The "Textile Art 2004"- exhibition was held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Textile Association. An idea came up to look at textile art outside of the usual framework of society, country, and in fact - the medium, instead of having a standard Association exhibition. During the preparations of the exhibition a lot of work went into defining the purpose and role of textile in contemporary art - this resulted in an interesting exhibition.
The Society of Textile Artists was founded in 1974; it counts 50 members and has held exhibitions of their works at regular intervals. This time around, the Association decided to have a more extensive exhibition than before and not restrict itself to works of it members, but look further and invite artists from abroad to contribute to the 30th Anniversary Exhibition. It was to be linked to Nordic trends in textile art, for instance by connecting it to the Nordic exhibition series Northern Fibre. This exhibition's subtitle is therefore Northern Fibre V.
The main goal was to show Icelanders the diversity in international textile art, independent of the artists' background, use of materials, implementation or ideology. Applications for partaking in the exhibition rested on one condition only: that the artists connected their works to textile. Of the selected applicants six were international artists, who have all produced works that are interesting from a textile art point of view but are otherwise better known for their contribution in other fields of art. In coherence with the decision to display the diversity in contemporary textile art, three folk artists who work with textile were asked to participate in the exhibition. The Association therefore sought assistance from Níels Hafstein, curator of the Safnasafn in Svalbardastrond, who was glad to lend a helping hand.
The advert for participation in the event was posted on the Internet in the Nordic Countries. There was considerable enthusiasm for the exhibition so the advert was distributed internationally on the Internet. The exhibition committee received applications from 29 countries, 283 artists, of whom 26 were Icelandic. A selection committee was formed to review the applications and to select artists for the exhibition. The latter proved to be a difficult task, but the main aim was to put together a diverse and comprehensive exhibition where the individual works interacted. The selection committee finally chose 19 artist form the applications; 13 Icelanders and 6 foreigners.
When the word textile is looked up in a dictionary it is defined as cloth, woven or knitted material. It has a wider meaning today; it can refer to a technique, a look, and last but not least, an idea. It in this broader sense of the word that we focus on textile in this exhibition. In the past years textile has made a certain come-back into the world of art as artists of all kinds have increasingly been tempted to use textile in some way in their works. These are artist that don't consider themselves textile artists as such. It is therefore as if some invisible wall has been torn down and people are therefore less timid to use textile in their artwork when it serves their purpose.
Modern fashions and trends are often said to go around in thirty-year circuits. About 30 years have now passed since the hey-day of feminism and textile art within the art world, and their popularity then rapidly diminished. It is therefore quite natural, considering the 30 year theory, that textile is now going through another renovation and making a come-back. It is also possible that textile may have become more prominent to counter the use of computers and technology, which has dominated Western culture in the past years. It seems like people now find the need for something of more substance and less haste.
The return of textile is perhaps not only a sort of counter balance to the technology and speed of the modern age, but also a quest for permanent values. The general insecurities spawned by the disasters of September the 11th in 2001 have lead to revaluation in all areas. This is not only evident in the quest for more permanent principles, but also in the search for more permanent and true material values; things that take time to create and that are unique, as opposed to the mass produced goods that are churned out at a great pace. Yet another explanation for the return of textile may be that many of the artists that use textile today simply weren't old enough when textile was at its most popular, and they have a completely different take on textile and the meaning of the word textile art than the older generation of artists.
Most of the works displayed in the exhibition were created over the past few years and together they cover the issue of textile in a multifaceted way, and show new and exciting aspects of it. Some of these works test and expand the theme so that several questions arise: Does the thread break? What is textile? Is it the material? Is it the technique? Is it an idea? This is something that each person has to decide for him/herself. Or perhaps such definitions don't matter after all?
(the Exhibition Committee)
Edited by Paula Susitaival