Faden – Von der Komplexität des Unscheinbaren (Thread – On The Complexity of the Inconspicuous) examines the use of textile threads in art. Between feminist statement, a focus on materiality in the spirit of »the medium is the message«, and neutral usage with no explicit meaning, where does this material stand today? How and why are threads used? Drawing on a wealth of thread-based works in contemporary art, the show features 13 positions from the fields of drawing, photography, object, installation and video performance. They demonstrate the potential of this unspectacular material and reflect its position between line, volume and space, as well as between abstraction and figuration.
The show ranges from Fred Sandback’s masterful minimalist space made out of stretched threads to Karin Sander’s Dada-esque object where staples undermine the attaching function of the thread and the autonomy of the line. Beyond the level of image and content, sewing machine drawings on wallpaper and fabric samples, embroidered emblems on shirts or slogans on trousers always also refer to consumer culture and fashion, thus carrying the seeds of social critique (Gabriel Dawe, Reinhold Engberding, Carola Willbrand). The video works by Annegret Soltau and Chiharu Shiota are separated by more than a generation, and by the difference between feminist and poetic metaphors for all femininity: whereas in the former the thread serves as a painful, restrictive fetter on the body that strives to break free, the young Japanese artist spins her sleeping female figure into an ambivalent cocoon of silence, security and isolation.
In spite of its affinity to the line (with one exception, the exhibition restricts itself to textile threads), threads always remain three-dimensional, opening up a space in even the most paper- or wall-oriented »drawing«, be it as a poetic abstraction or as a narrative that floats across the whole wall (Clare Churchouse, Heike Weber). When the thread traces the frame as a mere outline, or defines the picture as a frameless succession of lines, this resonates with a discourse about the definition of the picture, about imagining and seeing (Katharina Hinsberg, Beat Zoderer). As coloured drawings in space, threads and ropes stretch across ceiling and floor in a free play of material, harmonizing with loudspeakers as small, dark objects and their apparently casual sounds, linearity and three-dimensionality are balanced with the acoustic dimension (Annebarbe Kau). Finally, the magic of playing with thread is given a different treatment in a strikingly objective sequence of photographs of a children’s cat’s cradle game (Beate Terfloth).
The exhibition thus proposes a possible panorama of thread across genres – a panorama that reflects with seriousness, poetry and irony on the material’s specific aesthetic, its social implications, but also its reception by audience and artists. Above all, it highlights the emancipation of thread as an artistic material.