Report on the 20th ETN Conference in Łódź, Poland (2 - 4 March 2023)
The 20th ETN Conference in Lodz was a special event in many respects and will remain in our memories for a long time. It was a meeting that gave hope and made it tangible how precious and stable a network can be - despite all the fragility of our times.
Actually, the meeting should have taken place in St. Petersburg in 2021. First it had to be postponed due to Corona, then the terrible war in Ukraine broke out, which still shakes us deeply today. Finally, we found an exciting alternative conference venue in Lodz, so that after difficult times and several attempts, the event could finally take place between 2 and 4 March 2023. We would like to thank our incomparable cooperation partners, the Central Museum of Textiles and the Strzeminski Academy of Fine Arts, for making this possible.
Lodz is an incredible city. It has a unique textile history, which we could explore during our tours through the museum and at many other places in the town. But Lodz has also managed to draw a link to the present day, to make an international name for itself in the field of contemporary textile art and to reinvent itself as a textile city. The Lodz International Triennial of Tapestry is one of the most important events in this field in the world. It was interesting to experience this field of tension between history and the present at first hand.
The previous ETN conference was held a long time ago. In 2019, about 200 joyful people met in Haslach/Austria. The motto of the conference - Garden of Eden - inspired and smelled in retrospect of summer, lightness and carefree joy in beautiful encounters. Today we are far away from this time. The global situation has become more difficult. Not only did it take three attempts before the conference could finally take place, but also each individual participant had to face many difficulties in the last 3.5 years. So it was not clear what would happen at a meeting after such a long time.
So it was all the nicer to feel that the energy was there again right away, which the meeting and exchange among like-minded people releases. The conference was much smaller and more intimate, but also more familiar. Precisely because everyone was aware that these encounters are absolutely no longer a matter of course, the meeting took on a special value.
The ETN conference was also new in technical terms, as it was designed as a hybrid event. For the first time, people who could not travel to the conference had the opportunity to participate online from a distance, and some speakers were also connected online. Thanks to the technicians on site and the wonderful ETN staff member Doris Vierlinger, this premiere was a great success and also showed us the potential of this new format. It made it possible to follow the conference on different continents with a time delay, to invite speakers from far away and now offers us the chance to listen to the presentations again afterwards.
Codes - stories in textiles, that was the topic of this year's conference. A wide range of lectures illuminated countless stories that are hidden in textiles and reflect the character of different cultures. Contributions from the field of modern textile art and crafts as well as lectures that shaded light on historical or ethnographic aspects were part of the programme. The conference logo showed the so-called Khipus - knotted cords from the Inca culture in South America. These Khipus were used in times before the Spanish influence to archive various information using knots. During the conference we could hear an exciting talk by researcher Manuel Medrano on this topic.
But now let's take it one step at a time:
DAY 1 - Guided Tours in the Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź
We spent the first day of the conference at the Central Museum of Textiles. After a short welcome by the hosts, the around 50 participants were divided into two groups. One group visited the famous International Triennial of Tapestry with the chief curator Marta Kowalewska. This significant event has become an important stage for textile artists worldwide. We were impressed by many of the works and Marta Kowalewska's explanations, and also marvelled at the incredibly spacious exhibition spaces, which have been revitalised to the highest standards. The second group was guided competently and entertainingly through the National Exhibition by fashion expert Martin Różyc, where many conceptual works were convincing. Before the lunch break, the groups were switched so that all participants could see both special exhibitions.
After a delicious vegan lunch at the Ukryte Rzeki restaurant, a lecture by Hans-Jürgen Böhmelburg on the history of Lodz was on the programme. This was a fitting transition to the two tours in the afternoon: On the one hand, we were guided through the recently reopened permanent exhibition of the museum "City Fashion Machine", on the other hand, we also visited the area of the impressive open-air museum "Microhistories Łódź". In this area, various traditional houses have been reconstructed, symbolic of different classes and social groups in Lodz. It was possible to dive deep into the unique development and exciting social history of this textile city.
At the end of the day, we were able to experience a special performance in the museum's Ground Flor. Paulina Wycichowska danced in a costume by Tina Marais to live music by Jaroslaw Kordaczuk and told the touching story of a transformation and a new beginning - a fitting, universal theme that could not have been better chosen for the occasion and the time.
17th Triennial of Tapestry
Lecture Hans-Jürgen Bömelburg
Open Air Exhibition
DAY 2 & 3 - Lectures at the Academy of Fine Arts
On the second and third day, we were guests at the Strzeminski Academy of Fine Arts. This renowned educational institution offers top-class courses in textile art and fashion. We were able to use the modern conference hall, which is equipped with all the technical refinements, and received wonderful support from the staff there.
