Monday, December 31, 2012


Iteration is now complete - Thank you to Orla in Ireland for co-ordinating the careful embroidery of this term.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Creative Commons and the Arts

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The Creative Commons within the Arts, round table discussion with Ele Carpenter (Embroidered Digital Commons), and Eileen Simpson & Ben White (Open Music Archive).

9 November | 5-7pm | Free to attend RVSP
Women’s Art Library
Women's Art Library/Make  Special Collections Reading Room,
Goldsmiths Library,
Goldsmiths University of London
New Cross, London, SE14 6AF 
A roundtable discussion about the creative commons and the arts based on the projects Open Music Archive, initiated by artists Ben White & Eileen Simpson and the Embroidered Digital Commons (2007-2013).

Ele Carpenter is a curator, artist and writer, and lecturer in the MFA Curating program at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She is the facilitator of the 'Embroidered Digital Commons' an internationally distributed embroidery of the text 'A Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons' written by the Raqs Media Collective (2003).

Eileen Simpson and Ben White work at the intersection of art, music and information networks, and seek to challenge conventional mechanisms for the authorship, ownership and distribution of culture. Their ongoing project Open Music Archive is an initiative to source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings and is a vehicle for collaborative projects exploring the material’s potential for reuse. Recent projects include include The Brilliant and the Dark at VBKÖ Vienna (2012) and The Women's Library London (2010), Song Division at Camden Arts Centre (2011), Struggle in Jerash at Gasworks London / Makan Amman (2010), Parallel Anthology at the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010), Free-to-air at ICA London (2008) and Cornerhouse Manchester (2007).

Interested in understanding and supporting feminist modes of production and circulation of artists’ practices that deal with issues around gender, this project marks the coming together of three important archives: the Women’s Art Library/Make, the Open Music Archive, and the AMIW Video Lounge. The programme combines a series of talks, workshops, round table discussions, and viewings hosted at Goldsmiths University of London over a three months period, and two music commissions to be premiered on the 16 November at Cafe OTO.

With: Miguel Bonneville, Genève Brossard, Ele Carpenter, Catarina Carneiro de Sousa, Hyun Jin Cho, Carla Cruz, Beatrice Dillon, Mónica Faria, Althea Greenan, Karen Gwyer, Mika Hayashi Ebbesen, Risk Hazekamp, Nina Hoechtl, Anna Jonsson, Alex Martinis Roe, Cristina Mateus, Susana Mendes Silva, Sameiro Oliveira Martins, Lara Perry, Rita Rainho, Flávio Rodrigues, Eileen Simpson, Evelin Stermitz, Francesco Ventrella, Lenka Vráblíková, Ben White.

Exploring the different forms of distribution, promotion, and preservation performed by these archives that were once living networks, All My Independent Women 2012 searches for new modes of accountability and circulation within the arts that are based on dialogue with a potential for re-invention.


At Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths University of London

27 September – 14 December | AMIW Video Lounge | Collection of video art by feminist artists belonging to All My Independent Women’s network

28 September 5-7pm | Practicing Sexual Difference | Workshop by Alex Martinis Roe

10 October 5-7pm | Archival Materials, Practices, Politics and Poetics | Workshop by Hyun Jin Cho and Nina Hoechtl

2 November 5-7pm | Feminist Curatorial Practices | Talk by Lara Perry and Francesco Ventrella

9 November 5-7pm | The Creative Commons within the Arts | Round table discussion with Ele Carpenter (Embroider Digital Commons), and Eileen Simpson & Ben White (Open Music Archive)

5 December 5-7pm | Re-engaging Archived Art Practices | Guided exploration of the Women’s Art Library and the Women’s Revolutions Per Minute archives by Althea Greenan and Mika Hayashi Ebbesen

Women’s Art Library/Make
Goldsmiths University of London
Special Collections Reading Room – Rutherford Building (Library)
New Cross, London, SE14 6AF
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm (Wednesdays until 7pm)

Cafe OTO
16 November 8pm | The Brilliant and the Dark – B Side Samples for Remix | An Open Music Archive Project | Performances by Karen Gwyer, Beatrice Dillon, and the Open Music Archive
Cafe OTO, 18 - 22 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL
Advance tickets available via

More information can be found at

All My Independent Women 2012 is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Completing the Embroidered Digital Commons

After four years of over 1,000 people stitching approx 4,500 words The Embroidered Digital Commons is nearly complete! We started with 'Yarn' in 2008, and it looks as if the whole text will be completed by the end of 2013.

