Why is it so significant to study the art of weaving, and how can we conduct the artistic creation in the form of weaving? Before answering these questions, maybe we can first take a look at this picture and feel what’s inside our hearts—We are standing in the middle of modern industrial civilization, surrounded by weaving machines and devices, and a great many woven materials from different periods of time, including silk fabrics from ancient time, sailing knot belonging to sailors, black velvet Qipao bearing the image of a golden peony, parachute that used to fall above the sky, the ruin of  Lianfu Garment Factory in Taiwan, yellowed canvas in the dock that had endured sea wind and rain for a long time, a woolen hat that was once wore by your grandpa.We have an up-close and personal contact with these woven materials, in a way we have established a sentimental bond with these materials and come to realize the continuous but rapid evolution of weaving.

Under today’s contextual knowledge and everyday norm, any thought on weaving might be considered as out of place, or nothing but an act of nostalgia for the old way of life. Thinker of weaving might be even criticized as being trapped in the post-colonial theory, or too much indulged in the life aesthetics belonging to petty bourgeoisie. We have to ask ourselves such a question—Is the weaving we are talking about today the same as the weaving talked by cotton spinners in Peru back in the 15th century? In the 1990s, the organizing committee of Lausanne Biennale decided to close the tapestry biennale, because of “slackening of interest in tapestry in general and a certain stagnation in the creative perspectives of textile art”. Why is it so significant for us to pick up the tapestry art once again today? Do we want to rejuvenate anything? Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) once held a Beyond Craft exhibition in 1971. We are in a time that is exactly being defined as the time beyond, and how does weaving still remain relevant today despite the change of time? Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam also staged an exhibition titled Perspectief in Textiel back in 1969; nearly 40 years later a similar textile related exhibition is held in Hangzhou, do we add any new meaning to this ancient art?

What I want to stress is the relation between an individual and the woven materials, and the study of this relation can help us better understand our world and the interaction among human beings, materials and a locality. Our social experience can be interpreted as the experience gained by woven materials. Weaving itself contains its independent ontology and autonomy value. Any weaving related creation is not about to create the greatest works of art after learning the mechanism in every detail; but to understand the crucial role weaving has played in shaping our ways of thinking. “Weaving & We” on one hand is to study the true nature of weaving, by allowing us to appreciate the weaving arts from different places and different times; and on the other hand the exhibition allows us to feel the weaving-oriented ways of thinking, including its perception, narrative posture and art creation. That is exactly why we are so keen in advocating the concept of weaving-like art creation.

I firmly believe that any individual or group who has obtained the sense of value by weaving is certain to be closely connected to the time.

The vanguard nature of weaving activity taking place in our daily life

When analyzing weaving, we must have a closer look at weaving activities taking place in our daily life. When being exposed to pluralistic culture and social production, weaving is a daily norm for textile workers, plants or textile factories, which is also an essential skill for weavers from different countries and regions. Such a knowledge on weaving is very ordinary, silent or strangely familiar to everyone. However, we must keep us on guard on this belief, as craftsmanship and weaving related activities are never a poetic and politically correct existence. On the contrary, many people rely heavily on weaving to fight for their survival in this world, for making ends meet. That is why weaving is of great practical significance during peaceful time and special times when people have to endure suffering and hardship.

In the spring of 1948, David Crook and his wife Isabel Crook were invited, as observers, to report the land reform taking place in Shilidian Village in Hebei. They accidentally unfolded a past event, an event where women, mass production, the liberation of China and War of Resistance Against Japan were closely connected with weaving. At that time a work team stationed at the village planned to set up a Women’s Association, aiming to protect local women’s right and to enhance the the village’s  productivity. 55-year-old Ms. Wang Xuede, a local at the village, was appointed as chairwoman of the association. Familiar with the village, she was also a skilled textile worker. Besides doing farm works, she did weaving in her spare time. She was familiar with the weaving techniques when she was a young girl. In the 1920s, hand weaving workshops in the countryside were not affected by the industrialized use of looms in the cites; however that was far from a peaceful time, Wang’s father was shot dead by Japanese soldiers, because he wore a light blue suit  that looked similar to the uniform of the Eighth Route Army. Wang’s husband was later captured by Japanese and disappeared for good when doing business in other places. She suffered a lot from her mother-in-law and a widespread feminine, ending up becoming the most loyal fan of Chinese Communist Party. She was the most suitable candidate to lead the Women’s Association. The main duty of the association was to teach weaving skills to local women. A newly set up farmers’ co-op was responsible for the purchase of raw materials and equipment, while Wang and other women would teach weaving skills to local farmers. Any woman, aged between 16 and 50, could join this weaving program and earn a regular payment from their weaving works. In the past local women barely made ends meet, as they were unable to raise enough funds to start their own businesses and not a strong competitor for mass production of textile in the cities. The picking up of ancient weaving skill enabled them to sustain their living; while the improvement of their economic status was the driving force behind the liberation of women in Shilidian Village.

