The focus of my paper is the work of the artist Margit Szilvitzky (1931–2018) and the position of the Hungarian “experimental textile” movement in the history of the region’s neo-avantgarde art. The textile-based collages, objects, and installations created by Szilvitzky, who started her career as a fashion designer in the 1950s, made her one of the leading figures of the “new textile” movement in Hungary starting from the Textile/Wall Image exhibition (1968) throughout the 1970s to the early 1980s. She also became a regular participant at international exhibitions and biennials, while also obtaining a significant position as a professor at the University of Applied Arts, organizing
a Bauhaus-inspired “preliminary course” composed of studies of form and structure. Partly in connection with the new generation of fibre art emerging in Poland, her early pieces used applications and embroidery. In the mid-70s she discovered the folded white canvas, inspired by Joseph Albers’ famous paper exercises, as a medium to the visual representation of thought processes. She also intended to explore the possibilities of space, joining the international trend of post-war abstraction that allowed a central role for textiles. My paper aims to analyse her work especially in an international context, but also intends to give an insight into the field of Hungarian fibre art and its institutional background through studying the system of the Szombathely Textile Biennials and the textile symposia in Velem.
Szilvitzky was one of the main driving forces behind these events and a regular exhibitor at the biennials. Szilvitzky’s generation contributed largely to spatial textiles (fibre art) becoming a noteworthy area for Hungarian neoavantgarde art. While analysing the institutional and theoretical aspects of the textile movement Szilvitzky was part of, I aim to explore the position of the Hungarian “experimental textile” movement. While fighting for its emancipation as a form of art instead of a craft, “new textiles” functioned at the periphery of political attention, under less severe ideological and bureaucratic control than the fine arts, also because it was practised mainly by female artists in the mostly male-dominated official and even non-official art scene.
Kata Balázs graduated in Art History and Hungarian Literature and Linguistics at ELTE Budapest. She held various scholarships at the Jagiellonian University and at the University of Florence. She completed the doctoral program of ELTE and is working on obtaining her PhD. Apart from periods spent at Ludwig Museum and working as a junior researcher grantee at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, she taught at various schools and universities like the University of Film and Theatre or the University in Eger. She has been working at acb ResearchLab since 2020. In her work, a special focus is placed on the art of the 1980s, photography and performance art and since recently, textile/fibre art.