In the immersive exhibition Is it alive?, the TextielMuseum in Tilburg displays spatial textile installations that incorporate technology to vibrate, sizzle, rustle, crackle, breathe and sway back and forth. The centrepiece is the new and never-before-seen installation ‘I am Storm’ by DRIFT, in which more than 20 large blades of grass sway as if caught by a gust of wind. Also presented is ‘living architecture’ by the Canadian artist and architect Philip Beesley/LASG and an activated look by the Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. The exhibition highlights the creative process, emphasising the artists’ dual role as inventors of innovative applications
Art, nature, technology and textiles
The textile installations in Is it alive? were born from a fascination for natural processes. How does something come to life? When do we experience something as ‘living’? Is it alive? presents research by artists and designers who use technology to reproduce processes and movements from nature. The works on display shed light on the role of textiles in this quest, resulting in innovative spatial installations. The artists make use of the typical properties of textiles, such as softness, special structures and flexibility, applied in innovative installations. All these elements come together in Is it alive?: innovation, textiles, technology and art, inspired by life itself.
In each room, visitors are immersed in a different spatial work. In the first room is ‘I am Storm’, an installation by DRIFT that resulted from research into the development of self-supporting structures made from woven fabric. The next room is filled with a co-creation by Canadian Philip Beesley/LASG and Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. The work is a combination of a light projection and movement that brings Van Herpen’s ensemble to life. Also on show is ‘Poietic Veil Tilburg’, a second project by Beesley, this time co-created with students from TU Delft. Floating in space, the futuristic installation is the outcome of an in-depth investigation of cutting-edge architecture that has characteristics of life itself. The installation has a lace-like structure and vibrates, sizzles and communicates with visitors. The following rooms display Tanja Smeets’ ‘Nebula and the Soft Machine’ from 2016, which was expanded and activated especially for this exhibition, along with two interactive works by Bart Hess from the series ‘STIMULUS cord reflexes’ (2016). These works begin to move when visitors approach.
“If you really look very closely to everything around us, how things in nature are constructed, it’s so complicated and so well done and also so logical, then you really wonder if nature is not the high-tech part in our world.” Lonneke Gordijn, DRIFT.
‘I am Storm’ by DRIFT
In 2021, the TextielLab, the museum’s professional workshop, established its own research and development programme. Through this programme, the lab initiates long-term research projects with artists and designers on the application of new materials and techniques. For one of these projects, DRIFT researched woven standing structures that come to life with the help of technology. The result is ‘I am Storm’. The installation consists of over 20 larger-than-life blades of grass. The blades are in motion when visitors walk through them, as if visitors themselves are the wind moving the grass. DRIFT is known for its aesthetic and poetic work, which is strongly inspired by natural forms and behaviours.
Is it alive? received structural support from the Province of North Brabant, the City of Tilburg and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Incidental support was provided by Fund 21, the Prince Bernard Culture Fund and the Zabawas Foundation. Finally, the TextielMuseum is very grateful to its collaborative partner TU Delft for their cooperation and making available the knowledge and generous loan of the prototype of ‘Poietic Veil’ and of the new additions developed for ‘Poietic Veil Tilburg’ by Philip Beesley.