Röhl: Text and Texture - Gendered Discourses of Textiles in Art since 1965
Since antiquity, textiles have been connected to female work. The manifold relations of textiles and femininity have in art history lead to what the art historian Silke Tammen describes as the “inevitability of gendering.” Especially in the last two decades, textile techniques have been ubiquitous in contemporary art, a phenomenon reflected in a number of recent exhibition- and research projects. With regard to this new prevalence of textiles, questions have been posed as to what shifts and changes the gendered connotations of textiles have undergone, especially since last being re-examined by the feminist art of the 1970s. It is the aim of this research project to trace and describe shifts in the discourse surrounding textiles and textile techniques. The study has a thematic approach and will be conducted using different case studies on artists and artworks from Europe and the US. The project does not seek to regard textile artworks as flat images or static objects, i.e. painting or sculpture, but rather to approach the objects in terms of the process of their making, thereby drawing upon concepts of materiality, craft and authorship. Apart from the importance of the objects, the project is based on a corpus of (para)texts that explicitly or implicitly reflect on the status and gender of textile materials and techniques by artists, curators, journalists, and scholars. This includes not only exhibition reviews, catalogue essays, and curatorial concepts, but also interviews and artist statements. Thus, in this project discourse is understood a created by objects and texts alike. Additionally, the project raises questions regarding existing gendered connotations and their deployment, handling, and shifts. Connected to these are questions about the iteration of myths regarding materials and the process of art making.