Each of the 26 terms of the 'Concise Lexicon of/for The Digital Commons' are being sewn by different groups and networks around the world. We now we have the task of digitising the project, taking photographs of the embroideries and designing a website for the whole work.

However many of the terms have one or two phrases which need to be embroidered to complete the paragraph. And there are still 3 terms which have not yet been claimed: Bandwidth, Data, and Orbit.

Please contact Ele through this blog if you would like to stitch a single patch to help complete a term for the lexicon, or if you would like to run a workshop or co-ordinate one of the remaining terms.

If you are interested in exhibiting part or a whole of the 'Embroidered Digital Commons' different configurations of digital films and physical embroideries can be tailored to specific architecture. The physical work will be an installation of fabric and digital image-text. There will be 26 short films, and a high resolution film of the whole lexicon. Each term carries its own metaphors and has developed it's own distinct style. This is reflected in the way that the textiles are being constructed in many different formats: framed as a collection of objects to be gifted, appliqued to a door curtain to provide access, pinned to a wall forming a rescension of a text, orbiting a space, or beautifully completed as a quotidian patchwork quilt.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The exhibition of the completed terms Access, Code and Kernal went on display at Access Space in Sheffield on July 6th, and can be seen there until the end of the month. What surprised me was the different character of each term. The Access patches were stitched onto a curtain which either allows or prevents access to a space, by Abi Nielsen. Whilst the Access Space group pinned their patches onto a long stretch of black fabric, looking more like temporary flags in a public space than a permanent fixture. On the right, the Code quilt stitched at Bletchley Park hangs in formal splendour.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Ubiquity in Barcelona

Today I’m at the FadFest ‘Open Design / Shared Creativity’ Conference at the CCCB in Barcelona. And it’s great to be back in such a hot and energetic city, despite a 7 hour delay to my flight! A couple of years ago I came to give a paper at the CCCB which has since been published in the ‘Textile Reader’ (ed J. Hemmings). I discussed the ‘Embroidered Digital Commons’ in my paper, but we never got round to running a workshop. So when FadFest invited me to this conference it seemed the perfect opportunity to add Barcelona to the international ‘Embroidered Digital Commons’ network. During the next 2 days conference participants, with help from students at the BAU School of Design are invited to stitch the term ‘Ubiquity’as follows:

"Ubiquity:  Everywhere-ness. The capacity to be in more than one site. The simple fact of heterogeneous situation, a feature of the way in which clusters of memes, packets of data, orbit and remain extant in several nodal points within a system. The propensity of a meme towards ubiquity increases with every iteration, for once spoken, it always already exists again and elsewhere. It begins to exist and be active in the person spoken to, as well as in the speaker. Stories, and the kernels of ideas travel in this way. A rescension, when in orbit, crosses the paths of its variants. The zone where two orbits intersect is usually the site of an active transaction and transfer of meanings. Each rescension, carries into its own trajectory memes from its companion. In this way, through the encounters between rescensions, ideas spread, travel and tend towards ubiquity. That which is everywhere is difficult to censor, that which is everywhere has no lack of allies. To be ubiquitous is to be present and dispersed in 'no-des'. Sometimes, ubiquity is the only effective answer to censorship and isolation." (Raqs Media Collective, 2003).

Here's a picture of me with Sara and Isobel who co-ordinated the embroidery of Ubiquity throughout the conference.
Interestingly, the term ‘ubiquity’ has a high frequency of other terms from the Lexicon such as ‘data’, ‘heterogeneous’, ‘iteration’, ‘meme’, ‘orbit’, ‘rescension’, ‘site’, and ‘zone’. But it is the term ‘rescension’ which causes the most confusion because it’s not a commonly used word, and it doesn’t seem to appear in many dictionaries. However, when I facilitated a workshop at the Digital Humanities Conference in 2010, many academics explained their understanding of the term to me. A ‘rescension’ is a version or an iteration of a text or code script that can continually change, evolve or be updated. This results in the provisional nature of the ‘original’ challenging traditional forms of linear knowledge and history. For example, the academic researcher gives up the quest for the ‘true’ document, and gathers together the various rescensions to compare and contrast their different ideas and positions. In this way knowledge is formed not by knowing a so-called ‘truth’, but by understanding the relationship between different ideas and approaches.  Here knowledge becomes a form of enquiry and questioning about the nature of something, rather than an exercise in rote-learning or a search for a singular idea of truth.

In the context of curating contemporary visual art, there are many ways in which ideas and concepts can be explored visually, aurally and textually. The role of the curator is not simply to mix and match texts with artworks, but to map objects and ideas that can be reconfigured in a number of different constellations. In this way objects are not simply positioned in a space, but bring a network of histories and future possibilities to the discussion. An artwork could be described as one rescension of an approach to ideas and materials, so to understand an artists’ practice it’s necessary to view the different rescensions of their work. From a different perspective, we can only understand rescensions of ideas at large if we include a range of works by different artists. In both scenarios, the contextual and material processes involved in the work are part of the object of study.

I’ve just got back from Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, where the politics of objects and materials seemed to flow poetically through the exhibitions. Here ceramics, computing, drawing, film, plants, sculpture, textiles, and electronics all came into play, and the distinctions between art, craft, design and new media finally seem redundant as categories for art. One exhibition that I found pertinent and beautiful was by Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramer’s. The artists reconfigured a series of objects throughout a number of rooms in the North side of the Railway Station. Here a metal bar propped against the wall in the first room became a perpendicular sculpture in another room, standing proud as any Giacometti. But a floor or two up, the bar formed a barrier to the viewer, dividing the room in two. A simple gesture, but one that explores the aesthetics of rescension perfectly. The metal bar along with it’s companion photographs and ceramic bottles existed in several places at once, increasing in familiarity as you climbed the floors of the building, rediscovering them at every turn; checking to see if the images in the room were the same or slightly different to the room below. The colour of the petite ceramics repeating through different shapes from the room before. Partly proving that objects as well as ideas are everywhere, ubiquitous even, you just have to be looking for them.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Embroidered Meme at Flossie

The embroidery of the Digital Commons continues through a mixture of localised and international networks enticing stitching novices and experts some of whom are programmers, mathematicians, hackers and tinkerers.

The embroidery of the term 'Meme' from the Embroidered Digital Commons was initially taken up by Unruly Media then continued at Furtherfield Gallery in Finsbury Park as part of the 'Being Social' exhibition. Here the project culminated in a  MzTEK soft-circuitry workshop where women learned how to create an electrical circuit using conductive thread, switches and L.E.D's. See the photos on Flickr here, and on the MzTEK pages on Facebook. There's also an Embroidered Digital Commons Group on Facebook. But the stitching of Meme will continue...

The text is about half-way complete, so we are very excited to be invited to take part in the Flossie 2012 conference at Queen Mary University on May 25-26th, where people can contribute their stitches and switches to the embroidery of 'Meme'.

Flossie is a network of women interested in Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). It's an independent network of women practitioners that has its roots in social change movements as well as arts, technology and academia. Whether you code, tinker or want to explore alternatives to ‘big-tech’ corporations, all women are welcome to this conference.  The 2 day conference is free / donations but you need to book your place at eventbrite.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Band of Stitchers?