This event provides a new angel for us to study the nature of weaving. Weaving is an ancient survival skill that has passed down from past generations, and woven materials provide us with an essential part of our daily necessities, which is warmth, or a warm existence. In a special era where there was a war, weaving could serve as a propelling power of our society, enabling the social group being summoned to display their true color. From the perspective of modern strategic planning theory, weaving can be interpreted as an effective approach for women to liberate themselves, by empowering them with strength and courage, to resist others and to discover their true selves. When under a special circumstance, weaving can help us examine and restructure ourselves. Weaving is not merely an activity to produce woven materials, but an act to reconstruct ourselves.

Profession Sarat Maharaj once recommended to me an Indian movie about a small Indian town famous for its robust textile industry named Kanchivaram . Europeans and upper-class Indians were crazy about the beautiful made-in-Kanchivaram fabrics. However, two kinds of people were unable to acquire such a beauty. The first one was the maker of these fabrics, whose name was Vengadam, the male character of this movie. Vengadam produced the finest sari in the world, but was banned to weave sari for her daughter who was about to get married. Vengadam was later sent to prison for violating the ban and wore a beautiful sari for his daughter nevertheless. He had the invisible weaving skill, but was unable to own a sari made from his own craftsmanship, a visible materialized object.

The second one who was banned to get in touch with these beautiful fabrics was Puritan in the UK. Under the stipulations of law, Puritans were not allowed to wear these fabrics. We can see clearly the tension between human desire and the ban. The colonization of India and the construction of textile factories made textile more easily available to the public, and partially ruined the lives of many manual labors in the textile making industry. India once was a country with a thriving textile making industry; however, due to the mass production of textile in the UK and the ensuing large quantity of UK-made textile being exported to India under the free trade agreement, textile making industry in India was completely destroyed, resulting in mass layoff of textile workers in India. William Bentinck, the Governor-General of India at that time, once wrote that “the bones of the the dead textile workers have whitened the entire Indian continent”. Gandhi later led a non-violent and non-cooperation movement in India, aiming to resist the textiles and other made-in-UK commodities in a non-violent way. Gandhi and his followers used spinning wheels to produce their own cloths, so as to prevent the use of made-in-UK textiles. What they were trying to do was to gain back the control—not only the control of the materialized objects, but also the power and capacity to produce.

Weaving, from the sociological point of views, is indeed so fascinating, truly displaying the social value and its in-depth insight of history.


Struggle as a form of connection

The weaving connection can be divided into four dimension, namely spreading out, embracing, twisting and compressing; any net that is woven by connection can be a material net, a language net as well as a net of reality. In a way, weaving is a special tissue that is formed by some universal principles.

Chen Chieh-Jen’s Factory is another Kanchivaram town. Each factory, as if an isolated island floating among the global industrial chain, will be driven by the power of capital to migrate to a new place with a much lower production cost, could be anywhere in the world. This kind of migration, in a way, is a scissor that cuts things apart. When looking at those video clips, we are aware of a once busy factory full of hustle and bustle. The factory was like a base, forcing factory workers to live a collective life with a set schedule every day. In the 1960s textile manufacturing industry was a key industry to earn foreign exchange income for Taiwan. However, with the rapid development of neoliberal globalization, Taiwan’s labor-intensive industries started relocating to other places with cheaper labor cost. The mass layoff and vicious close-down of faculties resulted in the long-standing unemployment of Taiwan workers. Many factories in Tao Yuan, including Lianfu Textile and Fuchang Textile, were forced to close down; and many unemployed women workers carried out a series of protests. Chen Chieh-Jen and his team invited these women workers to return back to their original work place, a factory that has been abandoned for seven years—、full of dust, motionless and immovable. Despite that there were no any needle or thread on their hands, these workers were still familiar with the technique of threading the needle. The factory therefore became a symbol for the dominator, and each habitual body movement in the long run would give birth to uniform, a symbol for compliance and obedience.

This is one of the crucial nodes for Chen Chieh-Jen’s world factory map project, as well as a fighting scene for factory workers, and a naked reality. The factory is where the fighting took place in the past seven years, but also the place where they managed to make a living. And it is likely that the fight will continue to last, showing no sign to stop.


Weaving and color

“We are interested with the composition of color, which is the interaction among different colors. The colors keep floating, always ready to interact with the their adjacent colors. ”

“Interaction of Color” by Josef Albers

On the one hand we emphasize the importance of weaving skills and weaving materials; on the other hand we naturally apply basic languages to display color and other visual effects.

