Viewing Room Main Site
Skip to content
Jeffery Gibson | Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art

Guided by artworks that are radical in their form and their politics, the exhibition sets out to ask why textiles are a particularly resonant medium to address ideas of gender and sexuality, the movement and displacement of people, and histories of extraction and violence, as well as understanding the world through connecting with ancestral practices and communing with nature. Textiles weave through our everyday lives yet remain one of the most underexamined mediums in art history and contemporary practice. The universality of fabric has made it a potent messenger across global contexts – whether communicating personal stories or conveying hidden messages. Embedded in a single thread is the material history of the medium, revealing ideas relating to gender, labour, value, ecology, ancestral knowledge, and histories of oppression, extraction and trade. 

From 13 February 2024, Unravel shines a light on artists from the 1960s to today who have explored the transformative and subversive potential of textiles, harnessing the medium to ask charged questions about power: who holds it, and how can it be challenged and reclaimed? Spanning intimate hand-crafted pieces to large-scale sculptural installations, this major exhibition brings together over 100 artworks by 50 international practitioners. Drawn to the tactile processes of stitching, weaving, braiding, beading and knotting, these artists have embraced fibre and thread to tell stories that challenge power structures, transgress boundaries and reimagine the world around them.

Image courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery, photo ©Jo Underhill.