Sektion 7: Textile Inszenierungen und Raumdramaturgien
Sandra Imko, Lublin

The Fissure of Life. Tapestries as Safe Spaces in Central and Eastern European Art

The proposed text analyzes how artistic fabric fulfills the role of a safe space in the work of Central and Eastern European artists associated with the so-called New Cloth movement, beginning around 1960. These artists created fibrous, intimate spaces resembling cocoons, tents, or shelters. The works, which were often made of natural materials, were mysterious in their expression, evoking associations with ancient habitats, and stimulated a multi-sensory experience. These pieces often created a space within themselves, delineating a separate territory from the space of the white-cube gallery. The viewer was obliged to explore or even hide entirely in the (often) fragrant, dark cave of the textile created by these works. There was a certain tension between the spatial nature of the fabric and its ability to create a separate environment. This aspect of the New Cloth movement is still entirely unexplored.

This paper analyzes this artistic practice, which was employed by numerous artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Kazimiera Marta Gidaszewska, Gulyas Kati, Maryn Varbanov & Song Huai-Kuei Varbanov, and Jagoda Buić, in many countries of the former People’s Democracies. The text attempts to answer questions related to the importance of totalitarianism for the creation of these works in connection with the use of a soft material and medium. This choice should not be considered accidental but refers to one of the most fundamental purposes of weaving – giving shelter to the body.

Creating these safe spaces had a bodily, haptic character. I elaborate the issue with the use of source criticism and the formalist method in the approach of George Kubler. Also, an essential inspiration was the phenomenological approach of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Richard Shusterman. To think about art history is an actual task of remembering those excluded from global art history discourse. For this reason, the mode of “horizontal art history”, proposed by Piotr Piotrowski, was deployed. As a result, I show how the strategy of creating fibrous environments, through the involvement of the viewers' bodies and senses, can constitute a silent form of resistance to totalitarianism. The text manages to reach and extract from the periphery of artists and practices, which is often missed in the global history of art.

Kurzbiografie Sandra Imko
2017–2022Studies in Museology (BA) and Art History (MA) at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, Warsaw
since 2022PhD student in art history focusing on 20th century Polish textile art
2023The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin research grant “Artists from Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries at the Biennale of Textile Art in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1962–1995”
Forschungs- bzw. Arbeitsschwerpunkte Textile art of the second half of the 20th century; haptics, senses, and the body in the perception of a work of art; relationship between art and state in post-war central-eastern Europe
  • Sensual fabric. About the art of Magdalena Abakanowicz, in: Roczniki Kulturoznawcze [Annals of Cultural Studies] 14/1 (forthcoming in 2024).