Mini and Micro Textile and Fibre Art Scythia 2023: an interview with the curators
The new edition of the international textile and fibre art exhibitions Mini and Micro Scythia, now in their 11th and 3rd year respectively, will open on 6 June. These two important events, which take place every two years, are part of the larger project that includes the well-known International Biennial of Contemporary Textile and Fibre Art Scythia and the Fibremen exhibition.
In the Mini Textile category, works by 131 artists from 33 countries will be exhibited, while 50 artists will be selected for the Micro Textile and Fibre art exhibition, representing 23 countries.
On the occasion of the media partnership with ArteMorbida, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ludmila Egorova, Anastasia Schneider and Andrew Schneider, the founders and organisers of the entire project since the first Edition of the Biennale ‘Scythia’ in 1996.
How did the Mini and Micro Scythia projects, now in their 11th and 3rd edition respectively, come about? What is their mission and how do they relate to the larger event of the International Biennial of Contemporary Textile and Fibre Art Scythia, which will reach its 15th edition in 2024?
When the preparation of International Textile and Fibre Art Biennial “Scythia” started in 1993 and the first event was held in 1996 with large format textile and fibre artworks, we also kept in mind our plan to have an exhibition with small format works. We gave life to this plan in 2003. We have noticed that most artists who create large format artworks needed to change somehow their attitude towards the creation of small size works. So, we decided to invite those artists to take part and create mini artworks (maximum dimensions 30X30X30 cm). Some artists have found the creation of small format works rather interesting, entertaining and unexpected. They have pointed that they have spent much more time creating small size works than big ones. Some artists have even thanked for the opportunity that encouraged them to try a new format. The exhibition has influenced their perception and attitude towards the making of small sized works. Of course there were artists whose preferences were always only small works and we invited them to create tiny micro artworks (maximum dimensions 5X5X5 cm). So for some artists it was a challenge which provoked them to look from another point of view to small forms of textile art, not only to experiment, but also the have the possibility to concentrate their art expressions.
Through the years International Textile and Fibre Art Biennial “Scythia” has developed into a group of events. Now it includes International Textile and Fibre Art Biennial “Scythia” since 1996 with an exhibition (mostly big format works), conference, master classes, fashion show and different excursions, International Mini Textile and Fibre Art Exhibition “Scythia” since 2003 and International Micro Textile and Fibre Art Exhibition “Scythia” since 2019, both held once every two years, and International Textile and Fibre Art Exhibition “Fibremen” since 2011, participants of which can be only male textile and fibre artists.
As curators, what are the most critical aspects you must deal with, especially considering the difficult situation in the country caused by the war? What role and what contribution can the art world make to society in times like these?
As founders and organisers of these events, we know for sure that they must be stable in any situations. We have continued to organize the exhibitions during COVID quarantine and during the war period.
In our country there is a real war with a real enemy. Russian Federation has started this cruel unjustified act of aggression with a strong wish to occupy sovereign territories of an independent Ukraine.
Art is a part of our national identity and plays an important role in the time of war. Art provides cooperation between friendly countries, shows our cultural diversity, helps to share ideas and understand common goals, it heals and helps to return to a peaceful life even for 20-30 minutes, while visiting an art exhibition. Each artwork sent by a foreign artist shows his or her support and wish to share emotions with the audience in Ukraine, which is very important nowadays for each person in our country. The exhibition also helps Ukrainian artists to spread their ideas worldwide, to show the diversity of their thoughts and to express their feelings. Specially made artworks and artworks which are closely related to the feelings of Ukrainian citizens during this war will be presented at these exhibitions. Such artworks are made not only by Ukrainian artists, but by the foreign artists to express their solidarity with our people and to help to inform and depict the situation to the people worldwide.
As for the organisational aspects we have to deal with because of this war, we can stress that there are no big obstacles in our work, though there are some delays with the delivery of the artworks from abroad and sometimes there are air raid alarms, and also it was quite difficult to communicate during winter months, when we had electricity supply only for a few hours per day due to missile strikes on the electricity facilities all over Ukraine. Despite of all these facts and with a strong support and trust of artists from all over the world in us and in our events, the continuation of these events is possible.
