How do fibers connect with society and interpret through the artworks?
“If we say that fiber art is simply an artistic object made of fibers, and it blends or does not fuse other materials, this recognition has made us unsatisfactory today. It has made an essential contribution to contemporary art because it is questioning, interrupting, and provoking.” says Yvette Jaggi, a Swiss politician.
The theme of the 2019 Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art is “Boundless Encounters.” This event consists of three exhibition areas and seven units within these areas, which are displayed both in the Zhejiang Art Museum and China National Silk Museum. There are 78 pieces or series of artworks by 40 artistic groups from 18 countries and regions. They have chosen to participate in the triennial to present a new dimension in the construction of fiber art, specifically, the inheritance of the traditional culture behind this art form and how it has been transformed in the contemporary era by domestic and international artists.
Artists are attempting to break the media and material limitations of traditional fiber art forms and its static model to establish multidimensional and intertwined links among digital fiber, digital weaving, intelligent fabric, biological fiber, and other new mediums now and into the future.
Shi Hui, the founder and director of the Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art explains that “Fiber art is no longer an original wall or fabric but a carrier and concept with cultural, social, and even anthropological attributes. It connects people with the world and with the things around them and even impacts their relationships with others.”
Due to the peculiarities of the modern era, it is necessary for people to look forward to the future. When artists use fibers to produce different artworks, they give fibers different meanings, which prompts the audience to reflect on the nature of “fiber” itself: what should fiber be and will more and more artists and creators use this artistic approach to represent their ideas?
It is argued that different interpretations should be applied to fiber art in different eras. Feng Boyi, chief curator of the Third Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art highlights the “daily” nature of our current understanding of fiber art as clothing but notes that “when it is used as clothing, in particular for the fashion industry, it also has social, consumer cultural attributes and symbols such as the class gaze. So clothing design as a part of fiber art is representative of a lot.”
Iris Van Herpen, a renowned fashion designer, has been invited to participate in the exhibition. As an approach to fiber art, costume design is closely related to people’s ordinary lives. To create for specific contexts, Iris uses 3D technology to craft garments, connect fiber art to the latest developments in technology. Therefore, fiber art reflects the mainstream culture of contemporary society, specifically, the rapid development of science and technology, but it also manifests changes in people’s aesthetic tastes.
Fiber art does not incorporate aesthetic decorations and cultural and entertainment products based on past artistic concepts. Instead, it directly or indirectly expresses the artist’s understanding of modern society and experiments with these ideas. Artists thus use fiber to imbue their work with different meanings and transform something abstract into something concrete, potentially creating new trends connected to society and the mass public.
Shiota Chiharu, a Japanese installation artist: “Thread and textiles have always been part of the history of art but the material itself is not the focus of my work. With the fiber (thread), I can convey my emotions and can communicate with others.” She has introduced some beautiful love stories into “Hangzhou West Lake” through intertwined red lines that reflect the connection between people. In her artworks, she uses fibers to express serendipity and to create a visual representation of the invisible connections and networks of relationships that exist between us.
Will fiber art’s growing popularity empower it to convey more to its audience in the future? Shi Hui believes that “Artists will continue to explore the relationship between fiber and society, people, and social criticality in the field of fiber art. As long as the presentation of social issues is continuous, the discussion of this art form and its creation will never stop.”
With the development of pioneering technologies and the rise of new artistic mediums that offer greater possibilities in terms of the materials that fiber art can explore and the ways in which artistic language can be expressed, the interface between fiber art and society will continue to expand. It will follow the developments of the era and gradually produce many new visual languages and methods. The art of each era goes hand in hand with social development.
New materials will undoubtedly be presented through the process of artistic expression. Visitors to the exhibition will see many fiber artworks that leverage new technological languages, and therefore, fiber can be said to represent a new trend in art and the artist’s reaction to contemporary society.
Art installation by SHIOTA CHIHARU