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When Borders Matter: Crafting Borders in a Participatory Artistic Project at Trapholt Museum

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In 2020, 778 embroiderers co-created a major textile artwork at Trapholt, a Danish museum for art and design. Textile artist Iben Høj developed the artistic design, and citizens contributed 713 embroideries, which Høj assembled in a huge mobile that is exhibited at Trapholt 2020-21.
The project, Stitches Beyond Borders, was part of a celebration of the centenary of the cession of North Schleswig from Germany to Denmark after a plebiscite in 1920. However, the project addressed not only the centenary but also invited the participants to reflect on what physical borders and mental boundaries we are experiencing in our lives today. The thematic openness was combined with some formal requirements, and the materials provided for the embroideries were inspired by Danish flags. This combination – of a national celebration and a nationally invested materiality on the one hand, and an open theme of borders and boundaries on the other – created a tension. For what would happen in an artistic project that – in a world of increasing forced migration and reinforced borders – combined a politically hot topic like borders with a national or even nationalist celebration? How would Stitches Beyond Borders engage in the socio-political conflicts of borders and borderings? And how would the project approach a vernacular and contested embroidery practice that can both be understood as part of a feminist craftivism and denigrated as a traditionalistic hobby craft for middle-class women? How would agonistic critical and nationalist understandings of borders interact and be manifest in the participatory process and product? Motivated by these questions, and relating them to contemporary theories of borders and participation, we examine how the borders and boundaries in and of the embroidery project interacted with the citizen involvement and influenced the kind of participation, community and empowerment created in Stitches Beyond Borders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Borderlands Studies
Publication statusSubmitted - 14 Mar 2021

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