Stitching and Weaving
in the Digital Age
Guillermo Bert, Windy Chien, Lia Cook,
Kira Dominguez Hultgren, James Lanahan, Clive McCarthy,
Casey Reas, LigoranoReese and Laura Splan.
October 11, 2018 - February 28, 2019
100 Edgewood, San Francisco
In 1801, French textile merchant Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the “jacquard machine”, a device fitted to power a loom that simplified the manufacture of textiles. Controlled by a chain of punched cards laced together in a continuous sequence, this new method revolutionized the textile industry. Little did Jacquard realize that his invention would become a national treasure nor that a century and a half later the punched card would be the inspiration for Babbage’s analytical engine, Hollerith’s tabulating machine and IBM’s first computer introduced in the 1940s and 1950s.
While the 1970s marked a social transformation worldwide, artists of that time naturally engaged in redefining their art practice. Like two forces moving in opposite directions (the hand versus the machine), artists created bodies of work that came to be known as Land Art, and Arts and Crafts at the same time as others explored High Tech and the early days of Computer Art.
This exhibition “Stitching and Weaving in the Digital Age” explores the many unexplored relationships between craft and technology and shows, through the work of a group of artists, how contemporary art practice has seamlessly embraced both. Many artists employing technology are wanting to strip away the “techy” aspect of their work and return to the “hands-on” approach and feel while weavers are fascinated by the idea of incorporating tech into their craft practice.
Innovation is the touchstone of tomorrow. Apple and Google will continue to bring us data solutions and new objects of desire. Emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, data collection embedded in threads and new production methods are currently being applied to the apparel industry while weaving and tapestry are making a strong come back as an art practice of the 21st century. Contemporary artists always continue to find ways to turn the technologies of the future back into art that subverts their intent.
It is fascinating to think that Jacquard created a punched wooden card capable of producing a repeated pattern in textile and that 150 years later it was a punched paper card that sparked the first computer. From craft to technology and back, these are all marvelous acts of imagination.