Textiles, Open Letter

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One essential characteristic of textiles is their richly intertextual nature. Their contemporary appeal and historicity derive from their place in the history of art and culture as well as in the history of media, society, and technology. Representing traditions found in both applied and fine arts, textiles hover between formalism and functionalism; as objects and techniques, they mediate between relations to the self and relations to the world, between affect-driven and knowledge-driven processes of appropriation. Functionally versatile—as objects of utility and media of an abstract (visual) language—textiles read as the fulcrum of an ensemble of activities, and illustrate specific entanglements that, since the beginning of modernity, have transformed the relations between subject and object, the material and the immaterial, artistic and artisanal labor, and different cultures.

This publication examines the referential and analytical qualities of textiles through both contemporary and historical works. The contributions in this book reflect on the complex interplay between the various functions and connotations of textiles—such as the emphasis on their tactile qualities or the artistic value attributed to them—and the attendant conflicts and antagonisms that articulate relations of power and value and of the interaction of artistic processes with their overarching contexts.

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