Workshop talk: CHINESE WEAVE

Regine Steenbock
Thu, 13-May-21 11:00 AM
On demand: May 6-16th
Q&A via zoom with:
Regine Steenbock
05.13.2021, 11:00 AM

The artist and fash­ion design­er Regine Steen­bock address­es eth­no­log­i­cal fash­ion research and presents excerpts from her photo and film project “Chi­nese Weave”. Par­tic­i­pants are invit­ed to a multi-lay­ered decod­ing of dif­fer­ent read­ings of fash­ion and cloth­ing in a for­eign lan­guage and culture.

Cloth­ing is part of the reper­toire of human forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In a rich col­lec­tion of obser­va­tions, Steen­bock directs her gaze to a world still large­ly unknown to Euro­pean eyes. The com­plex and sophis­ti­cat­ed tex­tile craft of the Miao minor­i­ty in the Chi­nese province of Guizhou is nowa­days inter­min­gled with an omnipresent Chi­nese fast fash­ion. The orna­men­tal gib­ber­ish of mass fash­ion from all over the world is incor­po­rat­ed into the Miao imagery and fre­quent­ly rein­ter­pret­ed in favor of local meanings.

YOU KNOW SOME BIRDS (D 2021, 44 min, 4th part of CHINESE WEAVE) is a cin­e­mat­ic approach to the every­day world of the Miao. We expe­ri­ence a song­bird com­pe­ti­tion and see, among other things, the making of tra­di­tion­al wind instru­ments, the rice har­vest and var­i­ous prepa­ra­tions for a fes­ti­val. The film title is bor­rowed from the imprint of a T-shirt that was acci­den­tal­ly caught on camera during a death ritual. Such detailed obser­va­tions char­ac­ter­ize Steen­bock­’s work. Birds, which play a medi­at­ing role between the phys­i­cal and meta­phys­i­cal worlds in the Miao mythol­o­gy, appear in many of the gar­ments’ orna­ments as metaphors. The uncom­ment­ed record­ings offer view­ers the most imme­di­ate visual expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble and encour­age their own decoding.

On a jour­ney through the con­fus­ing but also bewil­der­ing­ly beau­ti­ful world of pic­tures and tex­tiles, we increas­ing­ly get the impres­sion that it is not pop mod­ernism that has arrived in China. Instead, mod­ernism has been soaked up in its entire­ty by the Chi­nese world of myths and sym­bols. There is no before and no after, no search for times lost, and noth­ing sen­ti­men­tal; every­thing is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in con­stant, orna­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion. The most won­der­ful trans­for­ma­tion of every­thing into every­thing else takes place under the sign of the but­ter­fly. To the Miao people, the But­ter­fly Mother - what a fab­u­lous term - is con­sid­ered the primeval source of all being. Wor­shipped in count­less pat­terns in this cul­ture, per­haps the most bizarre is but­ter­fly cam­ou­flage: like a but­ter­fly, the cam­ou­flaged wearer can thus emerge from battle unscathed.“ (Bar­bara Vinken in the pref­ace of the photo book pub­lished in 2020)

Regine Steen­bock first stud­ied stage and cos­tume design at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Arts, Vienna and later film at the Städelschule, Frankfurt/Main until 1985. Between 1985-93 she made exper­i­men­tal short films (includ­ing BIGGI, VEL, A Doc­u­men­tary about Love) which were shown by inter­na­tion­al film fes­ti­vals and insti­tu­tions. In 1994 she switched to fash­ion, found­ed her fash­ion label “Sium” in 2001 and ran her own shops in Berlin and Ham­burg until 2015. Her col­lec­tions were pre­sent­ed in Paris and Tokyo, among other places, and received inter­na­tion­al awards. Steen­bock was a guest pro­fes­sor for fash­ion design at the Weißensee Kun­sthochschule Berlin in 2005. In 2013, a teach­ing posi­tion took her to Johan­nes­burg. 2016-18 she taught as a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of fash­ion design at Bei­jing Normal Uni­ver­si­ty in Zhuhai, South China. With “Chi­nese Fabric”, she resumes her ear­li­er work as a film­mak­er for the first time.

Camera, monatge, real­is­ta­tion: Regine Steenbock