The Work That Textile Does
Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz, Lodz
8 July – 24 September 2023

Taking the collection of the Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź as a departure point, the exhibition engages historical and contemporary artists in dialogue on textiles, work, action and effort over time. It brings together works across geographies, mediums and generations to shed light on different genealogies of textile art, ranging from craft to conceptual art. The exhibition, put together in a former textile factory in tune with the rhythm of that post-industrial space, asks questions about the labour that accompanies textile-making, the relationship between conceptual work and hands-on practice, as well as the work that textiles do as art pieces, functional objects and carriers of community. 

The museum’s collection is a repository of knowledge on the techniques, materials and values associated with textile art. In the exhibition, we suggest a reading of the complex tangles of the medium’s history in three chapters juxtaposing works from different periods: Tradition, Design and Language. Looking back at iconic works by Polish artists of the 1960s and 70s, the exhibition reveals a revolutionary moment that liberated textiles from the confines of utilitarianism. This key juncture in the history of the medium carved a path to change.

Subsequent generations continued to unfold the story. Work with the two fundamental structural elements of warp and weft sets a rhythm to which a new organism grows: the textile. Time plays a crucial role in the cycle. It is measured by each consecutive loop; it affects the textile’s biological materiality, keeping it in the flux of constant change. At this exhibition, the textile becomes a tool for artistic and political expression. It activates the body and questions the norms and standards of architecture as well as the notions of what work can be. “Textile in the expanded field” operates in many different ways; like no other medium, it is a record of the movement of hands, the rhythm of machines, and the passage of time. It is an archive of work, yet it never stops working in relation to spaces and people. We exhibit textile as a medium of perpetual experimentation and emancipation, in artistic as well as social and personal terms.

Photos by HAWA