My Second Skin
Textile is inextricably linked to our daily lives. Your first contact is with the skin and clothing of your mother. Gradually you discover the rest of the world. Someone lifts you from the cradle to the ground. Looking, feeling, sucking and smelling, you constantly discover new things. Whilst crawling you explore a growing part of the floor and space. In this way you experience colour, light, shape and the difference between hard and soft. Simultaneously with the world we discover textiles. Textile is the carrier of culture. The first peoples used animal skins to protect against the cold. They then invented tools, like the needle and thread and the ability to weave cloth.
For people clothes are a second skin. Initially, they use clothing as protection against the elements. In increasingly complex cultures clothing has become a way to distinguish and discern status. Rulers can afford the most expensive fabrics and ornaments, such as feathers, gold thread and pearls. In ancient Egypt, linen was as precious as gold. The manufacture of twenty-two metres of lace for a collar for Queen Elizabeth of England took many man-years.
Clothing manufacture is just one of the many uses of textiles. They are used to make tents, hammocks, curtains, cushions, mats, rugs, mattresses and much more. These are also a second skin.
In our time, in which fabric is hardly worth anything, it is hard to imagine how precious the stuff once was. We wear clothes for a season and then throw them away. Curtains and carpets are dirt-cheap. In this project Barbara Broekman wants to make tangible the rich history of the textile culture by creating a space from extiles about textiles.
Textiles are from all times and all peoples. In different places – at around the same time - the weaving technique was invented. Early cultures traded in textiles: an Egyptian mummy was found with Chinese silk in his tomb. People, who crossed the world, took their own techniques and materials with them. And thus the textile craft, from the very beginning, travelled between cultures across the globe.
In her career Broekman has exhaustively studied and applied techniques in 2D. From simple art pieces for the floor – in hard and soft materials - to enormous work commissioned for public spaces. In this project, she wants to explore the possibilities of textiles in 3D. Broekman wants to use the entire space: a floor of soft carpet, walls covered with enlarged images made of embroidered chintz pieces, the use of patchwork, non-wovens, dyeing techniques and fabrics run to and across the ceiling. It is a space to enter. Sound is absorbed by the textile and distorted. The visual and aural sensory impact overwhelms the visitor.
The history of the tent has almost as much variation as that of architecture. From the functional, easy to set up tents of nomads, to enormous and elaborate homes that depict the wealth and power of the owner. For centuries the Indian Maharajahs took impressive tents along to the battlefield. According to Jalaluddin Muhammad Akba (1542 -1605), the emperor of the Mughal Empire, a tent is ‘an ideal place to shelter from extreme heat or cold and rain and is the symbol of the ruler and should be treated with divine reverence’. An impressive example, the Tipu Sultan's Tent (1799), is in the collection of the V & A museum in London. In our time the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took his tent along on foreign visits. He had it erected in Paris, Rome and Moscow. Because a tent - however luxurious it may be – is moved from time to time, its look is never the same. An ideal tent is flexible, foldable and mobile.
The Central Asian textile tradition is one of the richest in the world and has an enormous variety of techniques and styles: dyed, block printed, embroidery – with a wide array of extremely luxurious materials including precious stones and mirrors - patchwork, weaving, tufts, knots etc., The styles and techniques also vary widely from region to region.
For this project Broekman will look for the original source of a number of techniques and how different cultures - in East and West - have made the designs and methods their own.
The sari, the traditional garment for women in India, is the starting point for Broekman’s design. It is a universal and practical garment that covers, but does not hide, the female body. It is also used to wipe away sweat and can protect the face from the cold or dirty smog. By tying one end the wearer can use it too store and carry keys and money hidden from view. Strips of 'sari' - between one and five meters - form the whole of this work. Details of the fabric are highly magnified so that the viewer is engulfed in the construction and the manufacturing processes.
To implement her concepts Broekman has been working with an array of craftspeople such as male embroiderers in India, weavers in the Textile Museum in Tilburg, tapestry weavers in Poland and rug makers in Spain.
This collaboration with the best craftspeople is part of her oeuvre. That connection is essential. Broekman wants to make visible the hand of the makers and to show how creating is intrinsic to the human experience. Simultaneously Broekman has used modern, industrial, cheaper techniques to keep old traditions alive - and affordable. One example is the carpet on the floor, which has been printed digitally. In this way it can be shown how different techniques affect the final result. Broekman almost always works with existing images and existing technologies. As she says, "In this way I not only have a dialogue with myself, but also with others; with those who inspire me, with clients and with the craftsmen who carry out my work." Form and content are always intertwined.
Broekman (1955) was trained in the tradition of the Bauhaus, which is based on the study and application of formal principles of colour, light and movement. Applying these principles to the whole of a space gives a new dimension to her work. For Broekman fabric is a way to express herself. "Textile to me is as paint to a painter. To me they represent the creative power of man. They are strongly linked to everyday life; they are soft, protective and appeal to the sense of touch. They are of all times and all cultures. They have a human dimension. Textiles, to me, mean love. The love, time and manual work, which must be invested for the creation of a piece, produce its elaborate character. Multiple hands and eyes contribute to the process. All the effort and work is visible in the final result."
Size: 5 m wide x 9 m long x 5 m high
Walls and ceiling: strips each 1m wide x 5m high
Floor: printed carpet in strips 1m wide x 5m long
Total number of strips: 46
* Non-woven fabrics such as knitting, crocheting, braiding, lace (needle lace, bobbin lace), felt etc.
* Weaving techniques such as fine weaving in plain weave, ribbon weaving, tapestry weaving, damask, double weaving, Jacquard weaving etc.
* Printing techniques: block printing, screen printing, chintz, resist dye, ikat, tie-dye, etc.
* Embroidery techniques: chain stitch, gold stitch, satin stitch, flat stitch, cross-stitch etc.
* Embellishment: decoration with beads, beetle, shells, mirrors, trimmings, feathers, etc
* Quilting, mola (appliqué), combinations of weaving and embroidery etc.