2018 – ongoing: craft and electronics research, movement and sound data capture
“You’re welcome, that’s what I know” and then you fell silent. That sunny day in your living room, I could hear my thoughts. You’d helped me so much. I felt like I owed you something. I was still wondering what I should do, for you. But you had moved on, and now you broke the awkward silence, very gently. You began to talk to me about crochet — häkeln — something else you’d learned growing up. You love crochet: you are passionate about crochet, you’re telling me this, while I’m still thinking ‘what do you want?’
[ Palpating the silences between us …watching you pull the yarn]
It begins with the slipknot, nice and loose so that it moves along the yarn. Gliding smoothly along; that’s how it starts. And then keep pulling through the knot, making sure you have just the right tension between the yarn and the index finger — the right tension, that’s the key, and then it will flow: that’s what you were explaining to me. The knot and the tension, and the magical ability to undo itself, to unravel everything back to the beginning. That’s the wonder of crochet.”
The Crochet resistance Suit
Koba Exhibition, 2019
Goldsmiths University, 2020
Tales of Fabrication
Tate Exchange (2019)
Goldsmiths University of London (2019)
Tai Kwun Art Centre, Hong Kong (2019)
The Crochet Resistance Suit was initially inspired by ancient chainmail suits of armor. This armor instead of being metallic and cold, would be made of crochet, soft and pliable : the Crochet Resistance Suit is a costume for a soft, slow-burning resistance.
It began in my friend’s living room. She helped me settle in Berlin, I wanted to help her do what she loved instead of juggling multiple jobs in the gig economy. I made a contract, the loosest contract possible: the suit would be made piece by piece, bit by bit, depending on available resources, time and remuneration. The majority of the piece’s design would be the repetition of the simplest crochet knot. On the edges of each piece, the margin would be a place of improvisation where the stitch could be altered, experimented with.
The Crochet Resistance Suit would be supported by cultural funding. The funding would allow for passionate work to be done; from the very beginning, process was prioritized.
After the early stage my friend couldn’t continue with the work. That’s when a happy coincidence found me in the KOBA electronics shop run by Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson of Kobakant Collective. Their opensource crafting project is called ‘How to Get What you Want.’ (basically you have to learn to do it and they teach you how… this is their hacker’s ethos)
Later ‘crochet meisterin’ Mariam Arid joined the project and shared her experience of the physiological effects of fabrication in an interview (see below). This was shown at TATE Exchange, London (2019).
With Kobakant involved, now the Crochet Resistance Suit became a suit of electronic armour made of conductive yarn and embedded with sensors (did I really want this?…). It was developing a life of its own, and mutated from armor, to membrane, no longer designed around a human form, it became amorphous, ornate, unpredictable and untethered from any one of our own wishes. The electronics of the suit register micro-movements, instances of trembling and quivering, as the soft crochet network shifts over the topography of the wearer’s skin. And then it sounds this delicate relation as a music composition.
In the words of Margaret and Christine Wertheim, initiators of the Crochet Coral Reef art project reflecting on the material affordances of the work:“ …constructing organically with their hands while drawing on a library of algorithms they come to know in their fingers as well as in their brains. Such digital intelligence mediates a process of figuring in which knowledge resides in both body and mind.
Iterate, deviate, elaborate — this is the process we have used.” (Wertheim M. & C. 2015: 21)
‘Iterate, deviate, elaborate’ perhaps this is the secret and the lesson of such tactile handiwork, because this is exactly what happens with our Crochet Resistance Suit. It continues to unfold its ‘manifold’ agency as the project continues.
The fabrication of the the Crochet Resistance Suit was supported by an Invention Creativity and Experience grant award from Goldsmiths University that funded the electronic crochet work.