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Call

Each year, six to eight candidates, coming from Switzerland and abroad, have the opportunity to work with textile companies in Eastern Switzerland, use a local studio in Arbon and extend their own individual networks over a period of three months. At the public event “TaDA Spinnerei”, which is also attended by international speakers, they can present their projects to an interested public and at the same time discuss them with experts.

The call for 2023 is now open! Deadline: 3 October 2022
–> Download the call here
–> Apply here

Benefits

TaDA covers the following as part of the residency programme

  • Accommodation in Arbon, few minutes walking distance from the workplace and the Bodensee
  • Travel expenses
  • Contribution to the cost of living
  • Workplace in the former textile and engine factory in Arbon (Kreativzentrum ZIK)
  • Technology, knowledge and infrastructure support by experts from the 13 partner companies and from the jury

TaDA expects the following from residents

  • Development of a new project in cooperation with local textiles company
  • Public presentation of their work, organisation of workshops
Current Residents
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Ana Micaela Fernández Martín is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in connections between drawings and fabrics. She is currently teaching a course about direct intervention methods on natural textiles at "Factoría Cultural" (Avilés, Asturias) and complements her training with courses in graphic design, serigraphy and engraving. She is constantly searching for new forms of graphic expression that connect illustration and weaving, treating the latter as a storytelling medium. Through painting and drawing, screen printing, stamping, engraving and other preparatory and finishing processes, she brings fabric to life as a canvas for artistic creation. Her graphic dialogue is open, experimental and vital. Ana Micaela has a degree in Fine Arts and Fashion Design with two honourable mentions from the University of Vigo and from ESDEMGA (Galicia).

anamicaela.myportfolio.com

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Victoria Manganiello is an American artist, designer, educator and organizer working primarily with textiles. Her recent projects explore themes in women’s work, technology and food. She has received multiple internationally recognized grants, commissions, and residency appointments, from Wave Farm, S&R Foundation, Center for Craft, The Wallstreet Journal, Harvest Works, AIR Gallery and others. She has exhibited her work internationally across Europe, in Taiwan and throughout the USA at venues including Tang Museum, Museum of Art and Design, Bozar, Ars Electronica and Queens Museum. She is also a part-time professor at NYU and Parsons School of Design.

www.victoriamanganiello.com

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Otto Rummukainen (b. 1993, Jyväskylä) is a multidisciplinary artist who works in the field of art and design. He holds a master's degree from the Fashion, Clothing and Textile master’s program of Aalto University. During his studies, in addition to textile design, Rummukainen worked with ceramic and glass art. In his works, Rummukainen hopes the viewers find their own perspective on the art pieces. He does not want to force a clear point of view upon the viewer. Rummukainen’s naïve style implements children’s drawing but deals with various topics and meanings through dark themes. Rummukainen is especially interested in the ups and downs of life. Through these events, Rummukainen creates a fictional world where one can momentarily escape everyday life.

https://tuuum.com/OttoRummukainen

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Nelli Singer is a textile designer with a focus on active materials research. Her interest is in innovative material structures and the experimental process of their design. Her creative work is characterized by her interdisciplinary approach involving design, art, architecture, natural sciences and technology. Nelli Singer gained a Master of Arts in textile and surface design at the Weissensee school of art in Berlin. Since September 2020 she has been part of Cluster of Excellence "Matters of Activity". Exhibits of her works, "knitted active wooden structures", have been shown at the Humboldt Forum under the heading "Active Curtain" and in the Tieranatomisches Theater entitled "Stretching Materialities".

vimeo.com/nellisinger

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Chun Shao is a multimedia artist whose research interests encompass the field of multimedia installation, e-textiles, speculative design, and data-driven art. She studied Fine Arts at the Academy of Art in Hangzhou in China and graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago in the Performance Department. In 2019, she received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Washington at the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media. Her most recent research focuses on interactive textiles, exploring the poetics between touch and emotion. From 2014 to 2018, Shao taught at the University of Washington in Seattle, along with numerous exhibitions, awards, and residencies.

