“good” At the Beginning is White Gold
Stories from St. Gallen Cloth Production 1250 to Bignik
22.04.2022 – 29.01.2023
St. Gallen can look back on a centuries-long history of textiles, its beginnings reaching back to the Middle Ages. Its high quality ensures the renown of St. Gallen linen in the old days; known as “white gold”, it becomes a myth that endures to the present day.
The concept and action artists Frank and Patrik Riklin from the “St. Gallen Studio for Special Tasks” absorb textile traditions, investing them with new meaning with “Bignik”, a social sculpture that grows each year.
Also, in a free, artistic interpretation, Martin Leuthold joins up the past and present of textiles. Himself an icon of contemporary textile design, Leuthold creates an extensive installation that is on show in the Textile Museum St. Gallen from April 22th 2022 to January 29th 2023.
Since the 13th century, linen production has been among the most important sources of income for the city and region of St. Gallen. Tens of thousands of people are employed with the White Gold: planting the flax, spinning the yarn, as well as weaving, bleaching and finishing the cloth. That the linen meets the highest standards in all phases of production is ensured by guilds and city authorities. They testify to the origin of the textile article that is destined for long-distance trade with a “G” (standing for “St. Gallen”) – in some interpretations it refers to the quality, too (“Good”). When the linen trade comes under pressure in the 18th century, the textile region of St. Gallen begins to refocus – with first cotton processing flourishing, followed later on by embroidery.
The linen period came to an end centuries ago and with it the lengths of material laid out on the fields to bleach disappeared, too. Yet the hills around St. Gallen are once again covered with material – at least sporadically. “Creating communally a giant picnic rug for the whole population, consisting of 293,438 pieces of material, exactly as many as the inhabitants of the region.” That’s the vision of the twin brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin from the “Studio for Special Tasks”, who, together with the REGIO Appenzell Ar-St. Gallen-Lake Constance started the “Bignik” project in 2012, and who have initiated an installation at different places in the region year by year ever since.
After 10 years of collecting and sewing, the city of St. Gallen has now itself become the installation venue: white collides with red, business with culture, history with life. To mark this, the Textile Museum St. Gallen is showing the exhibition “GOOD – At the Beginning is White Gold”, in which the past and the present in textiles join up to make a visual total work of art.