Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Running in Stitches

This week I've been experimenting with Hamilton, Southern and St Amand's Running Stitch Artwork in the OSE exhibition. On Monday I accompanied the Jury for the EU City of Culture on their journey from the Norrlands Operan to BildMuseet. Camille stitched our route as we drove. Although the experience gave the Jury party a glimpse of GPS as a creative tool, rather than simply a road map, I did feel that we were cheating by mapping a road already mapped by town planners and cartographers, rather than creating our own path. So the image above is my path from my apartment, via the recycling and under the main road to the opera. The maps are taken from the landlines website. Type 'Umeå' in the 'User Search' then click on 'Umeå 3' to view the walks carried out from the Open Source Embroidery exhibition at BildMuseet.

On Tuesday Magnus, Jon and I took the GPS on a drawing excercise to create an interesting line between BildMuseet and HUMlab. After careful study of the edges of the Running Stitch canvas we set of on our bikes in the glorious sunshine. I felt more like the Famous Five than the 'Tour Guide' of the previous day, and we skidded around in football pitches and sports grounds until we realised that some careful planning was required. On arriving at the carpark outside HUMlab we planned an 'H' grid and paced out the shape over several metres. Okay - it's sideways - but you get the idea!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hacker Attitude

Last night the smoking electricity adapter for my Mac finally sparked it's last dangerous flash of light, never to work again. Leaving me without radio, email, internet, and skype. So I looked on Instructables for a DIY solution to fix the power cable.

After some bemusement in the lab, I borrowed a sharp knife and Miss Balthazar's Laboratory soldering iron and got to work. Here are the results. Magnus had the perfect solution of using a knife to cut through the plastic seams. Several cuts on each side, and a few round the corners broke the case without the need for hammers and saws.

I stripped the wire beautifully and did a bad soldering job. Then I had to buy some electrical tape and finish the job at home. I used a pair of tweezers to carefully wrap the wires and keep them firmly apart. Nail scissors were also handy for cutting thin strips of tape.

I haven't shut the case yet - I'm just testing - and it works...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Social Fabric

I'm back in Umeå working at HUMlab and the BildMuseet to make all the arrangements for the OSE exhibition to travel to the Musuem of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. It's wonderful to situate the project in the tradition of folk culture, blurring distinctions between professional and amatuer, art and craft, participation and collaboration. In the world of folk and folksonomy we can talk about use-value from a different perspective.

Travis Meinolf is an Action Weaver and will be inviting people to make their own weaving during the exhibition. Here you can see his process of constructing a loom:

You might wonder what weaving has to do with Open Source Embroidery... Well, weaving as Travis demonstrates, can be learned and practised by anyone at any level. The process of making a loom can't be copyrighted or owned. There's also the connection between the Jaquard Loom and binary punch-card programming, as discussed earlier in this blog. Interestingly it was these punch cards which were kept under lock and key to prevent copying. On another note, Sadie Plant’s book ‘Zeros and Ones’ 1997, traces a lyrical story of technology and weaving the communications web that we now work within:

“Media has become interactive and hyperactive, the multiplicitous components of an immersive zone which does not begin with writing; it is directly related to the weaving of elaborate figured silks. The yarn is neither metaphorical nor literal, but quite simply material, a gathering of threads which twist and turn through the history of computing, technology, the sciences and the arts.”
Plant, Sadie (1997) p12.

I've just spent a luxurious weekend reading 'Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron's Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer', Narrated and Edited by Betty Alexandra Toole. Ada describes the concept of 'poetical science' which is attributed to the influence of her father Lord combined with the mathematical teachings of her mother Lady Lovelace. Toole describes Ada's years looking after her children and teaching as developing "the ability to use and integrate a variety of skills such as digital skills such as objectivity, observation and experimentation, with analogue skills such as imagination, visualisation and the use of metaphor."(Toole, 1992, p93).

It is this integrated approach to learning and technology that the Open Source Embroidery project humbly hopes to explore.