A Draft For a Fabric Life, Cinema Eden
Research project supported by MAD-Research
Luk Lambrecht & Ilse Van Roy
and all the contributors as companions de route, artists, thinkers and other comrades of commitment.
Presentation POSTER 1 - December 2023
A Draft for a Fabric Life CINEMA EDEN. Poster 1 Research calls for a dialogue between theory and practice, as one simply cannot exist without the other. What does research teach us during the process of artistic creation? To what extent do hand and mind succeed in implementing the fruit of thought into a work of art? Just as our gaze collides with the material reality of things like architecture and urbanisation, land and sea, our mind stumbles over the dexterity and mastery of the artist. Thoughts are always topical, immersed in the frenzy of the present which is deeply entwined with the issues that threaten humanity. Climate change, the environment, and growing intolerance fuelled by extreme ideologies, religions, misplaced imperialism and the chasm between rich and poor shape the rather pessimistic cultural view from which we hope to escape but never will. A Bite of Knowledge by artist Honoré d'O is a compelling image in which climate activist Greta Thunberg and Lucas Cranach's Eve (1528) are connected by a necklace of fake jewels, each peering into a future that harks back to the same fundamental idea. The bite in the apple is a metaphor for the collective risk borne by all humanity in caring not only for ourselves, but also for each other and for the world we inhabit. The apple and the microphone (media) serve as two enticing yet misleading symbols that transcend time and represent self-care and other-care in a world increasingly driven by greed. In the research project A Draft for a Fabric Life, we aim to create an inductive process that fluctuates dynamically between the artistic practices of Ilse Van Roy and Fee Veraghtert (as well as that of Luk Lambrecht, among others) and culminates in an exhibition and a blueprint for a new studio within the art academy. A studio that uses conventional textiles as well as innovative materials made from recycled waste as a slowly increasing collective contribution to a more sustainable economy, inspired by conscious consideration for the finite nature of our planet’s resources. Countless books and studies explore the relationship between art and ecology – a trend that emerged in the United States in the 1960s. Its most vocal influencer was artist Robert Smithson, who vehemently opposed the idealised image of nature presented by artists in the land art movement. To Smithson and others who shared his views, nature no longer existed. He contested the notion of autonomy and positioned nature as a phenomenon at the mercy of human intervention – a belief that is now defined as the Anthropocene Epoch (the period in which human activity started to have a significant impact on Earth’s climate and atmosphere). It is important to view thinking and making in this research within a broader context, particularly because the materials used to protect and warm us, referred to under the catch-all of “textiles”, are manufactured behind veils of visibility in countries with little regard for human rights or environmental norms. Textiles are political. They are defined by class, signify status (or a lack thereof) and embody the interweaving of the primary needs, desires and aspirations of people seeking to elevate and/or differentiate themselves from one another. Textiles are all-encompassing: from ecology to class to skewed working conditions, poverty, wealth and a one-way influx from south to north. Yet textiles also provide comfort and warmth and evoke a sense of connectedness through micro-production. Many artists today who engage in textile art often incorporate non-artists in a process of inclusivity and collectiveness. A recent example is the beautiful collaboration between Hana Miletić and female immigrants at Globe Aroma in Brussels, where they explored and shared in the art of felting. Interestingly, modern thinkers like Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia are positioning textiles within the realm of fashion: viewing fashion as a catalyst through which the avant-garde of the early twentieth century sought to bridge the gap between art and life. As with design, there was a keen anticipation for an industry alliance that would be capable of breaking the routine of mass-producing unique pieces. Fashion and clothing quickly joined design as a simple way to “manufacture” identities. Cheap or expensive, the clothes we wear serve as artifacts, symbolising our personality and identity (the self). In this way, textiles function as a collection of sensitive elements composed of colour, texture and form. Fashion, as most people perceive it, is not universally accessible; major chains produce huge amounts of disposable fast fashion in countries with the lowest labour costs, paradoxically selling them in the poorest neighbourhoods of the world’s biggest cities. Textiles produced for next to nothing in the ”south” for economically disadvantaged consumers in the West boost the bottom line of (multinational) fashion chains. Creating art is a cumbersome process that involves conscious and subconscious motives and a multitude of sensations derived from unpredictable circumstances of one’s own umwelt in a world that never seems to stop spinning. During the labour-intensive creation of art, particularly the textile manifestations of expressed or unexpressed ideas, a connection with the body is crucial. This time-consuming and monotonous process transforms thoughts and ideas into a kind of meditative process with time as its referee. For this reason, textile artists are thinking subjects who are sometimes detached from the actual production process. It is therefore plausible for the final work of art to transcend the original intentions of its creator. Both planned and unplanned elements introduced by the artist contribute to the richness and value of the work, elevating it to the status of “art”. These elements may not be easily digestible or understandable but invite deeper sensory appreciation and interpretation. In the fourteenth century, Arab sociologist and philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote: ‘It is not the artist but the artist’s clients who determine the highest level of their ability.’ Art is never a personal representation of the artist alone; rather, the artist serves as a vessel wherein collective memories and ideas gather, interact, ferment, and evolve into an atmosphere in which the personal ripens to maturity. This unpredictability starts to become meaningful within the context of the artwork, sometimes leading to contrasts or dissonances that enhance the uniqueness of the work. This unique quality exists within and amid various assumptions about its value and other unspecified expectations. Our project aims to examine these evolving and diverse facets step by step and engage them in an inviting dialogue that incorporates input from other artist-thinkers. We want to thoroughly explore how all of this can be manifested in a studio/workspace that combines theory and practice (the art school) in a dynamic, open learning environment where a passion for artistic production and a broad worldview can coexist peacefully. The method and the strategy that we aim to apply flexibly over the next two years are inspired by the idea of sedimentation: the slow accumulation of knowledge, insight and artistic expression in which the past continuously influences the present. This is based on the understanding that knowledge is a construct based on a myriad of truths with the potential to extract “facts” and replace them with other certainties. Much like the timepiece created in 1978 by Belgian artist Leo Copers, with hands rotating anti-clockwise as a statement about blindly accepting the so-called certainties of science. CINEMA Cinema never strays far from our imaginations. Like pearls on a string, frames follow each other in quick succession, transforming into images that could never have been foreseen. We have no intention of saving our research results to the end, in anticipation of a big reveal. Instead, we plan to schedule six public moments in the form of simultaneously released printed “posters” that visually depict an evolving snapshot: embellished with texts, interviews, contributions from guest writers, QR codes leading to videos and music, and statements, depending on the prevailing urgency, atmosphere and needs. The images on the posters are dynamic and constantly evolving, showcasing visual snapshots, manipulations, additions and omissions of installations in which the artists Fee&Ilse express themselves through design while simultaneously manifesting these designs in textiles, glass and other materials in anticipation of an exhibition scheduled for September/October 2025. The poster images will depict, suggest and insinuate certain conditions, which will be presented to various artists and thinkers who will have the freedom to interject and intervene by adding new themes or texts on the reverse side. The posters will be made freely available to interested parties, not only within the walls of our art academy, but also through the travelling ‘kit furniture’ created in collaboration with Asli Ciçek and serving as a kind of mini stage. The posters will follow the pace of the artistic production. At PXL-MAD School of Arts in Hasselt (BE), we have reserved a permanent spot in which to present our research to the public; a spot that is integral to the learning and creative environment. Textiles and glass are materials that elicit a strong visual and tactile response from a wide audience. We want to further cultivate this fascination by surrounding ourselves with the best national and international artists and thinkers whose work and ideas will be represented in this exhibition. Close collaboration with artists, foundations and other national and international partners (including members of the business community) will continue to add to the widespread support for our research and form a deep connection with the Fee&Ilse studio. A studio in which their art further evolves based on pulsating sounds to the rhythm of physical labour, supported and guided by computer-driven models that are continuously put to the test by relevant guest additions and omissions. In this way, the relationship between “public” posters and the actual work in the Fee&Ilse studio is not a contradiction, but rather an artistically urgent and flexible process. CINEMA EDEN This is the title of the generic stage which will showcase an idealised image of the shared desire of the artists to create work in which content mirrors co-creation. Creation takes the form of a digital scrapbook and art production in which (virtual) matter engages in a dialogue with the creative human body. A process whereby inhaling and exhaling, performing, and all conceivable forms of energy – not always objectively identifiable when provoked – crystallise into an outlet that we aim to characterise as the incomprehensibility of co-artistic production. With this approach, we want to highlight that our research is not confined by the preconceptions of what scientific research should be. Instead, it eagerly embraces the body’s unpredictable way of acquiring knowledge, which is influenced by well-being, mood, luck, and external influences from society and the world around us. Cinema implies a structured space for watching, waiting and listening. Architecture sets a framework for humans (confined to a chair in the dark) to live in the moment with a panoramic view of a potential “Eden”. Works of art and texts alike serve as vessels that allow people to navigate rivers of thought that can cut through the humdrum of everyday life. Engaging with art today means being part of a set ecosystem. The focus is not just on the self (the language of the familiar), but also on consciously positioning the creative production process in a context that calls for responsibility. Responsibility within a broader awareness of what the world means today, considering we have reached our limits in terms of resources and materials. Producing today requires a conscious and unconscious understanding of the impact this has on the world. While this assumption is based on micro-situations, there