Birgitta Nordström

Birgitta Nordström is a textile artist and senior lecturer in textile art at Academy of Craft and Design, University of Gothenburg. Her artistic practice is focused on weaving and ritual textiles. Since 1995 she has been exhibiting both nationally and internationally in solo exhibitions (Sweden) and in group exhibitions (Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, United States, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Australia). Her commissions for public and sacred spaces consist of stage curtains (2002) funeral palls (2000–2018) and sacred robes (2011–2017). In 2016, her licentiate dissertation I ritens rum – om mötet mellan tyg och människa (In a Room of rites – Cloth meeting human) was published. Her current research is a cross disciplinary research project where keywords are textile, rites and death. It is an artistic and clinical study at maternity wards about woven infant wrapping cloths for moments of loss and sorrow.


In A Room Of Rites – Cloth Meeting Human (2016)

Birgitta Nordström’s project In a Room of Rites – Cloth Meeting Human is an artistic research project on textiles, rites and death, which focuses on creating textile art in the form of a funeral pall in the work Kortedala Chronicle, and in the form of infant wrapping blankets in the work Wrapped in Cloth. The primal intention of the project has been to explore what textiles can mean in situations of loss and mourning, funeral rituals, as well as reflecting on the process-based experiences in relation to its art making. Funeral textiles in the form of funeral palls is an old tradition that has gained renewed relevance during the last decade.

Through Nordström’s work with funeral palls in recent years, ideas of new textiles within this context has gradually emerged. One of these being a wrapping cloth intended for children who were stillborn, or who died during childbirth, but also for miscarriages and aborted fetuses. It is through these notions the artist poses the question: What should a wrapping cloth of this kind look like, and how should it be woven? By weaving, and simultaneously reflecting on these questions, Nordström’s practical knowledge of textile art-making grows and develops in a context where an intertwining interaction takes place between human life and cloth. The exploration takes an inward direction towards an artistic act of doing, and takes a more outward direction by examining the textiles in their contexts – together with the people who use them – through an inquiry moving between material, room and action. The manufacturing of textiles through handweaving, collective making and industrial production also creates possibilities for reflecting on other aspects of doing.

Artistic processes and artworks are often described in greater depth, and in the form of a reflexive investigation in the first person, in order to present a background narrative to the artist’s experience. While reflecting, a discovery of wrapping and covering reveals to be two very central textile-related actions when someone deceases. When cloth meets human in the covering or wrapping of the dead, the meeting that comes into being is of an absolute nature – when a person dies, we cover their face. The cloth becomes a symbol of the separating process, as well as of the separating line or border. Wrapping can therefore be seen as an action of linking birth to death. We are born into textile material, into cloths – and leave, wrapped in cloths – whilst being accompanied by a gesture of an embracing nature. The following question will be how the wrapping cloths that came into being are experienced when put into practice.