an artistic research project funded by FWF – PEEK, hosted by the University of Applied Arts Vienna.
project duration: May 2014 – October 2016
project website: www.stitchingworlds.net
Stitching Worlds connects the shared artistic research territory between arts, design, open culture, digital fabrication, information technology and electronics to the engineering and scientific methodologies of textile technology.
The project investigates textile technology as a controversial means for digital fabrication, particularly of the electronic object, based on two premises explored in former artistic research. Patterns in knitting, weaving and embroidery are essentially equivalent to digital codes in rapid manufacturing. Since patterns can be saved, copied, and distributed, textiles can be manifested in their physical form at different times and places, over and over again. Moreover, with the advent of electronically conductive fibres, it might be possible to adapt the use of textile machinery to translate patterns into electronic functions. Altered processes and materials can be used to produce electronic components such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, and eventually complete electronic appliances.
Distinct from projects that combine textiles and electronics from technological and fashion design perspectives, we place Stitching Worlds within the laboratories of experimental design. In doing so, we open the field for artistic inquiry that is not limited to technological research but reflects on broader implications of such research on values and practices in culture. The project decisively questions whether ‘what’ we make is really more important than ‘how’ we make things. Instead of introducing new products that meet new buyers, we collaboratively explore new production procedures that call for new makers.
What if electronics emerged from knitting, weaving and embroidery? How would technology be different if craftspeople were the catalyst to the electronics industry, via textiles manufacturing?
The project is carried out in four parallel tracks of investigation simultaneously and in interaction with one another. (1) ‘Experimentation’ is a technological research track in collaboration with textile technology and electronics experts into possibilities of knitting, weaving and embroidering passive electronic components. (2) ‘Theoretical study’ gains richer insights into the transdisciplinary topics of the speculations and counterfactual thinking with experts of economy, technology, politics and materials science and feeds the other research tracks with the necessary theoretical awareness (3) ‘Speculation’ is an aesthetic investigation into prototyping objects and installations, discovering new forms of artistic expression that manifest the research in embodied and provocative ways. Finally, (4) ‘Reflection and Dissemination’ is targeted at enhancing our understanding of our own practice within a larger field of contemporary mode of artistic production.
Stitching Worlds is designed to trigger the creation of ‘tactual tales’ made of textiles. Objects and installations will expose narratives from plausible-fictive worlds and counterfactual futures in which the worlds of fabrics and electronics are combined in novel ways. The outcome of this artistic research project will be exposed to larger critical audience through an exhibition and a publication.