Past Residents
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Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya is an interdisciplinary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria. He lives and works alternately in his native city and in Austin, Texas. His works are inspired by the traditional textiles and iconic weaving crafts of Nigeria and Ghana. He explores the role of textiles in Nigeria’s society and the unwritten history of industrial embroidery in his country, also in relation to trade with Europe. He earned his initial BSC degree in Biochemistry from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta Nigeria (1991), and subsequently a degree in Fine and Applied Art at the Institute of Textile Technology Art & Design in Lagos (1995).

www.artwithakirash.com

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Stéphanie Baechler is an artist and textile designer. She studied textile design at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) and completed a Master's in fashion at Amsterdam University of the Arts (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, ArtEZ) in the Netherlands. Stéphanie worked as a Textile Developer/Design Assistant for Hussein Chalayan in London and was Head of Print Design for the Swiss textile company Jakob Schlaepfer for three years. Since then, her work has evolved to include sculpture and installation, and has focused on the interplay between ceramics and textiles. Her research centres on the tactile dimension and the interaction between body, movement and space.

www.stephaniebaechler.com

More about Stephanie Baechler at TaDA:
Report from the residency
Presentation of results and processes during the residency
Online-Talk with Stéphanie Baechler and Fanni Fetzer, Director Museum of Art Lucerne

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Laura Deschl is a social designer and artistic researcher with a background in fashion and textiles. She holds a Master of Fine Arts and Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven. With her interdisciplinary approach, she generates a discourse between fields that usually have little overlap. Her research-driven academic work is often accompanied by object or material based forms of expression. Laura Deschl's current research focuses on the field of therapeutic textiles. Most of her work explores the relationship between subject and object – stemming from her interest in affect psychology and in the question of how objects can initiate, regulate and influence human emotions.

www.lauradeschl.com

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Ganit Goldstein is a textile and 3D fashion designer whose work focuses mainly on pioneering the use of 3D printing fabrication for smart textile developments. Ganit is studying for an MA at the Royal College of Art in London, where her practice demonstrates her interdisciplinary approach to design, in which she mixes traditional and innovative techniques, creating novelty within programmable materials.  Ganit was awarded the Re-FREAM Horizon 2020 grant to re-imagine the manufacturing process of 3D textiles together with a community of scientists and leading companies around Europe.  Her collections have been presented at exhibitions and museums globally, including Milan Design Week 2019, New York Textile Month the Tel Aviv Biennale of Crafts & Design 2020, and more.

www.ganitgoldstein.com

More about Ganit Goldstein at TaDA:
Presentations of results and processes during the residency
Designboom, Ganit Goldstein creates an interactive embroidery piece with VR applications, Lynne Myers

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Alexandra Hopf studied at Düsseldorf's Kunstakademie (Art Academy). In her work, she challenges the construction of art history by reinterpreting the historic avant-garde. She is particularly interested in the Russian avant-garde as an expression of the «new man» and the translation of the geometric and block-like silhouettes of Suprematist painting into the realm of the sculptural. Alexandra Hopf weaves together fact and fiction through the media of painting, photography, sculpture and film. She has received a number of bursaries and residencies, and her work has been shown throughout Europe in both solo and group exhibitions. Alexandra Hopf asks the same pertinent questions as the former avant-garde, but addresses them within a global economic crisis context.

www.alexandrahopf.com

More about Alexandra Hopf at TaDA:
Report from the residency
Presentation of results and processes during the residency

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Tobias Kaspar, based in Zurich and Riga, is an artist working in contemporary art with a strong interest in fashion and textiles. Kunsthalle Bern and Verlag der Buchhandlung Franz und Walther König published an artist’s monograph on him entitled “Independence” in 2020. Over the last decade, Kaspar has realized numerous solo exhibitions at locations such as Kunsthalle Bern; Kunsthalle, Sao Paulo; Cinecittà Studios, Rome;Kim? Contemporary art Center, Riga, Latvia; Midway Contemporary Art Center, Minneapolis; Peter Kilchmann Galerie, Zurich, and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing. With ”Rented Life”, Tobias Kaspar has ented out his life for 2020/21 to twenty subscribers and is currently preparing the homonymous museum show due to open at Mamco, Geneva, in summer 2021.