How will the two events take place? Are there any changes with respect to the organisation of previous years?
Mini and Micro Exhibitions will take place at two different venues – at the Museum and the Centre of Contemporary Art in Ivano-Frankivs’k. With respect and gratefulness to the participants we have decided to introduce the awards for the best artworks in both exhibitions. Previously only three artists with the best big format artworks were awarded by medals at the International Textile and Fibre Art Biennials “Scythia”. Now we would like to continue this tradition towards Mini and Micro Exhibitions.
Can you tell us something about the works in the exhibition and the criteria that guided you in the selection process? Is there a common, specifically requested theme that is addressed by the artists in the exhibition? How many countries and artists will be involved?
We don’t give specific themes for any of our events. As artists are the most democratic and free people in the world, we don’t want to intrude in their creative process or limit it somehow. Artists are free in choosing the theme and can express any interesting ideas, which are urgent for them at that moment. We also do not demand that an artwork has to be specifically made only for our event or made during a definite period of time. We think that each artwork must have a chance to be shown in several exhibitions as the creation of each artwork demands a powerful brainstorm and months or even years for fulfilment. That is why we have other criteria during the selection process of artworks and a requested theme is not a priority for us. Of course, the artworks should be made from textile or fibre materials and/or using textile and fibre art techniques. The main criteria at which our attention is concentrated: quality and professionalism, as well as the idea, composition, technical execution, unusual combinations of materials and techniques, lucky and extraordinary experiments etc.
For the 11th International Mini Textile and Fibre Art Exhibition “Scythia” artworks of 131 artists from 33 countries were selected. Artworks of 50 artists from 23 countries were selected to be exhibited at the 3rd International Micro Textile Art Exhibition “Scythia”.
In your role as organiser and founder of the Scythia events, you have gained important experience. What do you consider to be the role of fibre art today within the broader panorama of contemporary arts?
Fibre art has gained its own place among contemporary art forms. It was not an easy way, as for a long period of time textile and fibre art forms were omitted from a big panorama of contemporary art, in spite of enormous achievements of textile and fibre artists. But the role of fibre art today is much stronger. Well-known artists use fibres to express their ideas, as the example of this we can take majority of artworks in textile materials presented at the Venetian Biennials. Even if artists do not consider themselves as fibre artists or do not work constantly with textiles, they use fibre and textile materials and techniques to create their artworks. Since the beginning of the 20th century fibres, as one of the most flexible, plastic, light and simultaneously strong material, which can give a wide variety of structures and shapes, play an important role in the creation of textile sculpture, performances, installations, paintings and objects of surface design. We consider that one of the important aspects of popularization of textile and fibre art is a constant growth of usage of textile and fibre art objects and installations in interiors and public spaces, which helps to give a much wider scene for this form of art. We have to stop a practice to divide art forms into the first (visual art) and the second class (textile and fiber art). Fiber art has occupied its niche and each of us has to help to promote it as individual professional form of art through different exhibitions and events, scientific research, professional training of specialists, through professional and other mass media, professional organisations and groups.
In your opinion, what is the potential of this event and how do you hope this project will evolve in the future?
Our main goal is to proceed to give a platform, an opportunity for artists to show the diversity of fibre and textile art, to proceed in promoting them as outstanding independent forms of contemporary art. We hope that “Scythia” events in future will enlarge the amount of involved countries with their unique textile traditions and forms, as well as we search for extraordinary new achievements in this sphere. We also hope that we shall be able to help to preserve all textile and fibre techniques alive. We need to say that in our strives to reach this we have incredible helpers – rich textile and fibre art traditions in Ukraine. Textile and fibre art in our country is a highly respected art form and it is taught at the special departments of art universities and art academies, we also have strong school traditions in the sphere of textile art and fashion design. Taking all these into consideration we have a strong basement for future development of textile and fibre art in our country.