Living as a human being in the 21st century is a more or less constant three-dimensional textile experience. Textiles have continuous proximity to our bodies as clothing and as an essential material in our dwellings, both with practical and emotional functions. My graduation project, The Everyday Performing Textiles, derives from my deep interest in textiles’ qualities and embedded connotations, the stuff that affectively shapes our material reality. These soft things play different roles in our lives, as parts of a web of function and meaning.
In my thesis, I focused on the unobtrusive position of everyday textiles, searching to reflect upon the significance and substance they have within our homes. I predicate that our wellbeing is deeply dependent and connected to the comfort of textiles – it being an emotional material as much as a physical one.
I used the expectations of materiality as a method, balancing between the familiar and the strange, to challenge and expand our perception of cloth, both as a statement and a query of its value in modern society. I have depicted everyday textiles in a skewed way, mixing the realistic and the unrealistic, to create an expanded perception of them – playing with their immanent, possibly unspoken, expectations. The Everyday Performing Textiles acknowledges our textile reality – the existence of this interactive, interdependent relationship we share.
In every home, we experience a material reality created by all or its prominent inhabitant/s. It is a world built up from collected gatherings of objects with different inherent qualities, functions, and sentiments. They are generally collected over many years, some possibly passed on from one person to another, maybe even from one generation to another. All of these objects have different status and value to us, partially due to personal reasons and as a reflection of the current values within society.
Objects are merely practical objects, but when becoming possessions, they enter a cultural sphere through their involvement in our persistent human needs. In this system, their existence is charged with personal meanings, proximity to our life experiences, and making ties to our memories.
Indisputably, textiles are one of the essential materials of a home. The nonphysical qualities of textiles invoke the house as both a physical and effective space. From the beginning and throughout to the end of life, the cloth is the everyday material that encompasses us, affecting our physical bodies and our thoughts and emotions. The subject of my thesis is closely linked to the home. As much as the core of it is about the textile object in itself, the scene of the ‘home’ is inescapably highly significant as it is the place where these objects operate and gain much of their value and association.
Cloth is “the archetypal everyday material,” active through its constant participation in our essential routines. These are set to make life easier for us, doing things automatically. To not consistently think things through, we set out these systems for how repetitive tasks are done. As a natural consequence, we are less mindful when these routines are performed. This fact could explain why we experience textiles in the periphery of our perception. Textiles operate in-between the functional and the symbolic. By being part of our everyday routine, they are silently written into the structure of living. I interpret this as the presence of textile, and its’ meaning and importance are somewhat ambivalent to us.
In my practice, I have been curious to investigate pieces from this everyday textile reality, treating these objects like precious findings from an important site. I have been inspecting towels, bedsheets, and blankets – down to a fiber level. I have raged closets, cupboards, and second-hand marketplaces to find these examples of the specimen, to bring them into the light for everyone to see anew in an alternative narrative. They may be worn and straightforward, but that is where their beauty lays.
The finished physical work is an installation piece made up of five reproductions/interpretations of different used everyday textiles from my own and other people’s homes, which I chose after having worked through many during the process. The techniques I used included photo-scanning, digital editing, transfer printing, and sewing. As a means to look at these textile objects beyond their ordinary content, I have used these mentioned tools to create a kind of ‘glass wall’ between them and us. Ideally, this method shifts the focus from the actual textile object to the textile as a subject and the meaning within.
With this project, my ambition was to share the fascinating substance I have found in ordinary textile objects and the universal reality and activity. As most material possessions, they are silent observers as our lives play out, and some of that content is mirrored in them for us to remember and relive. The significance of textiles goes beyond their physical boundaries, transcending the mere materiality.