Thursday, April 28, 2011

Embroidery Ensemble

Café Crema
306 New Cross Road. London SE14 6AF
Nearest tube/train: New Cross or New Cross Gate

Sunday 22nd May, 2-4pm
Sunday 29th May, 2-4pm
Sunday 5th June, 2-4pm

Calling all stitchers, hackers, programmers, embroiderers, patchworkers, coffee drinkers, steampunks, artists, crafters, makers and tinkerers….

You are warmly invited to gather at Café Crema to stitch the term 'ensemble' as part of the Embroidered Digital Commons.

We will be close reading and embroidering the following text from ‘A Concise Lexicon of / for the Digital Commons’:

"Ensemble: The conceit or delight in togetherness in an increasingly anomic, fragmented world. Playing or working together to create finished or unfinished works. Chamber musicians, criminals, code-hackers and documentarists form ensembles. Artists try to. Effective ensembles are high bandwidth assemblies that build into their own architecture portals for random access into themselves. They are, when they are at their best, open systems that place a premium on shared information within them. They can at times maintain high levels of secrecy while seemingly appearing to be transparent. Here, confidentiality is an index of practices in gestation. Mined data is, sometimes, restored to natural states of information entropy in data dissembling ensembles, which have been found to work best at night in media labs. The Raqs Media Collective is an ensemble and everything it does is an ensemble of existing or anticipated practices."
(Raqs Media Collective, 2003)

This project is supported by The Co operative Community Fund.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stitching Nodes in Belgrade

Last week I was invited to the Women Writers in History Conference in Belgrade. It was a brilliant opportunity to meet women academics from across Europe who are researching womens writing, and compiling an important archive. I gave a paper about Ada Lovelace and the significance of her Notes to the understanding of the Analytical Engine; as well as discussing the contemporary problems of craft and embroidery within feminist discourse. I retitled my rant on 'why I hate knitted cake' as 'Let them Knit Cake'.... (the paper will soon be online). I was only sorry that the one woman who left the conference in disgust at the embroidery, didn't stay to hear my talk. But her action reminded me that embroidery is a very sensitive and divisive political issue. But the subject of our embroidery is not just embroidery itself - but the concept of the digital commons.

Throughout the conference people started to embroider the text of the term 'Nodes' from the Raqs Media Collective's (RMC) 'A Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons' 2003. This expanded definition of 'Nodes' allows for an interrogation of the relationship between identity and place, national territory and cultural identity, which was particularly pertinent to read whilst in Belgrade, a city which asserts its Serbian nationalism at every turn. However, every aspect of Serbain culture is a well-balanced fusion of the Ottomon and Austro-Hungarian Empires, including food, architecture, music, and language. For example a plate of cakes is offered with the explanation: these are the Austrian cakes, and these are the Turkish cakes. Language: this is cyrillic script, and this is from the latin script.

The designation of nodes in a network as people or places is problematic in terms of complex identities, where people are not singularly from, or representative of, one place. So the exploration of ‘no-des’ is a more useful concept in which identity exists between nodes, rather that at a specific node. In this instance we can think of nodes as ideas connected by vectors of thought.

Whilst RMC discuss no-des within an Indian-Hindi context, we can also use these ideas to reflect on the Serbian context on the cross-roads between east and west.

Aleksandra Vranes clearly argued in her Keynote that although there are nationalistic claims on high culture , popular, folk or 'common' culture evolves from a more complex multi-cultural identity. In my conversations with the conference participants, none of us seems to have a singularly located identity. So, ‘Des’ as “homeland or native place” is problematically claimed. ‘No’des’ is not simply a place of no designation, but a positive way of being in the world, where ideas circulate and culture evolves. As RMC write:

“No-des is that site or way of being, in ‘des’ or in ‘par-des’, where territory and anxieties about belonging, don’t go hand in hand. Nodes in a digital domain are No-des.”

The Women Writers Conference will continue to stitch and discuss 'No-des' at Chawton House in England, November 2011.

I was completely overwhelmed by the kindness and generousity of Dr Biljana Dojčinović and her team at the University of Belgrade. Everyone worked effortlessly to ensure that we had the best possible experience of Belgrade, and to make the embroidery a success. Biljana even donated her mother's embroidery threads to the project, and had the beautiful fabric cut by a professional tailor caled Jasmina Panic Samsara: . Thank you to all the student volunteers who helped run the embroidery table.