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Torn Threads: Aspects of the Life and Work of Textile Designer Otti Berger
10 June 2021 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Judith Raum, a Berlin-based visual artist, has been researching the legacy of textile designer Otti Berger (1898-1944) for several years. As a Yugoslav Jew, Berger, who had trained at the Bauhaus, was forced to leave the German Reich, where she had run her own textile studio in Berlin, and unsuccessfully tried to make a new life in Great Britain. She returned to her home village of Zmajevac, where although cut off from her professional networks, she continued to work before being deported by the Nazis and murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
Consequently, her estate lies scattered in archives over the world. She was an outstanding designer, both of experimental handweaves and of industrially produced fabrics. In Raum’s own words, “There is an extraordinary strength in Berger’s designs for functional textiles such as upholstery or wall spanning materials: it lies in the combination of sensual riches and conceptual clarity. In addition, Berger’s practice is characterized by resolutely balancing experimentation on a hand-loom with the necessities of industrial production processes.”
In her lecture- cum-performance, originally drafted for the Harvard Art Museums, Judith Raum contemplates the significance of a special kind of fabric in Berger’s oeuvre – net-like textiles – which allows her to draw a richly rhizomatic net of connections – among them, to the work of Berger’s colleagues and industrial design history of the 1930s, as well as to questions of authorship and recognition.
Judith Raum will be joined by eminent UK-based design historian Tanya Harrod, who will chair the event and say more about Otti Berger’s time in England.
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