is a sense of individual powerlessness that prompts an almost instinctual urge to actively break away from the world; to help find and raise awareness of a new macro-approach to dealing with what the world still has to offer us, in order to survive. The raw materials for textiles are now part of an almost incomprehensible cycle in which everything is connected. We refer once again to the holistic ideas of Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia, who adheres to a non-specialist worldview in which humans (as rational beings) are no longer at the centre of things but are regarded as insignificant parts of a larger whole. Coccia refers to this larger whole as the atmosphere, where all life relies on the sun and photosynthesis. When we dress and protect ourselves against the elements, we are using the resources made available to us by our planet. In other words, everything originates from the natural (plant) world. It is crucial in this research to keep in mind the origins of life and to reflect carefully on the resources that form the building blocks of everything we wear and use to protect ourselves. Emanuele Coccia is writing a book about fashion as a way of life and a way of expressing one's identity; fashion as something relevant to both rich and poor, something that involves everyone as an inherently symbolic (dress) code through which one seeks to carve out a distinct place within the complex anonymity of society. This is what makes the stage (and staging) so important. Consider “voguing” or the role of clubs in the New York of the 1980s, where people could celebrate being different in a safe and controlled space that did not have to conform to societal norms. Our research is so comprehensive because everything is interconnected. Matter isn't lifeless, it's alive and evolves with the rhythm and cadence of modernity – a loaded term that defies definition to this day. Staging is the strategy for visualising our research; we want to colour outside the lines and cut our patterns from a different cloth. Much like the hybrid objects they contain, the stage is flexible and the prompters stand at the ready to whisper their cues. Research is no longer confined to the desk. A stage on which images, words, and movements converge and present themselves in innovative ways, over and over and over again! We are taking our research on the road and displaying it to the public on a mobile “rig”, showcasing both our theoretical sources and the creative pathways of the artistic duo Fee&Ilse. Pioneering American artist Sheila Hicks explains the feeling of undulating between intimacy and worldliness as follows: ‘To connect my intimate world around me versus the unfamiliar world that I want to explore. Anticipation is one of the strongest emotions.’ It is important to emphasise that each textile work has become a symbol of its own imperfections, hesitations and omissions. Textiles have always been cross-cultural, stemming from Greek mythology, the countless metaphors about human life, and the idea that textile work is analogous to surgery. Thinking and writing about the suffering inflicted on average people in places like the Congo, Palestine and Ukraine remains problematic to this day. Textiles play a strong visual-symbolic role in conflicts. People blindly follow flags, soldiers camouflage themselves in foreign jungles and countries add symbols to pieces of fabric to indicate neutrality (e.g. the UN flag). Palestinian artist Mjad Abdel Hamid creates miniature embroideries that take hundreds of hours to complete – the time spent stitching countless metres of thread serves as a common theme driving him to link his art to art history. He is inspired by injustice and the opposition members who, in an attempt to keep their minds sharp in captivity, arranged food into geometric shapes on the floor of their cells, leaving no lasting traces behind. Art liberates and creates inner peace. Textiles serve as an expressive medium that can quickly evade any form of direct control because of its ubiquitous and non-committal nature, capable of evading the watchful eyes of others and thus becoming tolerable. Cinema Eden will launch in December 2023 with a poster of flying and winged objects in search of a safe haven. The stage, a nod to theatres and cinemas, will showcase countless objects as suggestive elements that are loosely intertwined. Think of them as misplaced props, waiting in a process of cadavre exquis to undergo transformations of meaning. Screens and see-through curtains conceal and reveal in diaphanous forms; receptacles hold the possible contents and protect the image from emptiness. Snuff Spoons float like bodies, reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp's Le Grand Verre, and create an imaginary or alienating world in which multiple senses stake a claim and offer the promise of change. Change occurs rationally but also through practices that allow the human mind to escape reality or more consciously breathe in the world, such as meditation. Meditation and losing oneself in an altered mental state characterise the process of creating textiles. The act of creation is rhythmic, guided by the monotonous repetition of patterns that create the blueprint for the finished product. Meditation allows us to access a deeper level of understanding, beyond mere physical or factual knowledge, allowing us to tap into our latent human potential. It inspires people to not only observe but actively create movement – something that is visualised in the collaboration between Ilse Van Roy and Marika Meoli (dancer, performer and dance therapist), which focuses on hands that can both design and create. Working with textiles prompts us to contemplate the origin of the fibres and threads used to create them, thereby grounding us in the tangible reality of our world. Cinema Eden will repeat five times in a constantly evolving loop with no end, much like the process of lifelong learning.
Research Project by Luk Lambrecht & Ilse Van Roy
Text by Luk Lambrecht
Cover Images by Fee Veraghtert & Ilse Van Roy
Grafic design @Milan Gillard
Translation @Hilde Neven
With the support of MAD-Research, PXL-MAD, School Of Arts Hasselt (BE)