It is always interesting to see an exhibition being reinvented whenever it starts touring and therefore moves from the museum, gallery or institution that originated it to get adapted to a radically different space. Yet, rather than being dismantled to start an international tour, the "Breien!" (Knitting! until 28th August 2016) exhibition at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden (The Netherlands) is being renewed.
Since some of the pieces on display were borrowed from the delicately fragile textile collection of the museum, they can't be showcased for the entire duration of the event, and so they were recently replaced.
People visiting now "Knitting!" will therefore miss the historical mittens, nightcaps and baby garments, but they will see new and exciting pieces such as the "knitted son" by Amsterdam-based artist Marieke Voorsluijs and a medical prosthesis.
The fabric and textile designer for the crazily irresistible Club Geluk label (known for making realistic knitted and crocheted versions of everyday stuff like lipsticks, hams, hamburgers, mugs, TV sets, record players and plants just to mention a few...), Voorsluijs knitted a life-size version of her adolescent son as a family project that highlighted the gap between maternal love and growing up: in a nutshell, while one of her sons is reaching puberty, she is left behind with her knitted son that she can still cuddle. Yet there's a twist to the piece since this creation is actually a suit (complete of knitted cap, sweater that says "Punk's Not Dead" and sneakers) that a person small enough to fit in it can actually wear.
The second addition is instead directly borrowed from the medical world, it is indeed a prosthesis supplied to the museum by Jantiena Boersma director of Stethos Opleidingen & Trainingen. The B. Braun Medical prosthesis consists in a knitted polyester vascular implant used when a dilation of the main artery in the abdomen occurs. The piece is also called "prosthetic pants" because it has a bifurcated configuration that also prevents it from twisting during an operation. Knitwear designers may find the knitted structures of these grafts particularly interesting and inspiring: first used in clinical practice in 1955, these grafts are indeed made with the weft knit or the warp knit constructions.
While all the other items such as Stephen West's swants (sweater pants - trousers made from pullovers), Bas Kosters' multi-coloured monster-like costume, the jumper donned by Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (played by Sofie Gråbøl) in the Danish series The Killing, and the work of Chrystl Rijkeboer, charged with a magical quality yet slightly upsetting at the same time as the artist mainly uses human hair to make it, remain on display, there are also further additions contributed by the visitors.
One area of the exhibition features indeed the winners of a knitting contest: the museum invited people to knit a fanciful hat with an animal pattern. The results were incredibly fun and arrived from all over the country; a jury chose the fifteen most amazing hats that are now part of the exhibition, while visitors can also vote until 3rd July for their favorite design.
"Knitting!" continues to offer on selected days of the week space for knitwear amateurs and professionals, plus activities and special events with textile artists and knitters for visitors of all ages.
There are therefore quite a few lessons from the Fries Museum to learn here: renewing an exhibition including recently developed pieces (the "knitted son" has been in the news a lot at the beginning of this year) or pieces from unexpected fields of research means attracting a higher number of visitors who may come back to check the exhibition on a regular basis and spot the latest additions. Bigger museums currently boasting of organising Leviathan-like art or fashion exhibitions supported by major sponsors should maybe take example from these smaller events that, rather than overwhelming visitors with too many displays, aim at engaging them with unusual materials, designs and hands-on workshops.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos