women in downtown Johannesburg.

Hetain Patel uses his body as a site on which to shape a performance as it is drawn onto using henna, employing a technique used for centuries by his forefathers in India.

Clothing and it’s relationship to the body is again represented in the works of British artists, Amy Houghton, in the video Mary Croom’s Dress; inferred through Craig Fisher’s speech bubbles, painted fragments of English fabric designs; the lace pin pricking’s onto paper of Catherine Bertola’s underwear; the photographs of Gerard Williams and the performance of Christine Ellison

The body, in the slant of sensuality and sexuality, emerges in the three other works by the British artists, Katherine Nolan in her digitally worked photographic images, in the drawing of Danica Maier and the wallpaper of Miranda Whall.

In the Brazilian Collection, Nino Cais transforms his body with lace cloths made by his relatives and other still life objects, which is then documented in a series of photographs; the powerful portraits of indigenous women of Romulo Chaves and the work of Jorge Luis da Fonseca, where he has illustrated a couple engaged in a sexual act as the primary focus of his work.

The Brazilian collection and the South African Collection share the common ground that the majority of the works are hand manufactured and made of  physical textile, unlike the British collection, which although the artists’ bodies has been clearly present in the act of making, the materials are not made of textile.

The majority of artists on the Wide Examination refer in some way to the body or the body is represented directly, in the works of Silja Puranen, Agniete Janusaite, Naoko Yoshimoto, Lia Cook, Saetrang Bente and Brett Alexander to name a few. Vita Geluniene and Laima Orzekauskiene exhibited beautiful tapestries with images of portraits or bodies.

In many
Kaunas Art Biennial TEXTILE 07 examples I see Body as an image and mythology...

--- the immensely interesting work of Hetain Patel …the textile dolls in Gerardo Vilaseca collection --- aren’t dolls the subjective construction of care and longing for a “body to come” imbedded in children’s learning of social processes?…portraiture of Karin Lijnes…a my-own-body-size-work of Angeline Masuku …Walter Oltman body absence…Silja Puranen body disruptions.



Lithuanian art discourse still doesn't have in use a structure 'textile culture' which is quite popular in UK now. How could you explain and expand this concept. Is it somehow related to the theory of relational aesthetics (Nicolas Bourriaud) or interactive use/creation of culture production?

--- to expand the concept of textile culture there is this invitation to anyone/you all to witness some of the main and different regional parades of Brazilian carnival where a incredible large amount of community-based textile objects are in display. And in display are also the enunciations of people’s social strategies, challenges and achievements around artistic presence and (self) representation.


In my experience (having used the term ‘textile culture’ as the title of an MA course in a British Art School for the last 7-8 years), textile culture avoids the terms art, craft and design (which have arguably outlived their usefulness for the textile field).  Bourriaud is a useful reference, but does not underpin the particular implications of textile as a medium through which it is possible to make sense of being in the world both materially and culturally, offering a perspective that has received little coherent attention in past manifestations of ur-concepts of intelligent life! Textile culture recognizes the seminal role that textile has played and continues to play in the systems (biological, technological, economic, creative) that enable the individual, the social and the global to mediate between nature and culture.  Textile culture recognizes the history (including pre history) and ubiquity of textiles as a major field within which to operate and from which to draw inspiration.  It brings the different voices of textiles into a single frame (textiles as hobby, as craft, as design, as art, as Fine Art, as anthropological, historical, archaeological evidence, as concept - with reference to use in psychology, architecture, mathematics, neuroscience, literary theory, etc.).  Textile culture is inclusive rather than specialist. It brings together a wider range of textile experiences than any more prescriptive terms would do. It is an apposite term for our times–especially in the wake of ‘visual’ and ‘material’ culture as a standard classification. Textile culture embraces both these terms and in addition engages cultures of communications and technology.

The philosophy of the Textile Culture MA course (as written in 2000/2001) says that:

Although the territory covered by the term textile culture is open to interpretation, the following descriptions are appropriate to the concept:

Textile culture may be concerned with textile artefacts – ie. artefacts which are made of natural or synthetic fibre, but is equally concerned with reference to

textile in any medium.

• Textile culture may be concerned with processes and production as found, for example, within agricultural, domestic, industrial and post-industrial contexts,

museology and conservation contexts, educational contexts.

• Textile culture may refer to individual identity and creative practice (which may be collaborative).

• Textile culture may be concerned with written records, critical and historical evidence.

• Textile culture is both historical (including pre-history) and contemporary.

• Textile culture both mediates and respects traditional classifications of art,design and craft.

• Textile culture mediates contemporary classifications of visual and material culture.

 Now I would want to add something like ‘textile culture may be concerned with biological, mathematic, economic, scientific, technological and digital systems’.

What a special role in the development of textile culture could you penetrate for Kaunas textile event?

--- I can not really/fully understand what you mean by ‘penetrate’ but if there is something special about Kaunas is the possibility the event generated to promote an excellent European forum for textile issues. I specially like the ‘talking bit’ since the face-to-face opportunity gives chances to more random, spontaneous, crude, poignant talks then on a daily-basis-all-of-us-in-our-own-corner. Written material is generated which is also significant for expanding textile’s perceptions…so more talking and written material please.

It seems to me that a key area would be to invite artists to spend time in Kaunas developing projects with people and place.  I THINK THIS is where my interests lie ie working with the sashes and the students from the Academy to build a new textile and sound scape.  The evolution is slow and it is not a ready made product that can be flown into a space.


I would be interested to see more reference by artists to textile production in factories and more reference to (challenging) the economic status of textiles as a global and multinational force. The textile industry accounts for about 10% of Lithuania’s GDP.

International curators will naturally map the scope of textile culture and Kaunas should continue its success in facilitating such opportunities.