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THE COMMON THREAD - The warp and weft of thinking

Why are the principles for the first computer based on a loom? Why do so many maths teachers in Peru come from the families of weavers? What meanings lie behind the language of textile idioms?

Threads, materials and patterns are taken for granted as a natural part of our daily life. Around the world, textile ideas and terms shape our language, narratives, stories and myths. The making of textiles stimulates our spatial and mathematical thinking. Taking the museum’s textile collections from the Americas, South East Asia, Oceania and Africa as a basis, THE COMMON THREAD reflects on and presents the culturally diverse techniques of textile production. Many tools, fibres, materials and other artefacts are shown to the public for the first time, including such pieces as an ikat scarf from a material interwoven with silver threads, a pre-Columbian coca bag from the Andes, a Maori cloak – a status symbol – as well as plush-textured raffia cloths from Central Africa.

In this exhibition, artists and composers also explore textiles, their symbolic value and significance, and their associations today. Young composers transform Indonesian textiles from the museum’s collection into modern tapestries of sound. In their installations two artists visualise connections between textiles and the digital world. Inspired by plaited baskets from the Americas collection,  North American artists create their own works to explore the lyrical connection between text and textile as well as their indigenous identity. Teenagers from Frankfurt produce their own film investigating alternative ways of textile production.


Curatorial director: Vanessa von Gliszczynski (curator South East Asia, Weltkulturen Museum)

Co-curator: Max Carocci (anthropologist and curator of arts, London, United Kingdom), Mona Suhrbier (curator Americas, Weltkulturen Museum) and Eva Ch. Raabe (acting director/curator Oceania, Weltkulturen Museum)

Participating artists and musicians: Maren Gebhardt (editor and artist, Tübingen, Germany), Shan Goshorn (artist, Cherokee, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA), Tobias Hagedorn (composer of electronic and contemporary music, Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Frankfurt am Main, Germany), Raphaël Languillat (musicologist and composer, Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Frankfurt am Main, Germany), Sarah Sense (artist, Chitimacha/Choctaw, Sacramento, California and Bristol, United Kingdom), Ruth Stützle Kaiser (cultural scientist and artist, Tübingen, Germany)

The richly illustrated accompanying catalogue contains essays by Max Carocci, Maren Gebhardt, Vanessa von Gliszczynski, Shan Goshorn, Tobias Hagedorn, William Ingram, Willemijn de Jong, Raphaël Languillat, Gerhard Müller-Hornbach, Eva Ch. Raabe, Dagmar Schweitzer de Palacios, Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Sarah Sense, Jens Soentgen, Ruth Stützle Kaiser, Mona Suhrbier, Rangituatahi Te Kanawa and Tim Zahn, expanding the focus of the exhibition with new, interdisciplinary perspectives. The catalogue is published in English and German by the Kerber Verlag.

Weltkulturen Museum, Schaumainkai 29


With kind support:

The project “Musical textures” is a cooperation between the Weltkulturen Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Music IzM at the University of Music and Performing Arts Frankfurt (HfMDK).