www.tobiaskaspar.com

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Aesun Kim is an artist and creative practitioner from South Korea, interested in human-computer interaction. Her practice focuses on wearable interface based on biometric data and expresses new digital aesthetics. She developed her interactive arts and wearable design works at the University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz (AT) and Partly University of the Arts London (UK). Her current research and workshops revolve around exploring creative, technical e-textiles and wearable interfaces.

www.aesunkim.com

More about Aesun Kim at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency

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Sonia Li is a Taiwanese-American artist living and working in Brooklyn. Growing up in more than one country, the exposure to different cultures shaped Li's empathetic approach and innate sensibility towards universal expressions of humanity. She works with installation, performance and social space. Linked to stages of personal transformation, she turns metaphors of internal dialogues into multi-sensory experiences, brought alive by her use of technology, blending physical materials with digital tools to break the invisible divider between the artwork, concept and viewer. She participated in international exhibitions, among others at Centro Cultural FIESP (Brasil), Naves Matadero (Spain), CADAF NYC (USA). Her videos are in the exclusive online Elementum.art collection. In 2018 she was awarded a grant from the Taiwan Ministry of Culture and the Chen Yung Memorial Foundation.

www.sonialidesigns.com

More about Sonia Li at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency
Empa Quarterly #75, Floral splendor from the lab: Buddahverse by Sonia Li
Report from the residency

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Benjamin Mengistu Navet studied Fashion Design at La Cambre (Brussels) and completed his education with a master in Textile Design at the KASK School of Arts (Gent). His main focus is on creating a dialogue between industry and craftsmanship, in order to question the production process of objects. Based on research in post-colonial practices in the field of fashion and textiles, Benjamin is currently investigating his own Ethiopian background through pattern making and garment creation, combining traditional techniques and industry. He lives and works in Brussels.

www.instagram.com/benjaminmengistunavet

More about Benjamin Mengistu Navet at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency
Report from the residency

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Maidje Meergans is a documentary photographer from Berlin. She initially studied Textile and Surface Design as well as Visual Communication at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee (Academy of Art). In 2018 she completed her further education at the Ostkreuzschule for Photography, where she early on focused on social documentary topics, with a special interest in sustainability, unique stories and people. Meergans is part of the artist-run AFF Galerie in Berlin, where she is involved in organizing and curating exhibitions. AFF Galerie is a platform for contemporary photography that regularly presents emerging artists. Her plan for TaDA is to concentrate on the craftspeople working in the textile industry.

www.maidje.com

More about Maidje Meergans at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency
Reportages from the residency

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Quang Vinh Nguyen is a product designer. He completed his Bachelor studies with distinction at the Lausanne School of Arts and Design (ECAL). He uses sustainable materials and processes for his product design, and is interested in concrete solutions on contemporary challenges that are still uncertain. As a Swiss designer with Vietnamese roots he is familiar with both western and Asian mentalities. Quang Vinh Nguyen is a co-founder of the multidisciplinary project «Căng tin», which investigates the culinary and folksy traditions of Vietnam in various media (including performances, objects and print).

More about Quang Vinh Nguyen at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency

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Edit Oderbolz is an artist based in Basel, Switzerland. Dealing with space is a central theme in her artistic work. Her conceptual works mainly comprise objects, spatial drawings and installations, which she derives from her immediate environment and from everyday architecture. Her focus is on social features and structures. As a result, her work raises questions about the nature of drawing, painting, form, process, and transience. Edit Oderbolz studied at the Hochschule für Kunst in Basel. Her works have been shown internationally in numerous solo exhibitions, including Crac Alsace Altkirch, Kunstverein Nürnberg, and Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel. She has been awarded several work grants, residencies and prizes for her artwork.