Right out of the blue, a fantastic woman called Orla in Ireland has got in touch to co-ordinate the stitching of a term as part of the Embroidered Digital Commons. She runs a very helpful textile blog, which functions as a kind of textile directory for Ireland,

Her emails are so inspiring - I've got her permission to post some excerpts here. She writes:

"I like the term Iteration. ..."Iteration implies a willingness to say something, and access to the means of saying it, and a time in which it can be said...."
I live in rural Ireland, where transport, dodgy roads and wild weather (and kids!) constantly hamper my ability to physically meet up for stitching sessions. My friends still laugh at the fact I have become a geek, through my love of stitching! I now am online more, and more involved in the community of virtual stitchers.The stitchers I have asked to take part are all women I came across virtually first, and then became friends physically, although we still talk more virtually. The virtual world means an awful lot to us now! I think Iteration suits us because we all had a willingness to talk about our craft, and through the internet, finally had access to a means of saying it. If this term is still available, I'd love to organise stitching it."

Now - here's the question for us all! What is the collective noun for a group of stitchers?
Orla writes:

"I was about to put something up on my Facebook page, to arrange a provisional meet-up,  and I wanted to say I was looking for volunteer stitchers, a group of stitchers. And I realised I don't know any modern term for a group of stitchers. We have so many new stitch related terms such as yarn bombing, guerrilla knitters, radical cross stitch, craftivists, etc... all seemingly war/fight/drug/underground movement related, yet no real new funky 'collective noun'. So, we're now trying to come up with one. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Then we are going to put it to a vote, start using the winning term, and see if it gets added to the new lexicon of stitch related terms. A social experiment in itself!"

This is a great challenge, and I'd like to add 'cake-related' to the list of appropriated aggressive terms for popular forms of public craft. I know 'cake' isn't actively aggressive, but it is actively disempowering. Surely women want more than knitted cake!

But Orla signs off her email "Looking forward to getting my band of stitchers together." 
And I think she might have it right there....

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Embroidering the Digital Commons in support of a free Internet

So why exactly are we inviting people to use a grey and black colour scheme for the embroidery of the term meme?

Well, the Embroidered Digital Commons supports the idea that the Internet is a common resource that should be freely available and accessible. Within this common space, traditional notions of ownership and copyright are problematic. The internet is based on sharing through networks by linking and copying. For example I've just copied this screengrab of the Wikipedia blackout from the Huffington Post, potentially breaching copyright twice! I could have taken my own screengrab on the day - but I forgot. But it doesn't matter because thousands of other people did, and wikipedia is all about making information available. This is how memes exist. The great thing about the Internet is I can find these images in seconds, and repost what I need to illustrate my point. But what if I couldn't? What if my blog was removed without consultation for breaching copyright?

Traditional business models have relied on copyright to protect their profits, and they are fearful of the erosion of the principle of copyright. They are so fearful,  their extreme legislation to try and protect others from profiting from their material is in danger of destroying the Internet as we know it today. In the US these laws are called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). Clay Shirky explains the problem.

The image above is what you might have seen if you had looked at Wikipedia on  January 18th 2012, the day that many websites went dark. This black-out was a global protest against SOPA and PIPA. See GrrlScientist for an excellent summary of the day and the argument, and good links to all the relevant info.

So in support of keeping the Internet Free and to keep the meme of the Digital Commons alive, embroiderers are invited to stitch grey on black.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Embroidering 'Meme' Workshop Schedule

Being Social
25 February - 28 April 2012

Furtherfield Gallery
McKenzie Pavilion
Finsbury Park

Saturdays 12 - 3pm

On Saturday Afternoons throughout March and April, Emilie Giles and I will be running workshops to stitch the term 'Meme' as part of the Embroidered Digital Commons. All materials will be provided along with tea, coffee and biscuits. To book a place please contact Alessandra Scapin ( +44 (0) 208 8022827) or just turn up on the day and see if there's a free chair at the table. The gallery is near the children's play area in the center of the park, and so you're welcome to sew outside if you prefer.

