In the past few months, with support of a microgrant from the Frank-Ratcheye Studio for Creative Inquiry, I’ve been able to make technical and conceptual developments to my machine embroidery practice. A common goal that I find across my work, is to develop techniques which appropriate and challenge conventional forms of expression – and in doing so, I am able to use material and technical constraints to my advantage in informing the self-referential logic of the ideas I aim to express. This project I made is a bizarre factory, machine, system, which illustrates a contained world in which there is a direct connection and equivalence between the material making up the people and characters, and the machines and spaces in which they operate. I decided that I would be creating a world in which the thread being stitched doesn’t just take a representational approach in looking like some predefined animation, but actually uses things like the topology of thread, and the flatness of material as laws guiding the practical use of space and design of mechanisms.
I was also intent on illustrating the figures who operate the machines as individuals with subtle liveliness and intention, showing them outside of their context within the assembly line. This is an aspect that I’d like to develop further as I continue this project. In the scene where two people are standing at a loading bay when a truck arrives, there seems to be some social interaction happening in which there’s an exchange and release happening of the material their made of.
While most film and animation presents the viewer with a projected image of some 3D space, there are examples in visual arts and even literature of 2D universes which incorporate their own logic of how materials and creatures exist and behave in the 2D plane, for example the book Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott. For the longest time I have been fascinated by this fundamental shift in thinking about the universal form of space, and how different dimensionalities of space facilitate different mechanical processes. Because these frames I’m creating are so intrinsically flat and the thread composing all bodies and objects is woven into the material (always incorporated but always definably separate), I feel there is a much more directly informed perception of the space I present as a purely 2D logic space, rather than having the frames be merely illustrative.
In my time spent on this project, I’ve also developed several more technical digitizing tools in Processing for the making of specific effects in the piece, as well as a program for compiling individual frames into a sheet of frames arranged in a way that can be ran efficiently on my machine. This frame arranger (which I call the FrameRanger) makes a layout grid and adds a registration frame for proper alignment during the photographing process. Some of the images below show what one of these frames looks like before it is sent to my machine to stitch.
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