The inner scheme of fabric Text by Christina Lehnert

Christina Lehnert - Assistant Curator of Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany, December 2012
(This text was contributed on the occasion of publishing the catalogue “Rewoven - Overflow” in 2013.)

Each time that I visited Aiko Tezuka’s studio, her walls were always full of schemes and maps of many different things. A submarine, a Polynesian stick chart, an anatomical sketch of scoliosis, a nuclear power plant, instructions for stitching and more.

What the different diagrams have in common is that they are an abstraction of something concrete. They are graphic renderings that describe the structure of a location, a body or a nuclear power plant, similar in appearance to an embroidery pattern or some kind of geography.

These diagrams, while implying the represented object, are themselves only imaginary. It is this in-between state of actually being something (a graphic on paper) and simultaneously pointing toward an external object or concept, in which one sees a representation of something real. The maps and schemes show structure, they define the elements that something is composed of. These types of abstractions take away details of lesser importance, in order to provide a clearer view of an object or form.

Aiko’s work does not deal with diagrams; her practice is based in fabrics. Fabrics are usually directed towards an end-product such as clothes or furnishings. Therefore they function to add up to something else. A fabric rarely refers to itself simply as a fabric; moreover it usually refers to something more complex, so it is an element which is used for something.

Aiko, however, has a reverse view of fabrics. She takes the fabric and dissects it according to its own principles – the threads. Like a cartographer, she shows the inner structures of things. The chosen fabric can be considered a readymade, which she does not take to be a static entity, but rather attends to it to visualise and dissect it into constituent parts.

The different types of fabric that she uses are not diligently manufactured or the outcome of certain precise processes. Mostly, they are fabrics that are either objects of utility or simple mainstream souvenirs, such as the Gobelin- esque views of Canale Grande in Venice and fabrics that one in Germany would deridingly name: ‘Gelsenkirchener Barock’.

Aiko unravels threads or extracts certain coloured threads from the fabric, so that the designs or the woven motifs fade out into a blurred image of what they originally depicted. The outcome of the unravelling process shows something that is usually invisible, since the threads only gain in importance once they come together, to constitute fabric with its different motifs or images.

By unravelling the thread by hand, Aiko applies an arduous and painstaking method that is far from the actual process of the industrial production from which the fabric originated. The discrepancy between Aiko’s work with her hands, and the machine-produced fabric is taken one step further: in some of her works she reconnects the threads again by re-using them for her own stitching. This is a very poetic transformation in a way, to re-engage material, which evolved originally from an industrial work and to make a new piece of work from it.

She once told me that she wanted to show what one cannot see. Therefore she works with fabric as opposed to making paintings, because it has the quality of being able to be opened up and reveal its constituting layers. By re- using fabrics, Aiko engages with the meaning of fabric itself, its cultural heritage, its designs, the origin of motifs and the globalised market of industrial productions.

Over time, intercultural transfer has led to the exchange of motifs, so that no design pattern of fabric is original in terms of a country of origin. This is even more pronounced in times when Western culture seems to be viewed as being state-of-the-art.

Therefore the fabric that Aiko uses could be seen to symbolise the constituent parts of where a traditional motif or a design comes from and the act of unravelling those bonds as an attempt to show the compositions that our cultures consist of in its fragments.

Returning to the maps and schemes, one cannot deny that the underside of an embroidery appears very much like a map or a scheme. Similarly, making invisible structures visible are functions that these types of plans also have. While the deconstruction of its intended appearance is in one way a careless or destructive act, the thoughtful unravelling and re-enaging of the threads in Aiko’s work could not be more mindful.