Textiles are vital to our lives. We are swaddled in them when we’re born, we wrap our bodies in them every day, and we’re shrouded in them when we die. 

But what happens when we view a needle, loom, or garment as tools of resistance? How can textiles unravel, question, and reimagine the world around us?

Since the 1960s, textiles have emerged as potent mediums for subversive artistic expression, challenging their historical marginalization within Western art hierarchies. In this exhibition, 50 international artists defy traditional categorizations, using textiles to address intimate narratives and broader socio-political themes. Through stitches, knots, and weavings, they explore concepts of gender, labor, ecology, ancestral knowledge, and histories of oppression and trade.

Rather than presenting a linear history of fiber art, the exhibition organizes works thematically, fostering dialogues between artists across generations and geographies. Some work individually, engaging in near-meditative practices, while others embrace collaboration as an act of community and solidarity. From handcrafted pieces to large-scale installations, these artworks convey complex stories about lived experiences, revealing the profound issues embedded in fibers and threads.

The exhibition runs through to May 26.

Header: Billie Zangewa, “midnight aura”, 100cm x 97cm, hand-stitched silk collage, 2012. Courtesy the Barbican and the artist. 

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