After a welcome by Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Design, Professor Katarzyna Wróblewska, Dominika Kogulska, Head of the textile department took us on a virtual tour of the Young Textile Art Triennial 2022 exhibition, on display in Lodz from October 2022 to January 2023. This exhibition format, in which only works by students from different countries were shown, was convincing due to its high quality and would like to become even more international in the future.
In the following contribution by Christina and Andreas, the conference motto "Code - stories in textiles" was introduced and the wide range of content associated with this theme was illustrated by means of several thought bubbles. All subsequent lectures related to one of these aspects. The spiritual journey took us to various countries in Europe, to Iran, America and South America, and even to Korea. Experienced speakers gave us deep insights into their research or introduced us to their artistic works. In the course of the two days of lectures, new facets emerged again and again, illustrating how textile art and culture have an impact on almost all areas of human life.
During a lunch break, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the textile department's workshops and see for ourselves the great equipment, the passion of the teachers and the creative energy of the students. It was wonderful to see that textile training centres with such depth still exist in Europe! On the first evening at the Academy, we were also presented with a professional fashion show of exciting, experimental clothing created at the fashion class under the direction of Michal Szulc.
Part of the conference programme - as always at ETN conferences - were the network sessions, where members report on their current projects in mini-lectures. Turkay Gasimzade also presented the location for the next ETN conference, which will take place in 2025 in Sheki in Azerbaijan - more details will follow. In the speaker overview you can read the contents of all presentations.
On the last evening, as always, the legendary conference dinner took place. We again enjoyed the exquisite cuisine at the Ukryte Rzeki restaurant, celebrated new and old friendships, shared professional interests and enjoyed the power of being together. It was a feast and a treat to see everyone so relaxed and cheerful. For most of us it was then time to say goodbye, as the majority of the participants started their return journey on Sunday.
Guided Tour through the Academy
DAY 4 & 5 - Post Conference Programme
For those who stayed, a highly informative and humorous guided tour of Księży Młyn (English: 'Priest Mill') was offered on Sunday, 5 March - a former cotton mill and workers' housing estate of gigantic proportions, which has been revitalised and is now occupied by companies, flats, restaurants and shops.
On Monday, 6 March, a small group of participants had the pleasure of taking part in workshops at the Academy. There was printing and weaving on the TC2 loom and everyone was enthusiastic.
All in all, Lodz presented itself to us from its best side. This city is full of surprises. We met unbelievably friendly, helpful and cheerful people and felt completely at ease. The unique history certainly contributes to the cosmopolitan and forward-looking atmosphere of this city. The fact that it was possible to reunite the ETN members in this place was harmonious and gives strength for the future.
We would like to thank all the people in Lodz who supported us in realising this event. But above all, we also thank all the participants on site or online for having been part of this event. In times like these, when we are in danger of becoming more and more isolated due to external circumstances, we need people who believe in the power of community. It was clearly noticeable that the network of the European Textile Network still holds, catches, is permeable and stable at the same time.
Many thanks to all and see you soon!
Christina, Andreas, Doris
Excerpts from the reactions of participants
“The Conference was, bar none, the best conference I have ever attended! It changed my life and has already propelled my own creative work forward at a speed I could never have imagined. Doris went above and beyond to give me a perfect experience. I am so glad to now be a part of your organization. I am eager to learn more!”
Francine Jacobson, online participant
“There are no words which can describe my feeling how I'm happy that we met and shared so beautiful moments at the conference! I'm on my way back and my heart is full of bright emotions!”
“Thank you so much for all your hard work in making this yet again a wonderful ETN conference.
There may have been fewer actual attendees than last time, but that only made the atmosphere more intimate, and the zoom presentations were so well organised that it felt as though the person speaking was actually present in the room. However, it was so good to be able once again to speak to people face to face, so much easier to get to know each other and exchange ideas. Proper textile networking! I have come away full to bursting with all that we saw and heard, which will take some time to properly absorb. It is great to be able to return to some of the talks through the zoom link!”
"It was a joy and a privilege to be part of the online conference in Lodz Poland this year. It was a feast of textile talks and lectures by brilliant speakers. So enjoyable and informative. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend in person, but this online conference enabled me to feel that I was truly part of the event. I was a little apprehensive about attending an event such as this online, but it exceeded all my expectations.”
Mary Lee Murphy
"I joined online as we live in the US and don't travel that much due to age related issues. I enjoyed the theme and presentations - what a nice variety. The conferences here in the US usually tend to count the shafts on the loom and give tips for throwing a shuttle - how refreshing to see what others are doing in the way of interesting results and research - especially the khipu and QR code projects.”
Sara von Tresckow, Fond du Lac, WI
all photos in this report by Magda Maciaszczyk, Khrystina Vysotskaya, Ingrid Gaier, Manfred Niederdorfer, Christina Leitner, Doris Vierlinger, Andreas Selzer