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The collection represents the actual heart of a museum; it is a store of knowledge that is carefully maintained by the depot directors, conserved and restored by the restorers and researched by the art historians. A key task of each and every museum is to make this treasure accessible and convey it to the public. For “Trading places”, we invited five designer studios to investigate our collection. They had the privilege of spending many hours in the depots, while we enjoyed the luxury of having a new look at our collection through their eyes. (…)

In exploring the depot, the Judith Seng Studio concentrated on the lace collection and was confronted by an almost unmanageable variety of techniques and related terms: perforation, double-perforation, needlepoint, lattice lace, white embroidery, bobbin lace, Dresden lace, etc. Only a few people are aware of the care and patience required to manufacture lace by hand. This is particularly true of bobbin lace making, a complex artisan process, in which threads are rotated, crossed and knotted on the basis of a pricking, and which requires experience, dexterity and a lot of patience. For many women, lace making represented a possibility of earning some extra income – the wearing of lace being long the privilege of the nobility. Who thinks about the bobbin lace technique when they look at the tradition of the maypole and maypole dancing? And who knows that the industrial bobbin machine is called a “maypole”? And yet it becomes bequite clear in observation – rotating, crossing, knotting. Here as there. Judith Seng has recognised this and is broadening our horizons. On the one hand she scales the lace, thus illustrating the technique. On the other hand she transfers the activity of a single person into a collective process. The bobbins have been replaced by a group of 24 people. They dance together – i.e. making lace. In this manner, the group becomes part of the creation of the object, a temporary installation resembling bobbin lace – and then again not, the result not least being due to the group and not a high-ranking person. In Judith Seng’s installation, the visitors experience the diversity of the various manufacturing techniques. Furthermore, it becomes clear that the laces are more than just old-fashioned, small cloth covers – namely that exceptionally skilled people produce these wonderfully fragile and yet stable textiles. This work thus offers both a new approach to the subject of lace and a further insight into the richness of the collection.

Text by Tulga Beyerle

More about the long-term research project ACTING THINGS

Year: 2014 Place: Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden Schloss Pillnitz Curator: Tulga Beyerle Studio team: Maren Bönsch, Milena Kuster Images/Video: Rudi Schröder Video editing: Stephanie Dodes