Journal

The journal on portikus.de operates as an extension of the exhibitions at Portikus themselves. A wide spectrum of contributions including essays, interviews, fictional writing or photo- and video-contributions provide a closer look on artistic interests and reflect on topics that concern our society, politics and culture.

"Oh my god, this is another kind of code language!"

Amy Sillman, Bernard Vienat
2016-08-17

A Narrative for the Body: Shahryar Nashat’s Present Sore

Isla Leaver-Yap, Shahryar Nashat, Fabian Schöneich
2016-04-22

WE THE PEOPLE – Upholding Liberty

Cosima Anna Grosser
2017-04-25

Portikus XXX Summer Screening Program

Levi Easterbrooks
2017-09-25

The Body, the Pedestal

Marina Rüdiger
2016-05-31

H[gun shot]ow c[gun shot]an I f[gun shot]orget?

Lawrence Abu Hamdan
2016-04-19

Between Standstill and Movement

Malina Lauterbach, Maximilian Wahlich
2017-01-29

Textile as a medium of contemporary art

Olga Inozemtceva
2017-05-18

In many ways, the 1960s were revolutionary and groundbreaking for the visual arts. It is therefore not surprising that artists’ use of many previously unconventional materials in the work process originated or experienced a great upsurge during that decade in particular. Artistic boundaries disappeared or were re-explored and materials such as textiles soon became “autonomous artistic materials.”1

One of the best-known pioneers of this development was surely the German artist Joseph Beuys, who acquired an international reputation not least with a focus on the materials of felt and fat. Beuys’s American colleague Robert Morris is also known for his work with felt, although the two artists’ underlying intentions in their work with the material differed greatly.

The fact that textiles played a rather marginal role in art for quite some time before this can also be explained from a technological point of view. Ultimately, a certain type of machine was needed to weave large-scale ornaments and complicated textile designs. Although Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) demonstrated his famous loom for the first time in 1801, for a long time this technique was by no means freely accessible or it was horrendously expensive, making it difficult for artists to produce certain fabrics at all.

Jacquard looms are mainly characterized by the fact that they were the first of their kind that wove on the basis of punch cards, thus making complicated patterns possible. Each warp could thus be worked individually or in a small group per weft, which was impossible with previous mechanical models. “Acquired Nationalities” by Rosella Biscotti in the exhibition House of Commons at Portikus showed that this methodology is still relevant in the artistic production process.

Jacquard loom, filmed at Paisley Museum (© National Museums Scotland)



Conceived as part of the 10 x 10 series, Biscotti works with demographic data from the Belgian census of 2001 and the national registry (January 1, 2006), transforms and models them with the help of programmed Excel calculation models to then visualize them on textiles with a computer-controlled jacquard loom. As for content, the artist is particularly interested in the tension between the individual in society and a statistical structure that is indispensable for the allegedly objective description of the same within political institutions. The result is an exciting interaction consisting of demographic data, its processing and visualization in 25 different shades of gray on textile.

Rossella Biscotti, Aquired Nationalities, 2014, KADIST collection, Installation view, House of Commons, 03.12.2016–29.01.2017, Portikus, Frankfurt/Main, Photo: Helena Schlichting



In addition to the work of Rosella Biscotti, other recent Frankfurt exhibitions also showed works with a focus on textiles. One example is Willem de Rooij’s large woven pictures from the weavings series (2011-2014) in the exhibition Willem de Rooij. Entitled at the Museum of Modern Art – MMK 2. Since 2009, de Rooij has been producing the works in the Henni Jaensch-Zeymer hand weaving plant near Berlin. The dimensions of the works are always based directly on the capabilities and techniques of the looms. The artist compares the crossing of threads running in two different directions with terms such as opposition, contrast, transition and nuance. Some of the resulting textiles are highly reminiscent of monochrome paintings, but on closer examination the seemingly monochrome fabric reveals at least two color nuances.

Willem de Rooij, Taping Precognitive Tribes, 2012 , Courtesy: Friedrich Christian Flick, Photo: Axel Schnider, Quelle: Mousse Magazine)



Similarly, the artist Thomas Bayrle, who lives and works in Frankfurt, deals with textiles, or, more precisely, with ornamental pictures and the principle of the serial. With an eye for subjects from pop culture, Bayrle, who is a trained weaver, is particularly interested in “the relationship between the individual thread and the whole fabric”2 and compares this structure with the relationship of the individual with the collective or with society. In addition, the artist has also revealed his skills in applied art, as his designs for the world-famous fashion label Clemens en August show, which were also shown in the 2008 retrospective of his work at the Francesca Pia gallery.

Thomas Bayrle, All-in-One, Installation view, WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, 09.02 – 12.05.2013, Brussels, 2013. Quelle: WIELS



As we see, textile works are neither superficial, as an association with the fashion world might perhaps suggest, nor do they represent a mundane craft. Rather, the mere complexity of the different materials proves that textile is an ideal medium to describe both individual stories and social contexts, or to even interweave the two themes.

1 Kunst-Stoff. Textilien in der Kunst seit 1960. 12. November 2011 bis 12. Februar 2012, URL: https://www.karlsruhe.de/b1/kultur/kunst_ausstellungen/museen/staedtische_galerie/ausstellungen/kunststoff.de
2 Exhibition catalogue Textiles: Open Letter: Abstraktionen, Textilien, Kunst, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, 2013, p. 15.