Tear, Rupture, Repair

Tear, Rupture, Repair

Mario D’Souza presents artists who use fabrics, threads and textiles to sew and stitch experiences of displacement, create objects of desire and frame portents of ecological disaster..

Installation view of Phenomenal Nature at Met Breuer

Mrinalini Mukherjee. Installation view of Phenomenal Nature at Met Breuer, New York. 2019. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA.

From three-dimensional fetish objects to tactile sculptures of female goddesses and fabric paintings predicting the end of time, several contemporary artists are using fabric, cloth and fibre in diverse art practices. It’s high time therefore that the conversation around textile and fibre art moves beyond rigid categories like art and craft, domestic and public realms, feminine and masculine impulses, and instead focus on form, concept, aesthetics, gesture and fate. In order to do this, we must admit our mistakes – our biases that led to the writing of dominant, largely male art histories. In the marginalization of the feminine, the queer, the economically and socially disadvantaged people, a large part of our history has got erased and fallen short of depicting the simultaneity, the depth and the nuances of complex expressive practices. 

 While this may take many years to annotate, correct and fix, we must constantly remind ourselves of what was overlooked. Since we talk about textiles we must also talk about the problem of conflating craft and domesticity. Textile and fibre art have long been dismissed as feminine, domestic and decorative modes. This prejudice was most acute towards women, who had, over decades, developed challenging conceptual practices across a variety of contexts, materials and techniques. Most of fibre and textile art are inflected by gender (and colonial) experiences. Practices of labour, affects of waiting and care, accidents of tear and recuperative customs of repair are pre-inscribed in the medium. In its firmness and fluidity, fall and folds, is a potent historical plane, charged with material from the past and ideas that are contemporary. Embedded here is a record of evolution and disagreement, a forging of new languages and vocabularies.