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Threads of Life


20 Jun 2023, 11:00 – 04 Jun 2023, 12:45


Otto Wagner-Postsparkasse, Georg-Coch-Platz 2, 1010 Vienna

Organisation of the Symposium “Threads of Life” by Katrin Pilz together with the curatorial team, Monika Ankele (Medical University of Vienna), Barbara Graf (University of Applied Arts Vienna), Monika Pietrzak-Franger (University of Vienna), Barbara Putz-Plecko (University of Applied Arts Vienna), Katharina Sabernig (University of Applied Arts Vienna) and Georg Vasold (University of Vienna).

Although textiles have been indispensable to medicine since time immemorial, their role in this context has been understudied so far. From the surgical thread, wound dressings, wipes, pads, and protective clothing to the hospital bed, the practices of healing are unimaginable without them. But the relationship between textiles in the arts, wellbeing and health is much broader. It includes, but is not restricted to, the use of such techniques as knitting, crocheting, weaving or braiding in the development of cardiovascular grafts or surgical meshes. The use of textiles is also ambivalent. They have found use in psychiatric institutions for the bodily restraint of patients, but patients also used them for designing their environment and creating body wrappings as survival strategies. Textiles can also be a source of ill-health: Beyond the addition of harmful substances during their production, textiles have been used in fashion for centuries to shape, deform and discipline the body according to ideals of beauty. Practitioners from the fields visual arts and artistic research reflect on this complicated relationship in manifold ways. Artists use fabrics to evoke the vulnerability of the human body, its ongoing decay and imminent death, and also to highlight the complexity of interhuman relationships. They draw attention to (self-)care, understanding the human anatomy, perceiving one’s own corporeality, and to the ways in which textiles can become an existential embodiment. Beyond the metaphorical “Threads of Life”, suturing connects the craft of surgery with that of tailoring. The exhibition spotlights the multifaceted relationships between textiles, medicine and the arts. It brings historical objects and contemporary artistic positions into a dialogue that generates productive tensions.