TEXTIEL BIENNALE 2021 at Museum Rijswijk

Marcel Pinas Kibiiwikoni, 2021, installation of 2,850 bottles wrapped in Pangi cloth with drawing on paper. Collection of the artist

I always enjoy my visits to Museum Rijswijk. It is a very pretty town with a museum of which it should be proud. And for such a small museum in a fairly small town it punches above its weight, mounting, on alternating years, two important international exhibitions. Last year the Papier Biȅnnale suffered rather because of the Covid-19 restrictions but this year the Textiel Biȅnnale is back with all guns blazing.

In previous years the textile show in particular has been a bit too literal, concentrating very much on the craft with lots of macramé, patchwork and other predictably soft things. This year the emphasis is very much on art with a capital A. If you didn’t know it was an exhibition dedicated to things made from cloth in all its many forms, you would not guess it.

The main part of the show, in the large ground floor gallery, houses possibly the most spectacular installation. Marcel Pinas’s large piece, Kibiiwikoni,,consists of 2850 of wine bottles, empty I imagine, laid out in formal style with paths running through it. Each bottle is “dressed” in brightly coloured Pangi fabric so the whole thing looks like a large crowd of African women. This work could be described as relating to identity and ethnicity – if you look closely, the bottles dressed all in black take on an important significance.

The use of bottles is not an accident, the theme, the subtitle of this year’s exhibition is Food for Thought and the work on show has a connection, one way or another to what we eat or drink.

Next to the bottles is the fun piece of the show. Yinka Shonibare’s rampant, gun-toting dapper fox is called Revolution Kid and, although it will raise a smile, it is making a powerful statement about hunting and the exploitation of animals. I also liked Maria Ikonomopoulou’s installation of cloth bags hanging on the wall.

The show continues upstairs in the old part of the building with a powerful installation about the exploitation of the oceans and the fish stock. The work, by the aptly named Hannerie Visser, consists of a number of nets suspended from the ceiling. Each net is covered with hundreds of small cards, each one representing a fish that is caught and how it is used. The installation put me in mind of those walls you see in war zones or disaster areas where people put up photos seeking missing friends or family.

In all there is work by twenty artists from all over the world and it is an indication of how highly this, and the Papier Biȅnnale, are regarded that it manages to attract such diverse and high quality work. The show continues until the middle of January and I would recommend that you see it. And, if you are lucky, the weather will be good enough for you to take some refreshment in the museum’s wonderful secluded garden.  Michael Hasted    8th September 2021

The 2021 Textiel Biȅnnale continues at Museum Rijswijk until 16th January 2022

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