Symposium: Threads of Life

Accompanying the exhibition of the same name, June 2023 [in German]

The Threads of Life exhibition spotlights the multifaceted relationship between textiles, medicine and the arts.

Threads of Life Exhibition View

Welcome und Einführung Helmut Denk | Leitung der Arbeitsgruppe Geschichte der Medizin und Medical/Health Humanities der Kommission für Geschichte und Philosophie der Wissenschaften Barbara Putz-Plecko | Vizerektorin für Forschung in Kunst und Wissenschaft der Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien Monika Ankele | Medizinische Universität Wien Monika Pietrzak-Franger | Universität Wien Schwerpunkte der Ausstellung und des Symposiums Georg Vasold | Universität Wien Zum Genius loci der Ausstellung

Keynote I Heidi Helmhold | Universität zu Köln Biegeschlaffheit – Affektpolitiken des Textilen in Kunst und Medizin

Conversation I: Textiles zwischen Körper und Welt Moderation: Monika Ankele | Medizinische Universität Wien Leonie Braam | Universitätsklinikum Tübingen Grenzen des Körperlichen. Der Verband als Marker verwundbarer Körper im frühen 20. Jahrhundert Anamaria Depner | Universität Frankfurt Laken, Nachthemd, Kittelschürze – Textile Alltagsdinge in der Pflege Leonie Braam und Anamaria Depner im Gespräch mit Barbara Graf | Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien

Part 4 will be updated online shortly.

Einführung Monika Ankele | Medizinische Universität Wien Keynote

Céline Kaiser | Hochschule für Künste im Sozialen, Ottersberg Verbändelt. Medical Humanities und künstlerische Forschung


About the exhibition:

Although textiles have been indispensable to medicine since time immemorial, their role in this context has been understudied so far. From the surgical thread, wound dressings, wipes, pads, and protective clothing to the hospital bed, the practices of healing are unimaginable without them. But the relationship between textiles in the arts, wellbeing and health is much broader. It includes, but is not restricted to, the use of such techniques as knitting, crocheting, weaving or braiding in the development of cardiovascular grafts or surgical meshes. The use of textiles is also ambivalent. They have found use in psychiatric institutions for the bodily restraint of patients, but patients also used them for designing their environment and creating body wrappings as survival strategies. Textiles can also be a source of ill-health: Beyond the addition of harmful substances during their production, textiles have been used in fashion for centuries to shape, deform and discipline the body according to ideals of beauty. Practitioners from the fields visual arts and artistic research reflect on this complicated relationship in manifold ways. Artists use fabrics to evoke the vulnerability of the human body, its ongoing decay and imminent death, and also to highlight the complexity of interhuman relationships. They draw attention to (self-)care, understanding the human anatomy, perceiving one’s own corporeality, and to the ways in which textiles can become an existential embodiment. Beyond the metaphorical “Threads of Life”, suturing connects the craft of surgery with that of tailoring. The exhibition spotlights the multifaceted relationships between textiles, medicine and the arts. It brings historical objects and contemporary artistic positions into a dialogue that generates productive tensions.


Sonja Bäumel, Pascale Maxime Ballieul, Camille Borchert, Ida Flora Frantal, Raja Goltz, Barbara Graf, Ruth Anderwald + Leonhard Grond, Elizabeth McGlynn, Ute Neuber, Katharina Sabernig, Hannah Schwab, Yuliia Strykovska, Leo Ruben Enosch Zellweger

Curatorial team:

Monika Ankele (Medical University of Vienna), Barbara Graf (University of Applied Arts Vienna), Katrin Pilz (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History, Vienna), Monika Pietrzak-Franger (University of Vienna), Barbara Putz-Plecko (University of Applied Arts Vienna), Katharina Sabernig (University of Applied Arts Vienna), Georg Vasold (University of Vienna).

The curatorial team is part of the transdisciplinary working group History of Medicine and Medical/Health Humanities of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.