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A never ending research into textile expression inspired by the human skin

WovenBodies — © WovenBodies @Bart Hess 2020

Woven Bodies originated a year ago due to a direct question I received from a collector. “Bart would you be able to make me a wall
tapestry?” This question served as a starting point for the project.


The human skin often plays an important role in my work. The practical nature of the question of the collector made me dive into possibilities to translate the qualities of the human skin into textiles. I have researched a multitude of textile procedures such as weaving, quilting and embroidery and combined multiple techniques, both digital and analogue.

Turing pattern effect

For this work I have found inspiration in the so called ‘Turing pattern effect’. This effect was named after the British mathematician Alan Turing. The theory, formed by Alan Turing during the fifties of thelast century, explains how patterns originate based upon the interaction of two different substances. One serving as activator and the other serving as inhibiter. These patterns can be visible in for example the shape of stripes or patterns on the skin of an animal, but also as the lines
in the soft palete of a mouse. All the examples mentioned involve patterns that evolve slowly but gradually. The effects of these patterns are self-reinforcing, if by cause of a small disbalance a majority of the activating substance is present, this presence will only become bigger and bigger over time. The surrounding production will slow down because of this effect. Small islands will appear, spots, stripes, or lines. What these patterns look like depends entirely on the shape and size of the surface on which the patterns form themselves.

the unexpected

Within my work I strive for ways to use techniques that make it possible to have the outcome of the work not be solely dependent on my own hands. For example the unexpected wrinkling of a fabric because the fabric tightens itself, or by using fabrics that shrink to be able to manipulate patterns to create 3-D effects. This way of working, as in Turing’s theory, is based upon two different forces that by interacting with each other set something else in motion. In this sense Turing’s theory is a beautiful metaphor for my own work practice.

For Woven Bodies I asked choreographer Sedrig Verwoert to create a choreography based on bodies intertwined with one another. A moving mass of skin and bodies made up of dancers with a variety of different backgrounds. The combined bodies emanate a sense of anonymity because the heads of the dancers never face the camera. The inspiration for this image came from the work of the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland.

About Bart Hess

Over the past ten years, Hess has developed an impressive roster of work. He has pinned, stretched, slimed and scraped materials in relation to the human body, and collaborated with the likes of Lucy McRae, Nick Knight, Lady Gaga, Iris van Herpen and Walter van Beirendonck. Hess feels that our bodies are increasingly becoming a platform for sensitive and interactive technology, and has constantly exposed the intimate relationship materials have upon our skin.
Canal area, Bart Hess, Gasfabriek 18 , Map No. F10
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