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spwc&r1994 — Tarfa Bachan

Mixed media: silk screen print, patchwork & iron chains on a woollen blanket. Approximately 140 cm x 190 cm without chains. 2023.

Published in ISSUE X: CYCLES.



“I spin myself outwards in an evolution that can bring about a change in form without losing the substance.”


The installation spwc&r1994 by the German-Syrian artist Tarfa Bachan (she/her) is a mixed media work, in which textile material and techniques such as screen printing and patchwork are used. The figurative motif applied to a yellow woollen blanket shows one of the most frequently recurring events in life, a private, highly ritualised scene: a child's birthday being celebrated.


The child at the centre of the depiction is held by a figure towering above it and presenting it to the viewer. The scene appears in an ambivalent light between supposed security and possible coercion: the hands reaching out from the left and right towards the child belong to other shadowy figures that elude our gaze. From the bottom left, a figure holds out a piece of cake to with one hand, while with its other hand it gently prevents the figure on the right from lighting the birthday candles with a lighter. However, all these active figures remain shadowy or partial surfaces, while the figure of the passive child is given a realistic and at the same time alienating effect by the graphic character of the screen print in contrast to those surrounding it.


The ambivalence of the entire scene is also depicted on a material level. The softness of the fabrics is contrasted by the iron chains on which the fabric is hung and stretched out.


In her creative process, the artist draws on the broad repertoire of methods and techniques from her roots, working with quilting and patchwork techniques, as well as using processes of upcycling and the reuse of textiles. With the exception of the chains, for example, all the materials used in spwc&r1994 are gifts or heirlooms from family members or friends of the artist. The quilting and patchwork techniques used in her works are primarily inspired by her Bedouin heritage. Due to their materiality and versatility textiles are still a highly valued possession of Bedouins, such as the Syrian part of the artist’s family. They are easy to transport and could therefore be used in all areas of nomadic life – from clothing and household items to their actual homes, the tents.


Textiles also connect the artist with the women of the German part of her family, such as her great-grandmother. When she fled her Silesian homeland as a result of the Second World War, she was only able to save what she could carry: her textile belongings such as shawls, blankets, pillowcases, and tablecloths have been passed down through the generations ever since, and still surround her. If necessary, something had to be added or supplemented, sometimes even mended, but these fabrics remained in the cycle of the women in her family. The connection between the artist and these women is therefore both physical and performative: the acts of sewing, patchworking, quilting and all the associated textile techniques and processes relate to the concept of connection and recurrence. The single thread that is joined and interwoven with others in the process of weaving creates a new fabric. A metamorphosis that connects the artist with her heritage, and at the same time represents a cyclical further development that always makes reinterpretation possible.


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