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Text and textiles

NadinReschke, bangaloREsident 2019 | © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore

The artist Nadin Reschke works with textiles, recognises, reads and interacts with her surroundings, the city and fellow citizens through textiles of all kinds.

Her watchword is usually just: “I work with textiles”. At first, it sounds simple, like a seamstress or fashion designer, and many also try to classify her in these categories. Especially here in India, she says, textile work is often associated with the continuation of a certain tradition or the deepening of a certain expertise, such as the design of the detailed, floral and partly religiously motivated images of a kalamkari. Nadin, on the other hand, deliberately distances herself from the fixed positioning and categorisation: "I live my life on the premise that I'm not in a fixed location, but rather attempt to cross borders between many different contexts, and repeatedly enter somewhere where perhaps no artist has ever been before - wherever the question arises, who are you, what are you actually doing, what is it really? That's why I think it's important not to locate oneself. That implies something and I think that’s a pity, because from my experience, depending on whom I work with, the reception of my persona is always completely different. When I sit next to the weaver and we both touch the same material, he doesn't see me primarily as a high-flying artist, but simply encounters me at that particular moment as an interested person. For me, these are the exciting instances in which these border crossings take place."

Work in progress Work in progress | © Nadin Reschke We sit together in her studio at 1 Shanthi Road, where she spends the six weeks of her bangaloREsidency. The windows are covered with straw blinds against the midday sun, behind us hang various strips of plaid, striped and deep blue plain fabrics above a screen. The floor is covered with charcoal drawings and a large fabric collage on a straw mat. "This is work in progress," laughs Nadin as she notices our curious glances.

She searches for both cross-border and human encounters at eye level with local people through the medium of textiles. But why textiles in particular, we ask: "Fabric is like no other material, it is incredibly elastic: You can pack it up small and put it in your pocket, at the same time build and cover large rooms with it, you can create huge surfaces with it. This sculptural element fascinates me - the drapery that fabric automatically makes, the creasing when it comes out of the laundry. Fabric does everything, it’s an ingenious partner, and I think that's great."

An example how textile create spaces within the city An example how textile create spaces within the city | © Nadin Reschke She relates how she walks through the city with these “textile glasses” at the beginning of her artistic project and tries to perceive and get to know herself and her fellow beings: "When I walk through the city I see, for example, how someone is dressed on different days. Sometimes I also ask people what they are wearing, why and what significance it has.” At the same time, Nadin describes the strong role textiles play in the creation of huge areas of urban space, and thus manages to convey a completely new perspective: "No matter where you are, textiles of all kinds appear everywhere: Laundry is hung out to dry somewhere. Textiles are often used as add-ons to architecture - through half canopies, such as the shade awnings in the flower market." She describes how she pays particular attention to temporary architecture in her city walks - how and for what purposes they are installed, how complicated or simple they are, and how they display something very temporary and light, in a very beautiful way. "The ingenious thing about the material is that it is interwoven with our lives. It touches all areas of life: We sleep on it, we dry ourselves with it, we dress ourselves up with it. We create a major part of our identity with the way we cover ourselves with it and what statement we want to make with it".

At the handloom weavers cooperation in Yelahanka At the handloom weavers cooperation in Yelahanka | © Nadin Reschke Bangalore particularly impresses her with its complexity. She describes how the longer she stays in the city, the more intangible it becomes for her. Originally, she intended to focus on those people in the textile sector who are involved in direct production.

She was particularly interested in weavers in the handloom sector who, as an increasing minority, continue the long tradition of hand weaving to this day. A tradition that Mahatma Gandhi propagated as a form of peaceful protest, in which the poorer sections of the population were to gain independence through production of their own khadi and the knowledge of weaving. Nadin's intention was to get to know weavers in Bangalore, to accompany them, and develop a project together - until she arrived here and realised that Bangalore is so big and urban that handicraft-based technology has been pushed to the periphery of the city making regular personal visits impractical: "It's clear that a one-off visit won't establish the kind of relationship that might lead to something further.” Nadin has something that she would like to implement during her residency: "The basic idea was to find out whether it would be possible to weave a text into a sari. So that the text is part of the textile, so to speak, it is woven into the fabric itself." The text would tell the story of a weaver, describe his activities and background, the dying tradition, his financial situation or rather the abysmal payment terms. A form of social or political activism à la Gandhi in the capitalist era?

Nadin also resists being positioned as a social and political activist, but admits that her textile art is not l'art pour l'art but embodies a politically and socially motivated interest on her part: It is precisely this interest in dialogue with the city and with its residents, and the interest in offering them a platform and possibly fresh modes of expression through the medium of textile.

Using the gallery at 1 Shanthi Road as studio space Using the gallery at 1 Shanthi Road as studio space | © Nadin Reschke She experiences and implements this dialogue through her work on textiles in 1 Shanthi Road, which Nadin describes as the best place for her to live during the residency: "I feel I am part of a temporary community that you can use for yourself, or where you can go with the flow.” She vividly recounts how last week the gallery was suddenly transformed into a shared co-working space, where new conversations about sewing took place:
Collaborating stitching in 1 Shanthi Road Collaborating stitching in 1 Shanthi Road | © Nadin Reschke "I started hanging up all the textiles, rolled out a big coconut-fibre mat on the floor and tried out things. The resident from Australia, Sancintya Mohini Simpson, painted her miniatures next door and all at once a kind of very beautiful simultaneity arose. Then our housekeeper came through and kept asking what I was going to do with the fabrics, because she herself is very skilled with her hands. She immediately sat down and started sewing. Then the Afghan artist, Arshi Irshad, came and said, 'Oh man, Nadin, where did you learn that from, your mother?’, and she started to sew too. So the three of us sat there and sewed. At that moment we also talked about how quickly such processes create a community by simply sitting on the same piece of cloth."

Found a tailor Found a tailor yesterday sewing my fabrics at 1 Shanthi Road. He wanted to know everything about my life. | © Nadin Reschke We see the result of this afternoon on the floor of the same coconut mat and begin to understand Nadin's commentary on its status as 'work in progress': Her projects not only weave fabrics, but also social bonds, stories and relationships. In addition to the community at 1 Shanthi Road and the collaborativework, she also mentions Suresh Jayaram and Sandeep TK as extremely important partners for her projects with regard to material procurement and networking with, for instance, seamstresses and textile designers.

Only the distance to the weavers made her rethink: "If it's too complicated to get in touch with the producers, I might go a step further and see where things end up, like the textile reject market in Okalipuram, where I've been several times now." The reject market is a fabric market, where factory surplus fabric, seconds and export rejects export are sold cheap. Or in Nadin's words "all the over-produced garbage that is the wrong colour for the latest fashion in Germany, that has a stripe on the side and therefore cannot be used". With India as the second-largest textile producer in the world and the textile sector as the second-largest employer in India, with the thoughtless fashion mania in western countries and the desire to get to know the production chain from the other end, Nadin's second project idea - is politically critical  questioning issues of today's neoliberal market and power structure -inspires reflection.

We will see what form your project takes in the next two weeks at the final presentation on November 22, 2019. What is certain even now, however, is that the phrase "I work with textiles" goes far deeper than one of the standard categories.