A cultural ‘meme’ is the way in which an idea spreads; so if you are a crafter, computer programmer, artist, blogger, maker, or just interested in cultural memes and social networks then you are invited to come along and find out more about the project. The embroidery of 'meme' will include a series of grey on black embroideries in support of the protest against the highly restrictive SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy laws. So if you feel strongly about digital rights and electronic freedoms black fabric and grey thread will be provided.

Saturday Workshops at Furtherfield:
3rd March
Facilitated by Ele Carpenter and Emilie Giles with Special Meme Guest: Holly Clarke. Holly is Group Head of UK Operations at Unruly, and has managed over 450 social video campaigns since starting with the company 3 years ago. She is constantly researching new web culture, netiquette and applying this to memetic theory and considers herself 'from the internet'.

10th March
Facilitated by Emilie Giles with Special Guests: Unwooly Knitting and Crafters Circle

17th March
Facilitated by Emilie Giles with Special Guests: Unwooly Knitting and Crafters Circle.

24th March
Facilitated by Ruth Catlow and Ale Scapin from Furtherfield

31st March
Facilitated by Ele Carpenter with Special Dorkbot guests!

7th April: CLOSED For Easter

14th April
Facilitated by Ruth Catlow and Ale Scapin from Furtherfield

21st April
Facilitated by Ele Carpenter with Mystery Guests!

28th April
Facilitated by Ele Carpenter and Emile Giles, with  Special Guest Sophie McDonald. Sophie and Emilie will be running a MzTEK workshop for women to embellish their meme embroidery with electronic features.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Embroidered Digital Commons: Meme

A good idea is a live meme, it is infectious and keeps recurring. So it seems highly appropriate that the term 'Meme' should be stitched at the Being Social exhibition the new Furtherfield Gallery in London, February - April 2012.

Back in 2008 Furtherfield presented the 'Open Source Embroidery Craft + Code' exhibition in their old HTTP Gallery. The exhibition included the finished Html Patchwork (complete with a patch embroidered by Furtherfield), but we didn't run any new workshops to bring people together to discuss ideas and make a new work. Since then, the Embroidered Digital Commons has grown into an international distributed embroidery, and it seems the right time for Furtherfield to get involved. So it is in the spirit of reaffirming old networks and new establishing new dialogues, that the term 'Meme' from the Embroidered Digital Commons will be stitched in the new space.

This Spring I'll be working with Emilie Giles and her Unwooly craft group to take turns in hosting the workshops, and we'll be inviting special Meme guests to come along to some of the workshops and discuss their approach to memes and the digital commons (details to follow). We're also very excited to be working with MzTEK to run a workshop for women to learn electronics to add additional features to their embroidery (details to follow).

We're inviting crafters, artists, computer programmers, dog-walkers and pram-pushers to come along to the Saturday Morning Workshops throughout the exhibition to find out more about the project and contribute to the term 'meme' below:

"Meme: The life form of ideas. A bad idea is a dead meme. The transience as well as the spread of ideas can be attributed to the fact that they replicate, reproduce and proliferate at high speed. Ideas, in their infectious state, are memes. Memes may be likened to those images, thoughts and ways of doing or understanding things that attach themselves, like viruses, to events, memories and experiences, often without their host or vehicle being fully aware of the fact that they are providing a location and transport to a meme. The ideas that can survive and be fertile on the harshest terrain tend to do so, because they are ready to allow for replicas of themselves, or permit frequent and far-reaching borrowals of their elements in combination with material taken from other memes. If sufficient new memes enter a system of signs, they can radically alter what is being signified. Cities are both breeding grounds and terminal wards for memes. To be a meme is a condition that every work with images and sounds could aspire towards, if it wanted to be infectious, and travel. Dispersal and infection are the key to the survival of any idea. A work with images, sounds and texts, needs to be portable and vulnerable, not static and immune, in order to be alive. It must be easy to take apart and assemble, it must be easy to translate, but difficult to paraphrase, and easy to gift. A dead meme is a bad idea."
(Raqs Media Collective, 2003).