www.editoderbolz.ch

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Selina Reiterer is an artist and textile designer. After her design studies in Berlin and Paris she worked in various cooperations and carried out research at the ETH Zurich in the framework of a project on the connection between technology and design perspectives. Since then she has investigated the relations between object and resonance with textile and sound-oriented space installations. Oliver Maklott is a media artist. After an apprenticeship in news electronics he studied electronic music and sound technology in Vienna. He is a co-founder of various organisations that create real and virtual spaces for experiments and presentations for artists in the fields of music and media. Selina Reiterer and Oliver Maklott share their interest for multiple sensory perceptions. Their artistic practice converges in joint compositions of different media, especially haptic surfaces and objects with sound.

www.selinareiterer.com

More about Selina Reiterer and Oliver Maklott at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency
Performance during TaDA Spinnerei 2021

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Andrea Winkler studied Visual Communication in Hamburg and Fine Art Media in London. She is interested in spatial scenarios and reruns of set pieces from daily life; her works range between installation, sculpture and «objet trouvé». These object collages and scenic complexes reflect her interest in theatricality, commodity fetishism, in safety and usability awareness. Her works have been displayed in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, gaining many distinctions. In 2019 she received the Innogy VISIT Award and the promotional grant from the UBS Culture Foundation for her research on post-digitalisation and new materialism.

www.andreawinkler.org

More about Andrea Winkler at TaDA:
Presentation of results and processes during the residency
Report from the residency

Archive
Alexandra Hopf
Interview on the Residency with Nadia Schneider Willen
September to November 2020
08.02.2022
Alexandra Hopf Interview on the Residency with Nadia Schneider Willen September to November 2020

Nadia Schneider Willen (NS), collection curator at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Zurich), in conversation with Alexandra Hopf (AH), TaDA Resident from September to November 2020

NS: During your TaDA residency, you worked on a project entitled “Die Bauern (1927)” (the peasants). It is a multi-layered artistic project based on a fictitious encounter between two historical personalities, Bertold Brecht and Kasimir Malevich, who together intend to create a theatre play with the above-mentioned title – Brecht as author and Malevich as costume designer. As is often the case with your projects, this work is accompanied by a publication, in this case proclaimed to be the programme for the play’s performance. It contains fragments of a dialogue between the two protagonists, your own texts, and excerpts from historical sources. The publication is beautifully in keeping with the spirit of that age, but also includes clear references to our own digital age. Besides, your work also contains patterns for costumes as well as pictures of objects that can be interpreted as costumes designed for the play. The images in the programme are in black and white, but one can still recognise that the garments have been made to shine by various applications to the fabric, and one can sense that the material used for the cover is related to this. You yourself developed the objects – you call them “costumes” only in the context of the fiction you created – during your residency in Arbon. Together with the publication, they form the content of “Die Bauern (1927)”.

© Ladina Bischof

NS: First of all, I would like to understand how you developed this complex and highly research-intensive project. What elements served as your starting point for the development of the objects during your TaDA residency, and what followed on from this? Did the experiments with materials and techniques carried out in collaboration with the specialised firms influence your project, and if so, in what way?

AH: For some years now I have been closely studying the Russian avantgarde of the early 20th century, which included visions of new humans, a new humankind for the future (under communism).
As my starting point, I took Kasimir Malevich’s late paintings of farmers created in 1927. Although the pictures show lonesome and faceless farmers in their fields, the representations nevertheless emit a metallic glow reminiscent of Russian icons. I found this contradiction fascinating. How can the connection to nature (or rather the loss of this connection) embodied by the peasants and new technology of that era (the industrialisation of agriculture) be transmitted and conveyed in our day and age by means of pictures and materials?
At Lobra, a firm (situated in Thal and, as it happens, bordering onto fields) that specialises in processing and customising various film and sheet materials, I punched and cut various forms out of retro-reflecting material and laminated them onto natural materials such as jute and linen. Thanks to its high level of visibility, retro-reflecting material is also used for reflecting heat (thus for thermal protection shields) in many areas. It is a material for the future, with its reflection and efficiency factors constantly being improved.
As the firm also prints the logos of well-known companies on sheet material, I took up the idea of branding and developed various logo-like forms and patterns from the sickle and the fist used as symbols by the communists. The patterns for their part are also vaguely reminiscent of the embroidery on rural Russian costumes.
I then retroactively decided on the concept of using the “garment” objects as costumes for a piece of theatre – an imaginary collaboration between Bertolt Brecht and Kasimir Malevich –, which in 1927, the year of its imaginary production, gives voice to criticism of re-education plans to bring forth a “new Soviet person”. On the costumes, the communist sickle becomes a purely decorative element, which deprives it of its symbolic function. The fist, on the other hand, can exert its impact as a symbol of resistance beyond the Soviet or communist age.

