Fabrics in Motion: Mediality and Materiality of Textiles in Early 20th Century Film and Media Culture

Bianka-Isabell Scharmann's picture
May 31, 2022 to June 2, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Digital Humanities, Film and Film History, Theatre & Performance History / Studies

The waving seam of a skirt, floating veils, a jittering sail in the wind: Especially early films displayed moving fabrics as spectacles of their own right. A film screening could thus become a sort of object lesson in textile movement and materiality – for instance, when films made visible (by the use of slow motion) that silk chiffon moves differently from coarsely woven cotton; and the hairs of a fur collar, when moved by a breeze, seemed to emerge from the screen almost haptically.

The conference aims to discuss moving textiles in film and media culture of the early 20th century and to investigate their medial and aesthetic as well as their material, social and economic constellations. The premise of the conference is that within the media networks of the late 19th and early 20th century fabrics were experienced in new and unprecedented ways as «being in motion». These new modes of experiencing textiles concerned not only trends in then modern fashion (e.g. the tendency towards more dynamic cutting patterns or the increasing processing of light-flowing materials), but more importantly media and artistic representations ostentatiously exposing the movement of fabrics.

With putting the emphasis on «moving fabrics», we consciously and programmatically choose a perspective that runs transversally to categories like «costume», «clothing» or «fashion». On the one hand, this approach allows to address not only the symbolic and social regime of clothing, but also the sensual qualities of textiles and to look at the relations between dress and other «moving fabrics» within the mise-en-scène and the image composition. On the other hand, we would like to invite reflection on moving materials in films as part of a larger visual and movement culture in the early 20th century. How do cinema’s moving fabrics relate to Art Nouveau’s recurrent depictions of female figures surrounded by fluttering veils; to the undulant costumes of serpentine dancers like Loïe Fuller; to the dresses of early fashion photography that were puffed up by the wind; or to the naturalistic and impressionistic motifs of flagging sails or clotheslines?



Registration: fabrics-in-motion@uni-koeln.de

Website: https://mekuwi.phil-fak.uni-koeln.de/fabrics-in-motion


The conference is supported by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.
 Conference languages are German and English.




Conference Program


Tuesday, 31.05.2022
 Filmclub 813 e.V., Hahnenstraße 6, 50667 Köln

20:00   Welcome: Kristina Köhler

Mila Ganeva (Ohio, USA):
 Fashion on the Move: The Travel Outfits of the Stars in Silent Cinema

Chair: Bianka-Isabell Scharmann

Followed by Film ProgramFabrics in Motion“ 

Piano: Oliver Richters
 Introduction: Pia Bornus


Please register in advance: fabrics-in-motion@uni-koeln.de.



Wednesday, 01.06.2022
 Alter Senatssaal, Hauptgebäude Universität zu Köln


09:00   Registration


09:15   Address of Welcome by Kristina Köhler, Pia Bornus, and Bianka-Isabell Scharmann
 Kristina Köhler (Köln):
 How it Moves. Experiencing Textiles in Early 20th Century Visual Culture


09:45                          Kerstin Fooken (Hamburg):
 ‘Queering’ Gender and the Nation. Modern Girls as Mobile Bodies in Japanese Silent Cinema

Chair: Sona Petrossian


10:30 Coffee Break

11:00                            Gundula Wolter (Berlin):
 Mode im Wind. Über zufällige, imaginierte und künstlich erzeugte Kleidermetamorphosen in Bildern der Mode

11:45                           Susanne Wittekind (Köln):

Wie flatternde Hemden im Wind. Gustave Caillebottes Blick auf die Republik


Chair: Sophie-Luise Mävers


12:30 Lunch Break


14:00                           Jelena Rakin (Zürich):

Color Spectres. Phantom Fabrics in the Painted Films of the Silent Era


14:45                          Priska Morrissey (Rennes):

The Spectacle of Costumes in Motion in the Films of Georges Méliès.
 An Aesthetics of Unveiling


Chair: Dennis Göttel 


15:30 Coffee Break

16:00                           Bianka-Isabell Scharmann (Köln / Amsterdam): 

Incorporating the Turntable. A Promise of Multi-Perspectivity


16:45                         Evelyn Echle (Pforzheim):

Moving Lines. Elsa Schiaparelli Between Fashion, Cinema and Art


Chair: Kristina Köhler



Thursday, 02.06.2022
 Alter Senatssaal, Hauptgebäude Universität zu Köln


10:00                          Marie-Aude Baronian (Amsterdam): 

Unpacking the Wardrobe, Imagining Costumes


10:45                          Eike Wittrock (Graz):

The Theatrical History of the Feather. Chapter 4: 
 Feathers and Dance (Photography)


11:30                           Peter W. Marx (Köln):

Theatrical Textiles. Performance, Props, and Imagination


Chair: Pia Bornus


12:15   Lunch Break 

13:15                          Stéphanie Chessel (Utrecht):

Cinema and Fashion. Dressing up in the Costume of Art. (French 

Fashion Presentations in Newsreels Between 1909 and 1914)


14:00                          Workshop Talk 

Elizabeth Castaldo Lundén (Stockholm):

What Was Your Question? Deciphering How the Digital Humanities 

Can Aid to the Study of Fashion


Chair: Bianka-Isabell Scharmann  

 15:00 End of the Conference

Contact Info: 

Bianka-Isabell Scharmann, MA

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Lehrstuhl für
Kunst- und Mediengeschichte der Bildmedien

Universität zu Köln
Institut für Medienkultur und Theater
Meister-Ekkehart-Str. 11, 50937 Köln
Kunsthistorisches Institut
Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Köln