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Kunsthistorisches Institut


An Iconology of the Textile in Art and Architecture

Project Summary

The fabrication of textiles is one of the oldest cultural technologies. The objective of the interdisciplinary research project is to investigate the historical meanings and functions of the textile medium in art and architecture from the Middle Ages to the present. The exploration of this specific artistic medium should result in a historical theory or iconology of the textile. The project focussed on the textile discourse engages in a field of research situated between art and architectural history and within cultural and visual studies, involving also other disciplines such as literary studies and social history. Moreover, it aims at connecting the two scientific cultures of the universities and the museums, and it draws transdisciplinary expertise from contemporary art. The project is divided into seven interconnected subject areas which are dedicated to specific questions and to categories of objects such as figurative tapestries, installation art, literary production, and architectural materials and forms. This requires a variety of instrumental methods ranging from gender studies to textual analysis, from iconography to anthropological approaches. So far, seven interconnected subject areas have been defined:
I. The myths of the origins of the textile
II. The textuality and narrativity of the textile
III. The transmediality of the textile
IV. The textile constructions of space
V. The sacred textiles
VI. The genders of the textile
VII. The modernity of the textile arts
One Principal Investigator and five Doctoral and Postdoctoral Candidates are working together on one or more of the subject areas. The team's aim is to perform basic research in an innovative and contemporary field, in order to contribute to the establishment of the history of textile art as an academic discipline and to the advancement of art and architectural history towards a general history of images, artefacts, and media.
The project is financed by the Swiss national science foundation (former SNSF Professorship, since 1 March 2008) and by the European Research Council (ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grant, from 1 September 2009) until 2012 and 2013 respectively. TEXTILE is also an associated project of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Mediality - Historical Perspectives (Project E.8).

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