© Alexandra Hopf

NS: If I understood you correctly, the basic idea with which you applied for the residency was to create a contemporary interpretation of these shimmering garments – presented in a highly abstract form – in Malevich’s paintings. Only later did you develop the “script”, if I may use this term, for a narrative that is fictional, but nevertheless precisely embedded in its historical context. Is that correct?
What always fascinated me about your work was this indissoluble relationship between the material artistic object (in this case the “costumes”) and the text/publication. The object might be a painting – you are an outstanding painter! – or, as often in the past few years, pieces of clothing with special origins. The material objects could possibly stand alone, but I believe your artistic work is only complete when it is combined with a very thoroughly researched and written text and a carefully designed publication. What is your view on this relationship between object and text? And did the fact that you experimented and tried out new techniques with specialists at Lobra during your TaDA residency lead to any changes in this relationship and in your manner of working?

AH: I had already written the script, in other words the play, for the publication in April/May 2020 (during lockdown). So the idea to use “costume” objects for a theatre piece was already there in my mind. The historical texts were added later. The publication, which combines historical research, fiction and poetry, is both part of the overall work and a stand-alone edition. The “costumes” are sculptures, but can also be worn, for example at a performance.
Text and images in the publication contain references to one another. The text alludes to contemporary issues (state of crisis / art as a virus), although the narrative takes place in 1927. I also integrated elements and symbols we know from internet pages into the layout. They contribute to the interplay of different time levels.
The arrangement of the sickles worked into the “costumes” can be reminiscent of calligraphy. Owing to the retro-reflective material’s high degree of radiance in the dark, individual objects disappear in the dark, leaving only silhouettes to be seen.
Having to give up my original plan of realising the project idea by means of screen printing ultimately allowed me to try out other methods in a freer and more playful manner. Seeing how the specialist firms, too, keep on experimenting, was exciting and inspiring for me. The fresh insights and knowledge I’ve gained of new technologies and materials have led me to consider designing an entire stereoscopic image for the exhibition.

© Alexandra Hopf

NS: You just mentioned the interplay of different time levels. This can be easily recognised on the visual front, for example by your use of sign language from the digital world (publication), or the use of political symbols such as a sickle and a raised fist for branding or a logo. It is less obvious on the textual side. What is it that fascinates you about the Russian avantgarde, and where do you see reference points to our present day and age?

AH: The Russian avantgarde was well ahead of its time. Already during the Russian revolution (1917), artists were applying their experimental practice to numerous fields of production, such as advertising, product design, fashion, architecture, and theatre as well as industrial manufacturing. They designed textiles, everyday objects, forms of packaging, etc. In brief, artists developed entirely new aesthetics of everyday life. The “new soviet person” was to experience a higher quality of life thanks to superior design, liberate his or her body from tight clothing and be given more scope for the design of new forms of community life. Education was a key point in this context. At the theatre and in performances held in public spaces, the masses were to be educated and thereby develop greater political and social awareness. However, at the textual and content level of my work that you refer to, the “programme” publication is more about the failure of this revolution, which had been built on ideas of radically changing society for the better, but ultimately betrayed its own ideals. The texts deal with different interpretations of truths: progress vs. tradition, party doctrine vs. religion, real/tangible vs. intangible or imagined realities, and show that the borderlines are always blurred, as they are to this day.
The topic of revolution is constantly with us – we are today in a situation of global crisis – and this raises questions about humans in the future. The retro-reflective material (the publication cover) makes the past era appear closer, like in the rear mirror of a car, nearly blinding us with its gleam.

