ETN Brief History

A Personal Retrospective and Prospect

by js Sterk

Between the constitutive ETN-conference in Erfurt held in June 1991, and my initial reflections as regards an international network for textile, nearly a decade has gone by. As a Dutch woman living in the Federal Republic of Germany, I had been missing for a long time the international atmosphere of my native country and its interest for textile culture popular there. The far larger German-language area and the exposed political situation of my host state, on the other hand, were sensibilising me for global problems.

In 1980 I founded, with others, the international Association Textilforum e. V. In 1981 we published the first edition of our magazine of the same name; for the time being in German only.

As early as 1984 we discussed with colleagues in Paris and London the publication of a trilingual handbook for a (West)-European Textile Network, at that time still with negative results.

When, in 1989, our old continent suddenly started to change its political face and it became noticeable that political/economical questions would overshadow social-cultural problems, I had hardly any other choice, considering my grown consciousness of problems, than to take immediately the necessary steps to devote all my energy to this new Europe threatened by speechlessness. Because in my opinion, culture is also a matter of capability of language and expression, the textile forms of which had been of importance to me since my youth.

In February 1990 I sent a call-up to 255 institutions in 25 European countries, encouraging them to take part in the European Textile Network. The positive echo was of an amazing extent. Spontaneously, 85 addressees from 23 countries replied, among them many former Eastern block states.

It was important to me, in the first instance, to find emotionally committed partners who, like myself, were affected by the social changes and on their part were willing to play an active role in the difficult process of agreement on concrete objectives and programmes for ETN. - The present list of our ETN-partners reflects the success of this search after one year and a half of correspondence.

Since June, 1990 thanks to the help of Textilforum e. V., a Newsletter could be published quarterly in English providing information between ETN-partners.

Very soon, it became necessary to come to initial opinions and resolutions regarding the future structure of co-operation and the possible status of ETN. This purpose was to be served by a constitutive conference which, thanks to the assistance of the European Community Committee in Brussels and of the German Ministry of the Interior, was rendered possible at short notice.

As the first conference place I selected the German town of Erfurt. Being the capital of the new Federal State of Thüringen (Thuringia) it is an interface of East-West cultures, comparable to well-known towns like Prague, Vienna or Budapest. It is also the town staging the new object art-Triennale "Configura - Art in Europe", which, parallel to the ETN-Conference, celebrated its premiere. Erfurt, moreover, has the ambition to revive the 1150 years old history of its university, where already Martin Luther had been studying, as a European University as from 1992.

The genius loci did work: The "European Textile Network" changed, within three days, owing to the comitted co-operation of all the conference members, from a hopeful idea to a concrete project of future institutionalised co-operation.

ETN will be more than an agency of international culture interchange. ETN will reflect the world-openess newly-won by Europeans and will act as a model for future initiatives for cultural integration.


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