I don't know if the fact that the exhibition "Neue Masche" at the Museum Bellerive, Zürich did not really surprise me is good or bad. Maybe I share the same curiosity than the curators, and we browse the same sources (the web, the book "knitting art"...) and it is good to share our discoveries with more people?
But what bothered me (and therefore made me think) the most about the exhibition and the symposium "Rethinking Needlework" is that they where both largely based on the proposition "This is needlework/knitting/crochet BUT..." (it is huge, it is ironic, it is shocking, it is made of something surprising, it is controversial, and most important it is not traditional, it is NOT your granma's neeldework).
I must confess I am getting tired of this obligatory controversial or at the least ironic position the textile artist seems to have to take if her/his work is to be taken seriously and considered art. Imagine if each and every time you heard or read about a painter it said "This is painting BUT..." (this is not your granma's painting, this is tiny or huge, this is done with surprising material ,this is ironic this is controversial... etc). Of course some time the discourse on painting is also about the controversy, the new, the surprising. But it does not seem as obligatory and recurrent than it is in textile art.
Some would argue that this is because textile art is "somewhat new" in the Fine Arts department. Well I don't think so. When I look on photos from the exhibitions held at the Biennale de Lausanne or other textile art from about 30 years ago, the artwork and the critique does not seems so obsessed by justification, controversy and irony. And yet it was at a time where gender and social discussions where as burning as now, if not more.
Maybe it is time we start to look at the positive side of textile art. Let's say that the attention to needlwork and textile art has been justified enough. What if we let go of the BUT and try on the AND? Yes, this is needlework/knitting/crochet/patchwork AND it is stunning, thoughful, beautiful, moving, interesting, surprising, funny...