Take for an example, when we mention the color of green, 50 people can come up with 50 different types of green in their minds, including the green for a willow bud in early spring, green velvet, green pond, green moss, green color appeared on the national flag of Brazil, one pigment of the traditional Chinese painting as well as the green camp in Taiwan’s politics. A great variety of green are on display in Liu Wei’s work series titled Green Land. An accurate sense of visual awareness can be seen in the entire creation of this art work, all elements, including colors, materials and other objects, are woven into this art work. Liu Wei uses canvas a lot in his art creations, to him, the canvas represents jungle and the survival of the fittest. Canvas, mostly woven by thick cotton fabrics or hemp fabrics, contains many plied yarns in  plain structure. It is widely believed that this kind of plain-structure material can produce the strongest rope with the flattest surface. Canvas is now widely used in beast training, sailing ship making, as well as in the mechanized production, for the functions of shielding, obstruction, water proof, package and  camouflage.

In the art work of Green Land, the factory is green and the canvas is green, green impresses us the most, which is also the visual judgment we have for Liu Wei. The mental perception on color comes first before color concept in our logical perception. However, the wall-like measurement and the much more complex abstract history produce a strange somatosensory feeling—the large-sized frame structures covered by canvas could be interpreted as one after another meaningless monuments, any slightest shaking of these structures will create a sense of insecurity, as if we are being reminded again and again of the collective lives in the factories and in the container wharf. To us, these structures are a maze encompassing many large-sized bunkers.

The weaving technique displayed by the canvas is never a new form of production mode, but a end product created by machine and the organized pattern. This art will keep informing us about the color perception and the impact by large objects.  Green Land will force us to think, when finding a way out of a large maze, about the production scenario that should be studied from the perspective of  political economy in the first place; instead we are consumed by strong emotions after seeing these woven structures, including sense of insecurity, trembling, tension and compression.

There is another way of playing with colors, one is more accurate and strict.

Bearing the design concepts of Bauhaus, Josef Albers visited the Republic of Montenegro and Yale University in the US respectively. He did a lot of daily exercises involving the color interaction by ready-made objects. Sheila Hicks, a student of Josef Albers, had learned all the knowledge about color composition and color psychology, and color interaction had been an integral part of her daily artistic creation. That was things happened nearly 60 years ago. One day, Josef Albers handed a document to Sheila, which was a study opportunity in South America covered by scholarship. Josef Albers told her that “there is something you need to learn in South America”. Back in the 1950s, South America was the market place for all kinds of artists in the world. Weaving was the starting point for Sheila, which was a good way to learn the interaction between threads and the color interaction. In the 1970s, she lived in Mexico, and later spent most of her time living and working with textile workers in India; in 1980s, she chose to live in seclusion at the city center of Paris. 
When looking at Sheila’s weaving, we can clearly feel the connection between colors and their surrounding environments, and each different color can represent the place where resided at the time being. In addition, we can frequently see the entanglement of particular colors, for example, pink color embellished by natural suntan and bright red inter-winding with dark green. The interspersed arrangement of different colors produces an overall visual effect, symbolizing the beginning, pause and conclusion of a weaving activity, as if an activity with a unique rhythm. Different colors are connected by fabrics, which can be interpreted as here, there, up and down, the colors being placed in a spatial environment.

Besides adjusting the colors being placed in a spatial environment, a weaver also can adjust the texture of his or her woven materials. The entanglement of threads from different directions can create a change of structure on the surface of the woven materials. Artistes are working very hard to give full play to the entanglement of threads. Weaving itself is a tiny but repetitive action, and the combination of material, its connotation and a weaver’s mental state, will create many unexpected effects in the end.

Besides using basic cotton and linen yarns, Sheila also demonstrates the entanglement and dis-assembly of many other materials, including feather, shell, newspaper and cherry tree branches. Sheila keeps looking for new materials to extend the concept of weaving and the way people look at weaving as an art. That explains why she is so determined to carry out weaving related daily exercises every day. Her sculpture, tapestry and paper art, regardless of the raw materials being natural cotton or high-tech silk, or colors being rich or single, are beyond the catalogue of art, design or handcraft. Each weaving work is she talking to herself. What is woven is time, and she manages to let the entire process visible to our eyes. Woven materials, texture, color, these are what we see in our eyes, but we also see glory of human nature being integrated into her art works, thus making her a painter, a sculptor, a weaver, a color artist as well as a poet.