© Alexandra Hopf

NS: In our dialogue, the term “theatre” has come up numerous times, as it does in the publication, and the textile objects created during the TaDA residency are repeatedly associated with the term “costume”. And yet, except for the fragmentary dialogue between Malevich and Brecht, there is no text that would be suitable for a stage production. Of course, you are a visual artist and not a playwright. But still I see a performative potential in your work – and not only in this latest piece – that is not really exploited. How do you see this? And the follow-on question: What might “Die Bauern (1927)” in a theatre production turn out to be like?

AH: In the publication, the “performance” takes place in one’s imagination: In the final picture, the peasants step out of the corn fields, in other words out of their reality, and onto a stage, where they cultivate the (stage) ground. So one has to ask where the borderline is between reality and fiction during the piece. This imaginary space is very important. In a previous work, I had one of the participants wear one of my objects, called the “Siren Suit” (2020), in a film. In the post-production phase, I developed an entire choreography for several dancers out of this short sequence of movement. There will also be a film about “Die Bauern (1927)”. In an exhibition-like setting, the exhibits are installed like costumes in a history museum. Together, this results in a tableau – as described in the publication. Viewers will trigger a sensor in the exhibition room through their movements, and this will make the exhibits that are reflecting in the dark rotate like in a mechanical ballet. A programmed light is linked to the movements, and a random generator will ensure that all variations are presented. Like in a museum, texts from the programme are displayed on walls and or on screens. And there is also a film.

© Alexandra Hopf

© Alexandra Hopf

NS: Just by reading your description, one can sense the pull you exert on viewers. We find ourselves in a vortex that draws together past and present, history and fiction, theory and playfulness. To finish off, I would like to ask you what you appreciated most about your TaDA residency 2020, what you tried out, experienced and learned, maybe something that wouldn’t have been possible elsewhere. And also what you, as the first resident, may have found lacking.

AH: Most of all, I appreciated the opportunity to gain insights into the history, production and distribution of various firms – and their drive for innovation. Relations as neighbours and the interplay of local and global factors as well as of technology and tradition have a long history in the cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen. Being introduced to new techniques and production methods, as well as the exchange with specialists, proved to be an exciting and challenging experience, especially in view of all the options it opened up for my project. I would have liked to have had more time to explore them. The firms experiment a lot when researching new methods, materials and processes. This is where interfaces to art open up. On the other hand, I received only vague answers from the firms to my questions regarding new environmental awareness that is necessary for the manufacturing processes. Partly for that reason, maybe, my work “Die Bauern (1927)” was largely realised by hand. The film and sheet material consisted mainly of leftovers from industrialised punching, supplemented by other forms produced in low numbers with a small punch press. The supporting materials such as jute bags and old linen came from thrift stores. Since we were pioneers as TaDA residents, everything was open and an experiment, which suited me very well. I hope that eventually there will be a possibility for me to display all the existing and still to be completed works in a presentation or exhibition.

© Alexandra Hopf

The Peasants 1927 (after Malevich): vimeo.com

Stéphanie Baechler
Report from the Residency
September to November 2020
20.09.2021
Stéphanie Baechler Report from the Residency September to November 2020

During my TaDA residency, I wrote a dialogue between three goddesses of Greek mythology to be embroidered on a fabric. Alongside this, I developed a new typeface and sampler with students from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (NL). Moreover I was happy to have the opportunity to learn about bronze and aluminum casting processes at the Kunstgiesserei St.Gallen.

