The Event of a Thread
Though I am dealing in this book with long-established facts and processes, still, in exploring them, I feel on new ground. And just as it is possible to go from any place to any other, so also, starting from a defined and specialised field, one can arrive at a realisation of ever-extending relationships. Thus tangential subjects come into view. The thoughts, however, can, I believe, be traced back to the event of a thread.
( Albers 1965 :15)
On visiting this exhibition of the work of hand weaver and artist Anni Albers, it is immediately apparent how contemporary the work seems, as if the intervening eighty plus years have been erased through one artist’s vision, innovation and persistence.
Albers began her career at the Bauhaus School in Dessau, Germany, moving disciplines until settling in the weaving workshop, where, amongst other talented students, all women, she made her mark as an experimental and technically accomplished weaver of inventive textiles, produced for various purposes and even as art pieces in their own right. She was the first weaver to have a significant solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1949.
At the Bauhaus she came across teachers such as Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky.
She was fascinated by thread and its implications, seeing not only a practical material but she became aware of a deeper sense of meaning and relevance. For Albers:
One of the outstanding characteristics of the Bauhaus has been, to my mind, an unprejudiced attitude towards materials and their inherent capacities’.
In 1947 Albers began to sketch and paint entangled, linear structures.
Drawing for a Knot
Gouache on Paper
The subject and the abstract shape of the study of the knot had resonances with the way Sarah and I had been looking at knots at the first workshop we participated in at the the Repair Acts seminar at Penryn in October 2018 (see earlier post).
In one of the quotes from the exhibition Albers describes her closeness and innate connection with her materials, even when working with print and paper, when she states:
What I’m trying to get across is that material is a means of communication. That listening to it makes us truly active, that is: to be active, be passive. (Albers cited in Tate Modern Exhibition 2018)
Thus Sarah and I have decided to call one of our exhibits in our forthcoming exhibition in Penryn an ‘Event of a Thread’, in acknowledgement of Alber’s insistence that to see a particular yarn as an object is not the whole story. The thread is precursor to what it may become in reciprocity with its maker. As as a ‘happening’, an event, a thread holds potentia: it is a process of material beginnings and becomings, emphasising the ‘ever extending relationships’ that Albers describes at the beginning of the post.
Alison Harper and Sarah Chave
Media: Crisp packet , paper and hand-spun wool yarn
Albers, A. (1965) On Weaving . London: Studio Vista.)