Biolace

exhibition

Museum: Texture, Museum of Flax and River Lys  website
Years: 2018-2019

Texture, Museum of Flax and River Lys


The museum

Texture is a museum about the flax and linen industry. The museum has a unique collection, allowing it to share an internationally relevant, historical narrative that is deeply rooted in the region’s DNA. 

The museum uses flax as the main theme, but the story has been expanded and extended. Today it offers an inspiring experience about entrepreneurship and craftsmanship, especially in textiles. The museum had been built for and by the people of the region as a way of ‘safeguarding avant la lettre’ and must preserve this aspect of its identity. That is why the museum invested a lot of energy in having former flax workers contribute to the museum, as well as steadily develop the rest of the story with the entire region. 

The role of ICH in the museum

The museum itself was a bottom-up initiative and therefore very important for the local community. The crisis in the flax industry made a group of former workers realise that an important part of the regional history would disappear. And so they started in the 1960s with the preservation of objects and stories for generations to come. In time, however, both society and the public changed and the museum was challenged to tackle its outdated infrastructure, address a broader and new audience and still remain the museum of the heritage community. The answer is not only given with a new building and a new presentation. Research and oral history complete the story. Entrepreneurship and craftsmanship are central themes and the link with the present. A program of participatory and creative collaborations constantly supplement the story.

A dual ICH strategy

The great involvement and dedication of the Friends of Flax and Lace in the start-up and expansion of the museum meant that working with communities and intangible cultural heritage became part of the museum's DNA. Texture is consciously committed to this today. An ICH strategy is developed for each theme. The ICH practice on the flax theme is mainly on the level of identification and documentation, while the ICH practice on the textiles theme is being more focused on transfer and re-launch. Communication and awareness-raising are present in both.

Biolace

Description of the project / practice / program


Research

Carole Collet has been working on Biolace, a research that connects textiles, food production and sustainability since years. Collet pioneered the discipline of Textile Futures at Central Saint Martin’s fourteen years ago. She is now a full time Professor and her current research work is focused on biodesign, biofacturing and high-tech sustainability. Collet operates within a long-term framework and her research targets the year 2050 and beyond. By anticipating future key socio-economic factors and technological timelines, she aims at impacting today’s design directions so as to enable a more resilient and sustainable future.  Collet’s ambition is to elevate the status of design to become a powerful tool that contributes to developing innovative paths to achieve the ‘one planet lifestyle’. 

Concept

Fast-forward to the year 2050. Overpopulation, climate change and extreme resource shortages challenge us to think in a radically different way. New organisms have been genetically engineered to produce textiles and improved food crops - all in one plant. Although currently not possible today, such synthetic plants could exist in 20 years time, according to some scientists. Carole Collet combines design and science to explore efficient and sustainable alternatives. The way we design and produce future textiles will be radically different. The project Biolace introduces four imaginary plants: Basil n° 5, Gold Nano Spinach, Factor 60 Tomato en Strawberry Noir. Their DNA has been reprogrammed so that their roots grow in a lace pattern. To these four plant themes, Texture links unique historical pieces from the museum’s traditional lace collection. 

Would you eat a vitamin-rich black strawberry from a plant that has also produced your little black dress? Welcome to the world of Biolace.

Exhibition

Biolace is an unconventional lace exhibition with a challenging perspective. Expect a selection of high-quality, rare lace combined with a biotechnological vision for the future. Biolace invites to reflect on biotechnology and genetic engineering as a tool for sustainable textiles. Thinking ahead, but also questioning this evolution. Since despite all the promises of such new techniques there are also ethical implications to consider.  What becomes of the designer/lace artist in a future where everything is reduced to programmable coding? The exhibition is on display at the Texture Museum in Kortrijk from July 14th 2018 until March 31st 2019.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?


Lace Studio

The Kortrijk Lace Studio is housed in the museum and is inextricably linked to the museum work. They are keeping the lace heritage alive since 1975. Their activities are part of the museums programming and the teachers are employed by the museum. In addition, there is a dynamic group of volunteers who keep the operation running. Both sensibilisation of young people and in-dept courses and workshops are being offered. The museum assumes a stimulating role in this. A limited group studies old laces in the collection and analyses the patterns via contemporary design software programs, using it as an inspiration for new designs. Under supervision of our textiles restorer and collection management team, they are also involved in preventive conservation of the textile collection in depot and collection presentations (as for example the preparation of Biolace). 

(Cf. video: http://www.ketnet.be/Karrewiet/19-februari-2015-kantklossen)

Creation and participation

For this futuristic exhibition project, Biolace, build around a fascinating vision on lace and textiles, we were interested in how contemporary, traditional lace makers look at this intriguing ‘what if’ scenario. Two lace workers studied the doily that was skillfully made by Carole Collet with real strawberry roots and real lace techniques. They made their personal interpretation of this doily, now executed in traditional bobbin lace. This work was integrated in one of the displays of the exhibition. 

For several years already, the Kortrijk Lace Studio has been studying and learning old lace-making techniques, within Texture. They use technical design software such as CadCam or Illustrator for their designs. Two lace workers were inspired by the Biolace lab samples and living lace scenarios to develop Fractal/Fractals, a never-ending, organically-growing lace pattern. The video was integrated in the exhibition as a final poetic reflection on the future of lacemaking. 

Credits cover photo: Texture, Biolace exhibition view © Iwert Bernakiewicz

CV of the author


Sylvie De Coster (1981) studied modern history, followed by an advanced master in cultures and development studies (CADES) at the University of Leuven. She then worked as a project coordinator on international contemporary art exhibitions such as Beaufort, Triennial for Contemporary Art along the Belgian coast or the Europalia.Europe festival in Brussels. In 2010 she started working at the Stedelijke Musea Kortrijk as a research assistant in the Broelmuseum. Today she is curator of Texture. This museum is the successor of the National Flax-, Lace- and Linenmuseum and reopened in October 2014, after a complete transformation.

LESSONS LEARNT 

  • Dare to reflect on the future of safeguarding ICH in a radical out-of-the-box kind of way
  • Search for inspiring crossovers and collaborations inside ànd outside your regular heritage network
  • Trigger the cultural heritage community in a subtle, participative way to reflect on their own practice

Practical


When

25 February 2019 from 15:50 to 15:50

Where

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Program


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