Installation with ten handwoven tapestries. Cotton, linen, jute, mohair and aluminium, 2022
In her practice, Kristina Benjocki employs methods that are similar to those of an archeologist, with a particular interest in artefacts and stories that are overlooked, hidden, or repressed. In telling the story of human evolution, historians often focus on hard materials such as stone, bronze or iron. But without perishable materials woven with thread, produced mostly through women’s labour, civilization is unthinkable – and up to this day, we depend on clothing, furnishings, and fabric of all kinds to survive and function.
The exhibiton ‘At sunset we retreat once again, up the hill, to where we can watch the skeins of water reflect colours we‘ve never seen before’ is currently on view at IKOB, Eupen. It encompasses four sections: a large scale installation with textile works, an audio installation accompanied by a series of drawings and a selection of objects, books and materials related to the history of colouring yarn and developing textiles in Eupen.
Engaging with the local history of the cloth industry in Eupen as well as her own biographical attachments to textile production, the exhibition at IKOB is a poetic interrogation of how textiles and the very practice of weaving intersect with technological progress, political histories, and the construction of cultural identity.
A skein, the striking word used in the title of the exhibition, may refer either to “a length of thread or yarn, loosely coiled and knotted“, “the way light breaks on the surface of water” or to “a flock of wild geese or swans in flight, typically in a V-shaped formation“. These definitions are at play here, resonating with Kristina Benjocki’s rigorous practice of textile making and her imaginative approach to the worlds it opens up, from Zrenjanin to Amsterdam to Eupen. Following the threads that coil and twist themselves through history, this exhibition complicates the established, frequently subordinated position of textiles and urges us to take a closer look at how they form part of the very fabric of our lives.
The central work of Kristina Benjocki’s exhibition at IKOB, Tableaux VI-VII, La composition (2022) is a new installation consisting of large-scale, two-sided textile pieces that are draped over metal structures and hanged at different heights throughout the main exhibition space. Using her own loom to weave these rugs by hand, the artist reproduces specific knowledge and movements that have been employed, mostly by women, since ancient times.
Both culturally specific and strangely familiar, Benjocki’s tapestries emphasize the domestic ubiquity and the majestic splendour of textiles in our daily lives. The patterns of these works are based on a series of drawings for rugs woven in the Pirot kilim tradition, manufactured in the artist’s home country of Serbia. They can be traced back to Islamic-Ottoman rule in the Middle Ages and were later used to construct a post-Communist national identity, pointing to how textiles are intimately intertwined with migration, trade, and political power.