The words “textile” and “text” come from the Latin word textus, meaning “fabric,” “connection,” and “interwoven.” Our culture evolved in such a way that it was mostly men who interwove words to create texts, as words and language became carriers of power and law. The interweaving of threads was reduced to “women’s” work, an unexceptional craft compared with the intellectual “weaving of words.” Its function – to decorate, provide warmth and comfort, was synonymous with the role assigned to women in traditional cultures. Despite the technical complexity and visual richness of some textile and embroidery techniques, because of the word “feminine” these works were not considered on par with painting. The dominant “masculinity” of painting is evidenced, in particular, by the use of the words “writing” and “reading” with regard to paintings.
This attitude towards “female” techniques is consonant with the attitude towards women’s labor in general. Women earn less than men, and housework and caring for children, which in most cases falls on the shoulders of women, is unpaid and often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
That is why “female” techniques became important representations of feminist art. Take for example the installation “The Dinner Party” by American artist Judy Chicago, who coined the term “feminist art” in the 1970s.
The exhibit explores this layer of art through the work of contemporary Ukrainian women artists. Presented through embroidery and textile, viewers are offered to read it as a narrative, returning to the original meaning of the word textus.
Embroidery and textile are becoming increasingly popular mediums in contemporary art world. But in conservative societies, embroidery and textile are still seen as having decorative functions and are presented as women’s hobbies where you copy ready patterns, thus having a somewhat discriminatory connotation.
The exhibit demonstrates how these techniques, by becoming mediums for reflection and critical expression, are undermining the hierarchy of artistic practices. Symbolically, women working in garment and textile factories in New York went on strike on March 8, 1857 – the day we now celebrate International Women’s Day.
The works presented in this exhibit and the accompanying lectures and discussions will focus on women’s rights in Ukraine and the post-Soviet space, the issues of women’s labor, and identity in art and society.
Curator: Oksana Briukhovetska
Artists: Oksana Briukhovetska, Ksenia Hnylytska, Alina Kleitman, Alina Kopytsia, Tetiana Kornieieva, Iryna Kudria, Liubov, Malikova, Valentyna Petrova, Anna Shcherbyna, Sewing cooperative «Shvemy», Anna Sorokovaya, Iryna Stasiuk, Olesia Trofymenko, Sofia Vremennaia, Anna Zvyagintseva.
March 8 – April 9, 2017, Visual Culture Research Center, Kyiv