The 17th International Triennial of Tapestry, Lodz 2022 , Part 1 from 8.10.22 to 15.4.2023
Being in Lodz at the opening of the Triennial was just wonderful, even though being able to move around again without too many Corona restrictions and meeting old friends isn’t as natural as it used to be.
In the afternoon of October 8th, 2022, the Triennial opened with speeches explaining this year’s theme, “Entangled State”, a visionary subject chosen before the outbreak of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. For the exhibition, this theme was divided into four sub-themes: The Civilized (what kind of civilization are we creating); Represented States (e.g. childhood memories); Rootedness (e.g. our roots in the natural world) and The Horizons of Reality (the lines between reality and the virtual world).
After the speeches and an explanation by the curator, Marta Kovalevska, there was a walk through the exhibition with the judges and the artists present. Later that afternoon the prizes were awarded, and finally there was a performance, „EMerge“ by Polish dancer/ choreographer Paulina Wycichowska in a fantastic costume created by textile artist Tina Marais from Canada.
The Triennial showed work by 51 artists, most of the artists came from Poland (13), then Japan (5), with three each from the USA, Austria and Ukraine; two each came from Taiwan, the UK, India and Brazil; and finally there was one each from Australia, Nigeria, China, Argentina, Korea, Israel, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Canada, France and Lithuania. In earlier Triennials this number was much larger because advisors from every country could propose three candidates, therefore the number of participants was two to three times higher. I have always been critical of this former undemocratic selection system but I also see the problems with a real open call. Because of the fact that well-known artists seldom like to apply, the selection will get another focus, at the best towards younger artists and those coming from other continents. The jury in Lodz had several prominent fine art oriented members a.o. Ann Coxon, curator of international art the Tate Modern, who gave a talk at the Symposium. I was impressed by her positive attitude towards textiles but does she know enough about textile art?. Mizuki Takahashi, director and curator of the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile also gave a talk, stressing the need to include textile artist from a non-Western sphere. I completely agree with her but will those non-Western artists apply in numbers? As far as I know, the entries from these countries are rare in events organized by the “Western world” including this Triennial. It was remarkable that all the great art events, I visited this year, seemed to have this focus on non-Western art: on outsider art (Venice Biennial), or on other continents (Documenta in Kassel, Germany).
The prize winners were: First Prize, Moumita Basak from India for an untitled work, hand stitched and hand painted on the basis of traditional crafts and the feminine perspective; Second Prize, Zhannah Petrenko from Ukraine for “Shroud of Insecurity”, a tapestry reflecting the value of physical things in a digital world; and finally Third Prize, Katja Felle from Slovenia for “Stop – Sew – Reset”, an embroidery in tapestry stitch representing the screenshot of an error.
Somebody asked me on facebook if the best textile works were on display again, like they used to be in the old days when three advisors per country were responsible for the choice of artists. The pieces on view were maybe not the best in the old sense, but very interesting ones that provide food for thought.
I was especially grateful that most of the works were real textile art pieces and not just fine art that happened to use textiles. I have not yet fully formed an opinion on the works, but I really liked some of them, such as the embroidered faces on towels by Leena Illukka from Finland; the jacquard-woven “Night Tent” by Katarina Weslien, USA; the touching embroidery by Norwegian artist Eli Eines called “A Hole in the Heart”, which deals with her father who died from a hole in his heart; the poetical work in natural fibres by Tanyu Lu from Taiwan called “30 x 30 initiative”; the untitled embroidery by the Polish artist Silwia Aniszewska, an abstract painting in cross-stitch; and the transparent weaving with a text by Kate Christ, USA, entitled “In Dialogue”. This is just a selection of what comes to my mind after my first visit.
Looking back, I believe that the Triennial organisers succeeded in continuing this great traditional event in a way that makes it important, not only for European artists. Lodz still is a world-wide meeting place for all those seriously interested in textile art.
For reasons of continuity I understand that the title of the Triennial still has the word tapestry in it, although for foreigners it is difficult to understand that in Poland any kind of textile art, however free, is still called “Tapestry”.