Fabian Saptouw
Unravelled and Rewoven Canvas (2006)

12 July - 11 August 2007

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present Fabian Saptouw's Unravelled and Rewoven Canvas (2006). Born in 1984 and currently a Masters student at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Saptouw spent much of last year conceiving and executing a single project: unravelling and reweaving a section of blank canvas. The result encompasses the reconstructed canvas itself, as well as elements that were discarded, the equipment used and documentation of the process.

With the prevalence of automated processes, manual weaving has become all but extinct, as Saptouw explains in the text accompanying his work: "Textiles are hand-woven primarily in three areas: where this technology is not available, as a craft/art, or when imbued with some religious significance." With this in mind, Saptouw chose not only to restrict himself to manual labour, but also to manufacture all the required hardware himself. In a gesture marked by subtle irony, he relied largely on online tutorials to teach himself the old-fashioned craft of hand-weaving.

Saptouw also set out to methodologically document the process. First, he installed a CCTV camera in his studio, which recorded the project on VHS tapes. Second, he used a stopwatch to time the different elements of the unravelling and reweaving at set intervals. The results of these qualitative and quantitative observations became integral parts of the installation, and will be exhibited in the form of the full collection of tapes, selected video footage and accompanying graphs.

Despite its obsessive qualities, Canvas is, above all, an exercise in futility. In Saptouw's own words, he failed in practically everything he set out to do. A notable example is that manual weaving proved unable to recreate the density of the original canvas, which was produced in a factory. Saptouw writes: "In this sense the very premise of the project becomes more like an idealistic goal, rather than an achievable outcome." As such, it is the failure of his project that embodies its ultimate success.

Installation views of Unravelled and Rewoven Canvas (2006)


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2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.