Reading Response to Anni Albers: On Weaving

A quick but informative read! While this short reading mostly discussed the difference between the three main types of weave (plain, twill, and stain weave), it had a couple lines that I found interesting to consider.

“The plain weave, the most practical of all thread constructions, is at the same time also the one most conducive to aesthetic elaborations.”

This quote, especially, was of interesting, as I have been thinking a lot lately about my personal practice and how it is structured. I’ve found that my best work comes from projects in which I am able to build in limitations or parameters. Perhaps that is why I tend to gravitate towards less complex, analog methods of creation?

They also write that “Acceptance of limitations, as a framework rather than as a hindrance, is always proof of a productive mind.” I have found this to be unequivocally true, at least for me, though I haven’t ever been able to put it so…simply.

From a technical side, this reading was a good reminder to consider all or as many aspects of a project as possible before beginning. Especially things like: where or how will this be used? Does that change my material choices? Should it?

Workshop: Encoding Environments with Marantha Dawkins

What an interesting workshop! After spending a decent portion of a day watching Rhino tutorials, I was a bit apprehensive about having to utilize the program in the workshop that night. Fortunately, I was paired with Kate and Xinran, and the 3 of us were able to make our through the exercise.

After a couple trial runs of trying different pictures and seeing how the output changed, we decided to use our own faces as the imagery for this workshop. After increasing the contrast, Xinran layered all of our faces into one image. We then agreed that it might be interesting to focus on one area of the face; we chose the eye.

After creating new shapes for mapping purposes, we next played with the settings in Grasshopper in order to get an image that was interesting to us. After choosing an interesting image, we “baked” the file and then printed it on the plotter, which I had never seen in action before. It was cool to watch the lines we drew on screen be drawn with an actual pen by the plotter.

Much more interesting than watching paint dry, it still took a while for the plotter to be finished with our image. After stapling our image to what felt like an old drop ceiling tile (the ability of this material to compress slightly actually made the staples easier to remove when we were done, which was much appreciated), we stretched our fabric over the top and stapled it in place. We stretched it as tightly as possible, with one of us stapling while the other two helped hold the fabric taut.

Now, onto the hot gluing. I can’t remember the last time I used a hot glue gun, but this is certainly the first time I used it as part of a workshop that utilized modeling software. It was nice to make something physical with my hands! That was a thing I missed during the pandemic. We each started in our own section of the image and starting following our drawing, letting one shape dry before returning to add any overlapping shape that was needed. We thought this might help keep the glue lines cleaner. It didn’t take us too long to finish gluing, and I was certainly excited to see the results!

I am not sure what I was expecting to see when we loosened our fabric, but it was definitely weird looking! It was very interesting to see the effects certain types of lines created; our ‘parentheses’ gave the fabric a weird, cupped look where the glue followed the curves. Between that and the circles/donuts, it had a very alien, almost skin-like appearance to it, and it was awesome! I wondered out loud if there was a way to use these techniques and provide a tactile map that one could feel with their hands. Granted, the size that would need to be would be staggering, and the lines would need to be much more precise to be off use, but it was still cool to think of possibilities.

Admittedly a bit enamored with the results of this project, Annette gave me a couple extra pieces of fabric to experiment with at home. Feeling a bit stuck in my personal practice lately, I mind mapped/impulse wrote some words that have been at the forefront of my mind lately. I was merely curious what it would look like if the image was words instead of shapes/lines (though, what are letters but a bunch of lines?). It was fun to try a couple different line techniques and note the different results. I suspect I am not done experimenting with this yet, I am still thinking about that map idea…But need more glue sticks, first!

Reading Response – The Sympathy of Things by Lars Spuybroek

In this excerpt from The Sympathy of Things, Lars Spuybroek begins by talking about machinery, and how it was able to make the same exact thing, over and over, and how this turns its operators into a machine too: pressing the same button, or readying the same press, day in and day out. Conversely, digital machines are often sold on their ability to do different things, a distinction I hadn’t thought about prior to this reading. Indeed, a lot of my personal art practice revolves around tools like printing presses that were built or intended for easy reproduction (and thus, dissemination) of printed matter. But I often wonder how and where an increasingly digital world might fit into this practice.

