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Fringes of Beauty wows in The Netherlands

Matilda Hickson visits an exhibition at the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, the Netherlands and finds some startling exhibits which both attract and repulse - including someone's testicles

The front of Armor by Herring & Van Kalsbeek

The Netherlands is known for its innovative design background and the latest exhibition at the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, Brabant, is full of wonderful and quirky pieces. This exhibition, Fringes of Beauty, was commissioned by the TextielMuseum and they wanted to offer young designers the chance to conduct research and experiment with their work and the results are shown here. The exhibits all contain textile installations and interactive sculptures and were made in the TextielLab, the innovative in-house workplace of the TextielMuseum.

The theme for many of the pieces which have been created for the exhibition is the tension between being 'attractive or repulsive' - and these are easily seen in the designs by young Dutch designer Bart Hess. The inspiration for his works was apparently 'the soft pulse of testicles'...and indeed there is a large screen which shows testicles (his?) on the move in real time.

Another exhibit of Hess are soft pink silicon sacks, lined together with hairy cords that squirm (left). Indeed if you make a noise then they flip and flop around like dead fish. These are one of the strangest things I have ever seen at an art exhibition - but they are meant to engender these awkward feelings - while in many ways clearly repulsive, they also emit a strange fascination. They seduce you to watch them, and it is hard not to make noises in order to get them to move, although at the same time you'd really rather not be encouraging them!

Something a little more palatable and easier on the eye is the tremendous piece entitled Armor by Herring & Van Kalsbeek (above). These artists are known for their expressive, colourful sculptures with a strong physical presence and their work for the exhibition was inspired by their ethnographic collection and natural phenomena. Their monumental sculpture has a metal construction which is decorated with laser-cut, resin coated wings of canvas, bright red pompoms and multi-coloured tins. It is reminiscent of the large head ornaments of traditional Chinese brides. Armor is appealing at first site, but the back of it (below) appears raw and imperfect - hence creating the 'attraction and repulsion' of this piece.

There is no doubt that all the works in the exhibition are truly fascinating and the fact that they all involve textile manufacture makes them even more so.

Nebula and the Soft Machine by artist Tanja Smeets seems to grow up from the floor, expanding to the walls. This creation looks like some primordial being and is made from a combination of laser cutting of industrial felt which was cut into irregular forms, and knitted pieces. The former combine and seem to explode (like a dust cloud hence the nebula of the title of the piece), while the knitted part of the creation is a bit like a plant with buds opening up. Again, it is both strangely attractive but repels at the same time.

The exhibition is on until the 7 May, and if you are visiting the Netherlands, then I would definitely recommend a visit if you want to see something that is completely different. Where else can you stand and admire the soft pulse of someone's testicles in public?




The Netherlands

Showing until: 7 May 2017

Tilburg is only c.1 hour 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train. Change at s-Hertogenbosch or Eindhoven.


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