Polly Apfelbaum, Buttercup, 2000, synthetic velvet and dye, Dm 3,70 m
Which is why textile arts must come first. (Gottfried Semper)
A contemporary definition of the relation between textile and fine art can be traced back to Gottfried Semper's radical thesis contending that textiles are the only real creative art form from which all other arts in an infinite series of mimetic attempts at outperformance are destined to derive - though here we are not concerned with a mere confirmation of this claim, but rather with the effects, stimulations, overlappings, and reiterations contemporary art, for its part, contributes to the examination and the application of the material. The history of our fetishism with the artistic material can be seen as a multitude of lines of which there are primarily two - namely, one that became completely entranced by the visual design of the fabric, and one that saw in it a skin substitute or body equivalent - that possess relevancy for modernism and postmodernism.
As to the visuality of the fabric, it is composed of the texture itself, and is in this sense identical to the knit, which consists of a certain interweaving of colored threads. This crisscross of threads in its evocation of a cryptic universal script, reveals itself inevitably as the minimum of every organization that has complexity as a determinant. With these crisscrosses the open spaces become restructured to euclidean and geographic spaces, which means they have generative, more far-reaching potencies, which in the wake of panel paintings transfixed "abstract" painters as if to hypnotize them. The slants and knottings of the threads in the textile anticipate all possible interpretations of the spatial in two-dimensionality.
Thus while some endeavor to uncover the whirring visual message in the medium of the applied and to translate (reconstruct) the logic of texture within the canon of arts in a process that Semper would have called the shifting of material, what others immediately see in the textile, in the material, is its suitability as an organic extension of the body itself: one can capitalize on the binomial of body/clothing, which can be applied like nothing else for the benefit of an extended body knowledge. Here the shifting of material is indeed the shift between "soft" similar textures, between the (connective) tissue of the body and its artificial reflection in its intimate spaces, in its shells. Lately we even see young artists turning to sewing, thus in an astounding way shortening the path through the obstacle course of the performative stages as body art.
This exhibition is an attempt to gain a new understanding of the tensions in a triangular relation between the textile, the visual and constructive logic of the images, and the intimate space of the body in a mise-en-scène between contemporary and traditional cultural positions.
Elisabeth von Samsonow