Episodes 1, 2, 3 and 8 are on display at HOP Gallery in Tallinn (26.02 - ... 2021)
What makes one fabric valuable and another one worthless? The importance of a piece of textile will be defined not only by the man-hours spent for producing it or by the rarity of the material but largely by the fact how we attach value to the fabric. How does the attached value depend on the material of the fiber, the technology of textile production or the colour? Attributed or immanent value, in turn, can direct the course of world historical events. The desire by European upper classes for comfortable cotton and sleek silk was one of the engines that motivated the rise of capitalism as a global economic system and that enthused European countries to colonize Asia, Africa and America. What are the qualities allowing a piece of white fabric to be associated either with peace and benevolence in some places, with abundance and supremacy in other places, and in yet other countries to be used as a bride token, a detonating fuse or simply a towel? The way the three pieces of fabric with radically differing purposes woven together at the exhibition “Episodes 1, 2, 3 and 8” hints to the loss of their social distinction and return to the initial state of mere fabric-being.
One long stretch of white fabric can symbolize pureness, benevolence, foresightedness, compassion and many more qualities, especially in Tibet and Mongolia. Even if historically these shawls or khatas have been made of silk, today polyester and cotton have also become common. Khatas – these treasured, long, white fabrics – are offered for good auspices on important occasions such as weddings, funerals, childbirth, graduation, or simply when guests arrive or leave. In several parts of West-Africa and Melanesia, a large piece of white cloth functions as currency that can be also used for paying bridewealth. But what makes a piece of cloth valuable – resistance or fugacity?
Material: fusible yarn, paper
In 1939, Vyacheslav Molotov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, declared on radio that the Soviet Union was not bombing Finland as had been claimed by the evil “imperialist” media, but was instead airdropping food aid to starving Finns. As a result, Finns dubbed the РРАБ-3 bombs to which the Soviet planes were treating them “Molotov Bread Baskets”. Reciprocating, they offered herra Molotov and Soviet tanks a cocktail to go with the meal -- bottles filled with alcohol, tar, potassium chlorate or other flammable substances with a piece of fabric imbued in kerosene as a fuse. When the bottles were used again in Maidan and BLM protests, an old question arose again -- what fabric makes the best fuse – thick or thin, linen or cotton?
Material: linen, paper
Hugo Grotius, the father of International Law, stated in the early 17th century that according to well established custom, the waving of a white flag should be interpreted as an explicit sign of surrender and offer to parlay. To achieve its purpose, the flag needs to be visible. It seems to make sense, therefore, to use the largest and cheapest piece of cloth around. But what to do when no bedsheets are at hand? Office workers, for example, might wave the bright white A4 sheets of paper. But what if one has to leave a war zone and only has a towel or a wedding dress to take? Besides, if peace really is the most important thing, then should it also not be demanded and declared with most expensive material?
Material: seaweed, silk, eider dawn
Pileus (or zucchetto, pileolus, submitrale, calotte or soli deo) is a small, round cousin of the beret that protects the heads of churchmen in the Catholic, Anglican and the Syriac Orthodox churches. Initially, the hats were worn to protect their tonsures or shaved bare heads, especially when a mitre was to be placed on top of it. Today, the pilei are worn separately; and according to a tradition initiated in the last century, when the pope is offered a pileus, he will take the one from his head and offer it in return. The small hat is crowned by a screw-like eyelet with a silk shaft that makes it comfortable for the wearer to take it off and put it back. Denunciations of the duplicity of the Catholic church often speak of the commerce of indulgences or orgies thrown at the Papal Palace. Yet would not the luxurious smoothness of this superb textured silk that can only be experienced by select few fingers summarize in its minute form all the harangued secular opulence of religious life?
HOP Gallery, Tallinn
Concept and development:
Texts: Gustav Kalm
Space design and installing: Neeme Külm and Valge Kuup
Graphic design: Margus Tamm
Supported by Eesti Kultuurkapital
Thank you Icelandic Textile Center (Katharina Schneider, Jóhanna Erla Pálmadóttir, Elsa Arnardóttir), EKA Textiledesign Department, Eva-Liisa Kriis, Guðfinnur Sveinsson, Jennifer Wilson, Juhan Ulfsak, Juulia Aleksandra Mikson, Maria Arusoo