Friday, June 29, 2012

a plan of monumental propaganda

the decade after the russian revolution in 1917 was a time when fabric served a political purpose. it was also the silver age in russian culture and so artists responded with enthusiasm to the call to create a political, functional art. the constructivists embraced the ideology that "clothing must present the soviet man and woman as part of an international community, that it must connect them with industrial civilization and that it must symbolize emancipation and mobility" (john e. bowit, revolutionary textile design).

this manifested in designs that were devoid of traditional, local, ethnic images, that used geometrical, mechanical motifs and featured kinetic forms.

they proved not to be as popular as traditional designs with the public, especially when they moved towards agitprop (agitational propaganda). the people just didn't take to flowers with gears or scientific-looking molecular blobs or winged wheels, however subtle they were.

but there's something appealing about the notion of textiles as political statements. and i don't see much of the political in the textiles of today - pretty patterns and whimsical motifs, yes, but politics, not so much. it strikes me that the use of organic cotton is the most political statement we get today in fabric form.

i think we could use a bit more subtle propaganda (and possibly fewer owls and vespas) in our fabrics. especially with services like spoonflower, where fabric design has become quite democratic and accessible for all. we should be making a statement, standing up for something in the very threads we clothe ourselves with.

bring on the fiber agitprop.


will said...

You're fortunate to be in Denmark, otherwise you'd be standing before a U.S. senate committee on unAmerican sewing.

Michael Guillen said...

Thank you for introducing me to an absolutely new form of textile art. I used to study with the Maya in Central America and learned through women's weaving collectives just how much information could be woven, embroidered and printed onto fabric so--though aware of the role of textile as text--never knew about this Soviet iteration. Fascinating stuff and a unique blog.