Spuybroek writes about the inherent variation involved with nearly everything, even something as simple as writing the letter ‘a’ ten times. Despite our best efforts, every single one of these letters will be slightly different, even if the steps we took to write them were the same. I love this notion, the idea that even as a copy something maintains an originality. Worringer refers to this idea of an “infinite variety of expression”:

“If we trace a line in beautiful, flowing curves, our inner feelings unconsciously accompany the movements of our wrist. We feel with a certain pleasant sensation how the line as it were grows out of the spontaneous play of the wrist.”

There were some moments in this reading that took me a few passes to grasp, specifically where Spuybroek relates computer code to handwriting in how different parts of code must related and interact with others, much like letters interact with each other when written in a word. He notes, “A computer is not a machine that replaces hand-drawing or handicraft; it is handicraft taking place at the level of drawing and design, a way of positioning any possible motor schema inside production itself.” I definitely had not thought of code in this way before, but I think it has certainly shifted my view and understanding of it going forward!

Somewhat similarly, the idea that code communicates with things just as humans communicate with humans has helped me to better understand what code actually does: it is much more than a string of characters, and while it might be a ‘simple’ language, its outputs can be extremely complex. Spuybroek writes, “As all craft moves toward design, all labor must move toward robotics.” What an interesting idea!

The idea of climate change and temperature change as factories that take matter and output products (such as precipitation) was…well, fascinating and a view I hadn’t considered before now, as the term “factory” generally conjures up smokestacks and metal and industry. I love the phrase “uniformity amidst variation” that was used to describe snowflakes; it is concise and accurate.

I am holding onto the definition of ‘iteration’ as: inexact repetition. Yet another thing that I haven’t thought of in this way, despite using the term iteration/iterative to describe large portions of my own creative process. The description of William Morris’ wallpaper design techniques was quite enlightening too, and how our captivation comes from us knowing it is a pattern without being able to SEE the pattern, thanks to complex axes of symmetry. In other words, the tiling/repetition is disguised, in a way. “Keep the edges dashed!” His designs are a cooperation of the “mechanical” with the “organic.”

The reading talks about the trend towards using “honest” materials (read: natural) that leave traces of the process. Though this initially seems like a good idea, Spuybroek argues against it, stating: “the material and not the design takes responsibility for the sympathetic relationship, leading to a naturalism without grammar incapable of connecting the pattern to the form of the object.” It makes it feel more natural and sympathetic without actually making the design be sympathetic. I also enjoyed the idea that ornament is a form of tenderness because it serves no function and is “perfectly useless.”

I will continue to mull over this point for quite some time, if not forever: “Digital technology indisputably means a move away from uniformity toward variation; the only question remaining was how to design with variation.”

“Let us seek a way to send our postmodern tools back to premodern times.” YEA!

Why this class?

Why did I choose to take this class? An interesting question, as I surprised even myself by signing up for it. Having been described/complimented as ‘intentionally archaic,’ a class that incorporates new and interesting technology might seemingly be a bad fit for me! However, I believe this class may help me expand my horizons and get out of my comfort zone a bit, which was partly what I wanted to achieve while in graduate school.

Additionally, I have realized that technology doesn’t need to be at odds with the handcrafted, the tactile, and the traditional. Indeed, novel technologies might be useful as a way to augment those crafts that I hold so dear. I see the potential there, especially when it comes to printmaking and communication (which is definitely my preferred medium and passion).

As far as areas of possible research, I am hoping to fold this into some of my thesis work, which centers around memories, people, and places, and how this things shape us as we age, both consciously and subconsciously. At the heart of a lot of my work is a desire for connection through communication (read: shared emotions even without shared backgrounds), and I see a lot of potential for technology to help me elevate this. Additionally, one of the best parts for about printing is the concept of “every copy an original.” I’d like to explore and expand this idea to possibly include other mediums than print as well as to create a more ever-changing experience of a work of art/design.

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