“We all depend on the cross-crossing of threads.
We wear them.
We live with them intimately.
We admire them. We need them.
Lines moving in space:
Around our legs and feet,
Around our bodies in motion.
We live inside them: our tents, curtains, bath towels, 
Pressed together, 
Draped sinuously knotted and locked to catch a fish,
Enmeshed to trap a rabbit.”
——Sheila Hicks



Penelope, the faithful wife to Odysseus, came up with a solution to say no to her admirers. She decided to weave a piece of cloth for her father-in-law, the cloth to make the grave clothes, and only she had finished her job would she consider her second marriage. During daytime, many visitors came to her house, finding her busy working on the looms; however at night when all the guests had gone, this smart woman would  remove all those woven threads and waited calmly for the arrival of a new day, when she would start over again on her weaving. It is true that she was making a weaving that was not meant to stop. On one hand, it tested the patience of her admirers; on the other hand, it reflected the art of weaving, an art that can start and remove. As long as the lockstitch-the-border, the final movement for a weaving activity, has not been performed, the cloth was never a finished product. In a way, lockstitch-the-border was the symbol of death; while the start of weaving on a new day meant the searching for a new possibility.

Weaving aesthetics in our daily lives is also a path in searching for a new possibility. What is the very source for our quest today, in searching for an improved technique, craftsmanship and a life aesthetics that is characterized by slow lifestyle? Most the insights gained by a weaver come from his or her daily practices, maybe we need to think hard of the true meaning of weaving, is that possible that any art form is a  collateral branches?

Firstly we must understand the true value of weaving and carry out meaningful weaving activities. Weaving produces cloths, a material that is closest to our skins, and the existence of weaving proves the existence of human being. In the long history of mankind, today’s weavers are so much the same as those weavers in Peru in 15th century. Both people insist on using the traditional weaving of threads in both horizontal and vertical directions, and keep consolidating their material and technological foundations.

Secondly weaving can serve as a communication language. In today’s world, weaving has been displayed by artists, media and woven products, which can be a welcoming practical field. People from different parts of the world can conduct weaving related creative experiments. Each kind of new weaving skill and, newly woven products is an art in incorporating a non-conventional everyday knowledge into the existing knowledge system. Many weavers are so determined to rejuvenate some ancient weaving skills or  knowledge that  has been wandering in the wilderness for so long.

Thirdly the awakening of knowledge is an awakening from inside our hearts, and we must to look at ourselves in the first place. Many weavers are conscious about what they are doing, and their determinations are both rational and sentimental. In the weaving world, which is so much different with the secular world, love and commitment are the center of weaving.

And fourthly, participants of weaving, including weavers and creators of weaving art, are telling us possible ways of thinking through weaving, and they are also narrators of this exhibition. The exhibition--Weaving & Us--has become a gathering of great weaving thinkers, and any participant is a narrator, an initiator, a  prophet, a preacher, as well as someone who forgets. In a way, artists only play an insignificant role in weaving, weavers in general are the core of weaving art. Each weaver interacts with their art work, which echoes the theme of this exhibition “Weaving & Us”.


From Weaving to Knowledge, and from Threads to Language

When we break the connection of weaving, we can see the multifaceted weaving world. For example, the glory of fabric art in Poland was deeply rooted in the socialist construction process after the Second World War. To build a positive image for the country, Polish government provided special support to artists in developing handicraft arts. Behind the ups and downs of weaving art in South America and Africa is a story of struggling for local people. And the silence we found in the felt boot factory in the Republic of Belarus and the textile factories in Taiwan reflected the pressure caused by the breakage of international production chain. Some determined artists, however, still attempted to bring the enlightenment learned from weaving back to the real production world. The path from weaving to knowledge is the path between materials and technologies, connected by needlework and unique pattern.

When we try to spread this weaving-oriented knowledge, we will find something different. If we are accustomed to conventional thinking based on existing framework of art history, by dividing artists into different genres, we have to keep looking at their difference of artistic style. But what are being displayed in this exhibition is totally different. It is true that each distinct weaving technique bears the signature of a particular artist; however, the availability of new materials and new techniques creates new possibilities to the weaving art. What follows next might look like a mystery. It all depends on from which dimensions we look at the weaving art, and the most traditional way is to study the way the artist speaks, and to analyze the artist’s creation history. By studying the interaction of threads, we can see the  density, durability and flexibility of time; while if we cut the four corners of each woven material, we can see the threads being woven in an organized manner, just as what we see from this exhibition, such as Datang Town in Zhejiang, the downfallen flax processing industry in the 1980s in Northern Ireland, the made-in-Netherlands print fabric owned by Ghana women, the knitting art in Guatemala, embroidery art in Zhenghu Town of Jiangsu Province, the popular weaving art created by professors from Art Institute of Los Angeles in the 1960s and the ancient silk weaving art from Yuantai brand in Hangzhou. It is these individuals or groups that have reflected the world as it is through their unique weaving, and through them, we are able to understand the core of weaving and the broader existence of weaving.



I would like to take this opportunity to thank other peer curators--Xu Jia and Assadour Markarov, as well as many other supervisors and artists. I have received firm support and insightful guidance from fellow artists in the weaving field, and I have learned a lot from them, who keep forcing me to think.