In June 2019, Pauline Nijenhuis started the HAND@WORK project in line with her textile paintings. In her textile paintings Pauline Nijenhuis depicts 'speed' through a very labour-intensive and time-consuming technique (acrylic and embroidery by hand). This technique requires Pauline to slow down in every step of the process. Maybe unconsciously it’s her silent protest against the dizzying acceleration of our society?
This project is part of her continuous research that focuses on the central question of what the difference is between a work of art made by a human versus made by a machine. There is still appreciation for handicrafts in our time and in the future.
What strikes her as an artist is that a man-made object has a kind of "handwriting". Something belonging to the maker is reflected in the created object. And what does that add to a work of art? And how do we value machine embroidery? If technology takes over manual work, will it affect our aesthetics?
Five artists (including Pauline) and the embroidery machine TextileLab in Tilburg executed the same design. The participating artists, Marjolein Burbank, Tessa van Helden, Mique Menheere en Hinke Schreuders embroidered the design by hand. Writing about their experiences and thoughts in a log during the project made them more aware of what happened to them during the embroidery.
On September 11, 2019, the five artists met again in the TextielLab Tilburg to see how the embroidery machine executed the embroidery design at lightning speed. In the Textile Museum, the final results of all hand-embroidered works were revealed. First of all, these embroideries were stretched on a wooden painting frame and presented in such a way that the artists could not see which work belonged to them. This anonymity was necessary to answer one of the research questions "whether handwriting is recognizable in handmade work". Within five minutes each of the artists recognized their own work by her handwriting in the embroidery. And the machine's handwriting was clearly recognizable.
This experience of the artists and the process of programming the embroidery machine, were recorded on paper and finally published in book form under the title "Am I Visible" in 2020. The appreciation of the viewer and response of the audience (via multimedia applications, survey, lectures / presentations, exhibitions), also form a chapter.
In 2019-2020, Pauline organized a research project to compare human with robotic embroidery. For that project the exact same design was manually manufactured by five artists - Marjolein Burbank, Tessa van Helden, Mique Menheere, Hinke Schreuders and Pauline herself – and robotic manufactured by the embroidery machine of the TextielLab, Textielmuseum Tilburg. The central questions for the project were: What is the difference between manual and machine work? Can you recognize the creator in the creation? What does machine manufacturing add to a work of art? And how do we (then) appreciate machine embroidery?