The history of the textile industry is held up for artistic inspection and debate in Alke Schmidt: Tangled Yarns to 25 January 2015 in a specially commissioned show by a locally based artist at the William Morris Gallery– once the Morris family home.
Modern sweatshops are investigated and compared to the brutal history of the cotton trade with direct reference to the recent collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh, Lancashire mills of the 19th century, and violent campaigns against Indian cotton in the early 18th century. Every artwork incorporates a different fabric employed as as canvas or sculptural component. All of those selected are associated with powerful narrative elements in order to address themes of race, gender, exploitation and violence.
Explaining the background to the show, Schmidt said: ‘ The initial idea was to relate working conditions in the British textile industry during Morris’ lifetime to those in the industry today. But once I started researching the history of the cotton trade, I stumbled upon other compelling stories that I just couldn’t let go. I’m fascinated by how the global cotton and textiles trades form relationship between people on different continents. One persons desire for fashionable clothes could mean another’s economic lifeline or escape from poverty – but it could also mean endless drudgery, exploitation or even slavery.’