In the spirit of connected and smart cities and objects, a theme presented during trade fair Batimat in Paris, digital technology in textiles mixes design, art and sociology. Popkalab team Ricardo O’Nascimento, Erik Overmeire and Tineke Van Hilten created pillows that talk, a project commissioned by BLESS. The pillows are connected via a wireless network. Press the pillow; listen to it talk.
The concept of using textiles as a form of communication dates back to ancient times. They later served to make cloths and garments through weaving, knitting, crocheting, knitting and felting with natural materials such as wool, flax and cotton. Today designers and artists continue experimenting with the durability of textiles.
Back in 1991, Dutch designer Tejo Remy, based in Utrecht, burst onto the sustainable design scene with his Rag Chair. The contents of 15 bags of rags are layered and then bound by metal strips. Each chair uniquely allows one to reincorporate their own used clothing and personal history. Part of a three-piece series that reclaims the objects of our everyday, the Rag Chair sits with the Chest of Drawers and the Milkbottle lamp. This collection intends to inspire the statement, “make your own world with what you encounter.”
Mumbai artist Manish Nai layers filaments of unused jute onto his own handmade surfaces to create abstract tapestries. Jute is the vegetable fiber used to make burlap, a fabric common in India. The artist also condenses the fiber to create minimalist, sculptural blocks that allude to wood cubes or forms by the conceptual artist Donald Judd. These cubic structures are revisited through compressed old clothing from Nai’s family as well as newspapers and cardboard cartons.
Past holds a place in the present and always will. Contemporary American artist Allison Smith also reconsiders how materials can function as bearers of meaning. With her ongoing project Living History, which began in 2013, hundreds of Civil War-era artifact images from museums, craft fairs and other sites of preservation are collected and then printed onto linen. Using textiles to represent images of artifacts, Smith questions the validity of antiques to speak for the past. By using modern technology to reweave history, interpretation is contorted, offering a chilling confrontation with what is both captured and lost through documentation.