The Second Triennial of Fibre Art

Introduction of the theme


 Proverb One: In the Greek mythology, Athena had a competition with Arachne on weaving. Athena was so jealous of the speed and quality of Arachne’s cloths that she made her half man and half spider and forced her to weave countless cloths all her life. Arachne paid price for her magnificent skills and pride. In Diego Velázquez’s book “Spinner” in 1657, he set the story of Athena and Arachne as the background to reveal the weaving scenes of workwomen. That’s the first painting in which the leading role is not thearchy or royalty but ordinary labours. Weaving is the only work here to integrate the scene.

Proverb Two: Last century, when Stan, an English explorer, was engaging in an archaeological study in Hetian in Xinjiang Province, he discovered a painting of “Silk Princess” in Dandan Oilik. In this painting, there was a princess wearing the crown at which a maid was pointing. The servant wanted to suggest that a silkworm egg was hidden under the crown. According to “Records on the Western Regions of the Great Tang Empire”, in Tang Dynasty, although the sericulture was popular in China, the government banned the export. The painting revealed a story that the princess hid the silkworm egg under the crown and wanted to bring it abroad furtively, which made her the first person who brought the sericulture to Hetian and other western regions.

Proverb Three: In “Homer’s Epic”, after the fall of Troy, Odysseus decided to sail back home regardless of the curse from Poseidon. On his way home, he suffered numerous ordeals and was stuck on the sea for ten years. With the belief of his death, many a noble man started to chase after his wife Penelope. Penelope, however, believed that her husband was alive and refused those proposals again and again. She said that she needed to weave a shroud for her father-in-law and only when she finished it, would she say yes. In fact, at night, she disassembled the shroud she weaved in the daytime. Fortunately, she finally welcomed back her husband. Through the loom and repeated disassembly, she achieved the temperament of weave – a kind of endless repeated action. On the other side of the loom was Odyssey’s journey for knowledge.

Proverb Four: In 1932, Mao Dun published the first book of his “Rural Trilogy” called “Spring Silkworms”. It told a tragedy about the excessive harvest of silkworms in a family that happened in rural areas of Jiangnan after the war. The fact that despite the hardworking of farmers in China in 1930s, they can still not get rid of poverty is showed through the snow-white silkworms.

Proverb Five: In China, Han monks have robes of patches and our mothers will stitch old clothes year after year. Our most close fabric may be a pair of socks that have been sewed again and again for years. In terms of this pair of socks, weaving is an endless action. We pursue the trace of time, trace of hands and trace of love in this extraordinary ordinary pair of socks that have been sewed repeatedly.    

Legendary and historical experience of textile that we are familiar with can always bring us some instructions or lessons and that are the entrances we provide to the researchers and artists. Through our thoughts, researches and creations, we may use the proverbs to measure our real experience and imagination.


Entity Concept: WEAVING

Weaving, the entity concept of the Triennial exhibition this time, is the start point of the curators and artists.

It is a special labour mode and it becomes a narration of linear history with just materials and technology. With the pace of new technology and knowledge, it will reflect on us and change our perceptions. By “us”, it is not only an individual but all groups and regions. Plato once described weaving as Kingship art in “Statesman”. Weaving leads us to build a structure of some groups or social systems. In all periods of history, weaving, a symbol of social rule, provided a special vision and ethical experience.

If you look carefully at the map of fibre world, you may find that its core area is not Western Europe or North America, in which the modern art gathers but China, Eastern Europe, Middle East, South America and Africa. It’s the history of a sort of artistic mechanism with some modern mechanisms infused in. With fibre art, the unified creating trend may surpass its limitation and go for a social space full of differences.

Fibre art is not limited within the self-production in art field; it is also related to the social events and local industries. We have to pose a small but complete question: Why are we weaving? “Not only the artists but handicraftsmen, architects, designers, educational and technological institutes and local industries should answer this question because all of them depend on weaving.

As for weavers, they are weaving all the time and they are using their work – also a kind of philosophy – to bypass the linear history ghostly and establish the relationship between human and objects again and again and it will be continuing. And their answers to the question “Why are we weaving” connected the basic living things with the social structure.

The Weaving & We is a realization of the special pace and spiritual temperament of fibre art. Besides visual sense, it mobilizes our other perceptual experience and lets us to pursue the meaning of the knowledge connected with it. The Triennial exhibition this time is a practice to connect weaving, a social movement, with arts, industries, regions and other relevant fields.


 Subjects Under Discussion

Through the discussions about the artistic works from various nations and regions, curators decided to ‘weave’ the exhibition in the form of retelling and performance by artists and their works and academic dialogues under a special historical situation. They want to respond the theme Weaving & We with multilevel performances.


 Proverb – the saying of needles

In Chinese characters, the word“”derives from the word “”. The phrase “saying of needles” reveals the relationship between needles and threads, pens and words. “Saying of the needles” is not only the smallest unit of the ordinary language of weaving, but also a dissuasive and predictable proverb.

We can see that the core of “saying of needles” is weaving. No matter back to the fabric itself or beyond the area of modern art, through the power of social industry, we may all find that weaving is the core action of our daily life and the most primitive labour style that is closest to our flesh. In weaving, we can find art mechanism the eerie and reproductive power of the reason why textiles can become the origin of cultures in different areas. Also, we can find the trace of calligraphy which is the highest art form in ancient China.

Proverb will be a secret trace to connect all parts of the exhibition: Basic Scenes, Fibre Channel and Trace Performance.

Basic Scenes

The exhibition will use the images of five proverbs and several regional scenes – hosiery in Datang Town, embroidery in Zhen Lake, the reproduction and life designed by fibre artists in Poland after the war – as basic scenes. Regional scenes are the status of the society and industry that the modern artists have to face. Weaving does not only happen to creators but also happen in the concrete but lively, daily but profound social reality in the way of industries, clusters and family relatives.


 Performative Traces

In this exhibition, visitors can use narration, praise and declaration to express their existence. Also, they can use prediction, dissuasion and forgetting to express their existence. They constitute roles with the artworks; and their creations will become props which are the basic elements to show local culture, fibre art and traditional skills and to form different kinds of plots in the whole exhibition.

    Besides the things that the artistic works themselves express, the artists’ performances and works will be inter-textualized. Thus, it will form the narrative environment in the whole exhibition to strengthen our feelings.


Fibre Channel

The Triennial exhibition has invited the most active researchers, curators and scholars in the fibre art field to do some case studies of fibre art educations in the history. They will demonstrate the on-going weaving projects, analyse the change of modern fibre art from different regions, different periods and different historical backgrounds and construct artistic archives with fibre as a start point.

Also, the curators will introduce academic dialogue mechanism, which will be shown in the form of videos and images in the exhibition.


World Wide Weaving – Seed Bank of Crafts

Weaving Globally, Metaphorically and Locally – Starting from Hangzhou

As a thematically-based, artistic and educational project coinciding with the 2nd Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art 2016, the workshop is being launched by China Central Academy of Fine Arts Hangzhou and KHiO – Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Its hosts are Shi Hui, Hans Hamid Rasmussen, Dorothee Albrecht and Liu Xiao.

Weaving is one of the oldest crafts in human culture, along with knitting and pottery. Ancient textile remains have been found in all parts of the world. But textiles are more than merely interwoven materials. As means of exchange and trade, and with their potential to communicate complex layers of social meaning, textiles are directly related to the fabric of social life.

The participating students will unpack this field of relations both theoretically and practically, visiting several local areas of textile production, working on individual projects and on the Seed Bank of Crafts – Dictionary and Handbook – Assemblage in Space.