Stéphanie Baechler working on "The fates are talking". Photo © Ladina Bischof

Tradition, Technology and Fate

The topic "Disappearance of traditional techniques" is important for me, because my professional career started at the textile company Jakob Schlaepfer in Eastern Switzerland and already then I could see how many companies had disappeared.
The tradition of textile production has had a strong impact on me. In 2018 I made my first attempts to have embroidery punches of earlier designs embroidered at the Lohnstickerei Daniel Rüdlinger in Balgach. As I have been living in Amsterdam since 2017, I was not able to pursue this work.
During my residency, I re-established contact with Daniel Rüdlinger and interviewed more embroiderers. Likewise, visiting the twelve partner companies of the TaDA residency brought me new insights, which I wrote down. I transferred this text material into an actual dialogue between the Fates, the three goddesses of fate: So Clotho, who spins the thread of life in Greek mythology, says things like, "The machines are so loud, aren't they going too fast? We are going to lose precision." Or: "But we have to make the carpet for the Saudi Prince and continue weaving history." The dialogue represents a critical examination of today's global textile industry.
For me, the focus always remains on human fate, which is why the sentence "the tenderness of the workers" is at the beginning of the text. I address the fact that textile production is not something abstract, but ultimately always work that people do. That's why I'm arguing for more modesty and humility.
I am interested in the interplay between craft and technology, in the complex relationship between handmade and machine-made products. In embroidery, I'm fascinated by the fact that what is handmade is often more precise than the work of the machine. And yet I find it exciting what machines can offer, how they allow me different and new dimensions. My work is process oriented, much emerges in the making and in the possibilities that arise along the way.
For the project The Fates Are Talking I wanted to explore the textile history of Eastern Switzerland through the work of embroidery and how it has changed, what mechanization has meant for production but also for the wages of the embroiderer or the puncher, what speed and working on machines have meant for them. I decided to create a fairly large-scale textile installation that would incorporate a fragment of this history and these questions.
For the embroidery, I collaborated with Saurer AG (Arbon). This allowed me to explore the relationship between materiality and the written word. I was interested in transforming text into textile, bringing the writing and the language as well as the information into the textile. Through punching I was able to work with the relationship of the line and its transfer on material. Through embroidery I wanted to bring back to life the sensuality lacking in the digital world. My basic interest lay in punching and exploring this sensual experience. What motivates me is to disseminate the immaterial by making it tangible again.

Stéphanie Baechler working on "The fates are talking". Photo © Ladina Bischof

Textiles as a Means of Communication

A significant inspiration for my work is a text by the art historian and collector Seth Siegelaub (1941-2013), who points out that textiles not only serve as objects of commerce, but also always function as means of communication. In "A Very Speculative but Brief Note on Textiles and Society (1997)”, Siegelaub describes the communicative dimension of textiles and refers to the universal claim of the term "fabric". This reading experience encouraged me to bring my practical experience with the textile industry of Eastern Switzerland into a dialogue with historical events and legends.
Siegelaub also explains in his text how textiles played a fundamental role in the rise of the capitalist system and the industrial revolution. In my opinion, this connection continues into today's digitization processes.
I see my fascination of craft and hands-on working as a counterbalance to screen presence and a life dictated by algorithms. While making by hand, everything happens: I discover, analyze, and realize. I move forward. I produce a lot in order to find the right track in my search. My ongoing inquiry involves constant trial and error, allowing new content and new substance to emerge. Physical engagement with matter is important because it allows to put all my energy into my work.

The Fates Are Talking

I wrote The Fates Are Talking as a contemporary dialogue between the goddesses of Greek mythology who assign our fate to us at birth. Clotho spins the thread, Lachesis measures it, Atropos cuts it. This fictional conversation is embroidered on a five meter long transparent fabric. It can be read as a critical examination of today's global textile industry, in which large quantities of textiles are produced for clients with, in my view, absurd wishes - for example a client who wanted a carpet for his falcons (!).
But this is also about personal stories and memories related to care, which appear for instance in Faust, Part Two as the fourth goddess, who demands more modesty and humility. The large piece of fabric I chose was worked on with an embroidery machine, which normally uses high speed and 168 needles. By using only one needle, the machine work slowed down a lot and took on a different mood, a much more individual and "patient" touch. The typeface of the text was adjusted after the initial tests. I saw that it needed more to make the piece contemporary. A new typo was then designed with Fraser Muggeridge Studio London. This in turn had an impact on the punching and allowed for clearer, more precise threading.

