TextielMuseum demonstrates the power of textiles in exhibition of installations and tapestries full of poetry and imagination

Press release, 29 March 2023

From art fairs to museum exhibitions, textiles are more popular than ever. Artists from all over the world come to the TextielLab, the TextielMuseum’s professional workshop, to research and experiment. The exhibition Textile now – each thread tells a story displays contemporary works, most of which were developed in the TextielLab, that explore sexual and cultural diversity, climate change and decolonisation. Featuring work by Otobong Nkanga, melanie bonajo & Théo Demans, patricia kaersenhout & rolando vázquez, Geo Wyex, Alydia Wever & Ryan Oduber, Raquel van Haver, Ada M. Patterson, Afra Eisma and Karo Akpokiere as well as a piece created as part of the Connecting threads project.

Campaign image with work by melanie bonajo

Textiles play an increasingly important role in contemporary art. Multimedia artists in particular use textiles for their specific properties, long tradition of storytelling and symbolic, artisanal and emotional value. Textile now shows how contemporary artists employ textiles to tell stories that matter. Installations and tapestries full of poetry and imagination address social themes such as identity, the environment and the legacy of colonialism.

melanie bonajo and Théo Demans explore experiences of intimacy and sexuality through their work. In the TextielLab, they developed the installation Piles of Oxytocin Shape Dreams Under Skin Immersed in this sensual landscape, which is reminiscent of exotic plants or reproductive organs, visitors can listen to stories about intimacy.

The young artist Afra Eisma creates intimate, surreal worlds with her colourful tufted carpets, ceramics, drawings and textile sculptures. Backbone Alien depicts a melancholy-looking, two-headed human figure whose insides are populated by smaller figures. The tapestry represents the yearning for love and the feeling of alienation.

Barbados-born Ada M. Patterson collaborated with a group of performers on her multi-screen video installation A Ship of Fools. Themes such as cultural identity, queerness and the painful consequences of climate change form a poetic whole in the installation.

In the six-metre-wide tapestry Tied to the Other Side, acclaimed Nigerian-Belgian artist Otobong Nkanga depicts the cycle of life and the threat to life on earth caused by the global exploitation of people and raw materials. Besides decay and exploitation, the work also presents hopeful signs of regeneration and transformation.

patricia kaersenhout denounces colonial practices in the series of three tapestries that form Our Light Will Outlast Their Flags. She collaborated on the series with rolando vázquez, whose theoretical work explores decolonial ideas.

Karo Akpokiere’s visual satire was inspired by the graphic language of comics and advertising but tackles a serious subject: the power relations and economic inequality in his native Nigeria.

Artist and musician Geo Wyex chose a cash machine as the symbolic epicentre of power in his installation ATM and River of Stars. Afro-American culture, Dutch politics and capitalist structures come together in this work, which visitors can also experience physically.

Raquel van Haver is known for her sculptural paintings but became interested in textile techniques while travelling in Africa and South America. On the Guajira peninsula in Colombia, she learned braiding and weaving techniques from the Wayuu indigenous community. Two hammocks woven for her were the starting point for two tapestries.

Alydia Wever and Ryan Oduber combine performance, dance, video and textile traditions from the Antilles in the installation Dilanti di Biento (in front of the wind). Knitted ‘circle skirts’ begin to twirl when someone approaches. Small accessories contain symbolic references to Aruban politics, culture and colonial history. A dance performance by Wever is shown in an accompanying video.

Connecting threads

As part of the multi-year project Connecting threads – a collaboration between the TextielMuseum, social organisation ContourdeTwern and Stadsmuseum Tilburg – a group of 15 Tilburg women with different cultural backgrounds created a work assisted by artist Theodorus Johannes. The group was inspired by fashion as an expression of identity to develop a multi-coloured piece of clothing: the Coat of Many Colours. The women each worked on a part of the caftan-like garment, using cording and braiding techniques they learned in the TextielLab.

‘Textile now – each thread tells a story’ received structural support from the Province of North Brabant, the City of Tilburg and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and financial support from the Mondriaan Fund.