Space, Place and the Imagined Urban Community
Sara Vrugt’s Textile Installations
In this article the social and aesthetical potential of community art will be addressed from the perspective of how space, place and community relate to material manifestations within urban community art projects. As a case-study two installation works by Dutch artist Sara Vrugt will be discussed. Since 2010, Vrugt, an autonomous artist originally trained in the textile arts, has developed a number of community art projects in which she does not refrain from addressing societal issues. Her textiles installation Look at You 05, addressed self-representation through social media. This work was embroidered by two-hundred people from a local community in The Hague over the course of three months and was shaped into an installation in the form of a four-meter-high elongated embroidery of abstractions of social media profile pictures, which was folded into a spiral to create a spatial structure through which the viewers could walk and watch the work as it were unfold. Vrugt’s latest project 100.000 trees concerns climate change and is another embroidery installation work containing one-hundred embraided trees that were composed in four different pop-up studios. The embraided trees in the work refer to the one-hundred thousand trees that as part of the project will actually be planted. I will approach both these installations from a notion, derived from Gottfried Semper, of weaving as the primordial craft which underlies the creation of spatial surface and thereby that of architectural space as well as place. I will argue these works provide a place for the community members in which their collective effort manifest through the work’s embroidered surface: a surface that creates both a space and place for community members as viewers, makers, and active participants within the spatial and social relations in the community to which they belong and to which the artwork relates.