Aesthetics of the Punch Image (Micro - Macro)

Whether in fabric or embroidery, it is the thread or line that draws the path that the needle has to complete on the machine. During the TaDA residency, I learned how to punch at Saurer in Arbon. Punching is the technical term for digitizing the design of preliminary drawings that will be embroidered. Punching is crucial for the subsequent quality of the embroidery.
I am particularly fascinated by the punch card and punching in embroidery, the abstraction of the images created by the enlargement. I am interested in both, the visually transferred, technical, geometric representation as well as the steps that are required to achieve the final result. I like the contrast between the visual language (the code, so to speak) and the final product. What motivates me, as I said, is to make the immaterial tangible.
Therefore, the most important steps for production were learning how to punch and how to operate the machines with the help of the company staff. My interest in the production processes is also related to my relationship with workers in other factories and workshops. I often pursue almost forgotten knowledge and skills. I want to breathe new life into the crafts of the past, make them sustainable, use them to celebrate memories and develop new possibilities.
As a time-traveller in this sense, I recall the crafts and sensations of the past and make them visible, tangible, experiential for life in what threatens to become a dematerialized future.
In this creation process, collecting as many different yarns as possible was essential, as the tension of the yarn has a great influence on the visual impact and flow of the text. Obviously, this meant that the process required countless tests. During the process I also worked with Lobra AG to test the size of the embroidery layout and see the type in its original size.

Embroidery alphabet.

During the TaDA residency, I taught the students of the elementary course in design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (online). I introduced them to embroidery techniques with the goal of jointly developing a typeface and sampler. Everyone was asked to design one letter each to create a contemporary embroidery alphabet. It was implemented on a 5.20 meter cotton fabric with an embroidery machine at Saurer AG. I was awed by the result.

Working at the Sitterwerk. Photo © Ladina Bischof

Bronze and Aluminum

In the Kunstgiesserei St.Gallen I learned how to work with bronze and aluminum. This has has opened new ways of working for me. To explore new materials and sculptural techniques, I also began combining embroidery and weaving with bronze and aluminum. I experimented with the " Cire Perdue" ("lost wax") technique. During the working process, both the model and the mould are destroyed. I had dipped my weavings and embroideries in wax and melted them out. This allowed me to search for detailed textile metal sculptures. I did this by making the "speech bubble frames" out of aluminum using the sand casting process at the Kunstgiesserei St.Gallen. I became even more aware of how essential to my work the working process actually is.The series of sculptures I want to make next is based on a technique I discovered while casting wax in the foundry. Working with molds made me realize their potential as sculpture. Normally I destroy these by-products after casting aluminum. But now I have used these counter-moulds as a starting point for my next research. In summer 2021 I made such blocks / boxes out of clay at the European Ceramic Workcenter (sundaymorning.ekwc.nl) and poured glaze into the cracks. I am attracted to transforming this process and thus making waste the starting point of innovation, following the circular economy.
Such experiences have now led to other processes with waste as a starting point and using them for innovation. Circular economy is a methodology that I also strive for as much as possible in my work. In the present, the past ends - and the future begins. It is an interface.Although the product for the current work step is created in the process, the ideas for the next project are created at the same time. With the production process for one piece, I develop ideas for the next one.

Stéphanie Baechler: Embroidery Alphabet, with students of Gerrit Rietveld Academy during TaDA residency (online)

St.Galler Tröckneturm

The inspiration for the idea of an installation with the St.Gallen Tröckneturm came through historical photographs of Tröcknetürme in Glarus. There is practically no picture material from the inside of the St.Gallen tower.
It was necessary for me to revive the tower and to create a visible textile sign in the public space. While working at Jakob Schlaepfer AG earlier, I had seen the tower daily on my way to work. Unfortunately, this installation was not possible in December 2020, because swallows inhabit the Tröckneturm.
However, I have not given up on my idea and I was very happy when Knill Paul Architekt BSA contacted me to suggest the Black House in Herisau as a place for the installation. I also remain in contact with TDS Textildruckerei in Arbon and Lobra AG in Thal, who want to support and realize my installation idea. The temporary work would be an enrichment in the recently opened Burgweier Park: it tells of the past and present of the textile industry and brings temporary art into the public space in St.Gallen.