SENSING THE FUTURE: Computer cables knit into textiles, embroideries made with fragrant plants and an onion-dyed collection are among the inventive ideas brought to life by the New School’s MFA Textiles students.
The New School’s dean of Hybrid Studies Li Edelkoort started scripting the programs and designing the curriculum four years ago. The first 16 students from China, Japan, India, Kazakhstan and the U.S. embarked on the two-year program last fall and 18 more are lined up. Most are not just making textiles, preferring to do textiles plus something else like biotech research materials that appears to be macramé or lace.
Their imaginative creations are on view this weekend at two campus buildings — one at 2 West 13th Street and another across on Fifth Avenue. The students will be on hand for the two-day public viewing to explain what they are doing.
“In a way, they are hybrids as designers. Somebody is cooking fibers and textiles. Somebody is working with fragrance. Somebody is a textile farmer who is growing nature and so on,” Edelkoort said. “It’s very enlightening to see they reach out to other domains to include that in the textile making. This generation is going to be more than 100 years old and they naturally feel that they cannot concentrate on only one domain. From the beginning, they feel they want to be trained in different areas. This will only increase in the future. This is why education needs to prepare students for this much more complex future where you introduce other worlds into your worlds.”
To that end, one students has incorporated a musical performance into her work. Another one made beautiful embroideries of the fragrant and unruly-looking plant vetiver that a spritz of water diffuses. “It’s very interesting because fragrance cannot be photographed. Therefore, fragrance has problems today because you cannot Instagram it. Certainly by doing these works it becomes visual. I see that as a very important way to look at fragrance in the future.
A student collected digital debris such as discarded connection cables to create an enormous vortex-looking piece made of rubber, plastic and metal that he knitted with very heavy needles. Collected from Parsons’ leftovers and waste centers, the floor piece serves as “an accusation of what we are doing with our connectivity,” Edelkoort said. “When tech started, it needed to look like tech. In the period of [Pierre] Cardin, it needed to look like going to the moon. Each period in culture has a moment of innovation. Then the first generation handling the innovation gives it a futuristic form. Once it becomes just a tool like everything else. It starts to look like general culture. It doesn’t have to be edgy and cold.”
Working with the project Fragmentario, other MFA students worked on a project that involved dyeing with onions, a vegetable that can be used for several different shades and one that is found in all countries. One of the students designed a very fairy-tale fashion collection that can be layered like an onion. All the layers are embroidered and they are images of what the onion is. It is extreme in its beauty,” Edelkoort said.
Preethi Gopinath is the MFA Textiles director and designer Gabi Asfour is a faculty member doing studies in high-tech systems and 3-D dimensions. Representatives from the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum dropped by earlier in the week. Edelkoort said, “The general level of work was very high. Some people could not believe it was a first-year presentation, imagining it was already an accreditation show. That’s how strong it appears to be. We are very happy to have them for another year to make their handwriting stronger, their design skills stronger and to increase their presentation knowledge.”