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The dawn of the Textile Cyborg

Making makes me think of Frankenstein. Hear me out.

Making makes me think of Frankenstein. Hear me out.

Last weekend I excitedly took myself for a solo trip to Barbican’s Unravel exhibition. Just when I thought that Magdalena Abakanowicz couldn’t get any better, this gem was quoted:

“Fibre is the basic element constructing the organic world on our planet, as the greatest mystery of our environment” (emphasis mine)

and

“We are fibrous structures.”

If you read my last newsletter, I mentioned how I’ve been working on weaving fabrics based on my own flesh. The physicality of backstrap weaving, where the loom relies on the weaver, makes me feel connected to my work in a way that other forms of making don’t. My movements dictate the loom’s movement. It’s essentially an extension of my body. My movements become mechanised. I am a machine, a textile cyborg of sorts.

An artist called Antonio Pichilla Quicain (a fellow backstrap weaver) was also quoted at the exhibition to say that when he backstrap weaves, he feels a “connection of the body with the textile, with the trunk of the tree, the tree with its roots in nature and culture.”

And so similarly, my body connects to the loom, the loom to - in my case, a pull up bar - but nevertheless the earth.

There’s an idea in Genesis in the Bible that our bodies are made from the earth: “from dust you are and to dust you will return.” As quoted in the Unravel exhibition, textiles are “crafted and teased out from the earth itself.”

My loom, my body, my work; it’s all interconnected. This is what I’m trying to search for in this project, a feeling of harmony, but also a disjointedness as I try and recreate a body - in this case, my body.

This might be the world's itchiest glove.

This is where we get to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Chapter 5 (emphasis mine):

“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet…

…How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form…

I… had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body… I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”

For a long time I’ve wanted to play around with recreating a body with textiles. Life size, terrifying, disgusting. I want to play around with what Frankenstein played around with, but as a weaver. Dare I even recreate a hand? A head, an eye?

So I did it. I finally made a 3D hand. It doesn’t look like the real thing, but is merely a copy of it. However it captures its essence. It’s abstracted. It’s grotesque. It’s definitely fibrous.

Like Frankenstein, I’m looking at what I made with horror. Dare I even attempt to try and recreate something that I am not supposed to even try recreating? It feels like this belongs to the realm of the supernatural. I’m having illusions of grandeur. But this is the tension that Mary Shelley is playing with in Frankenstein and that I’ve always found fascinating. What if we get too arrogant with what we can make? Can innovation, technology, future thinking… can that be our downfall and can what we make and create turn on us?

It’s funny to me that these questions come to me, when what I’m using to create my textile cyborg is one of the most primitive looms in existence. Something that is futuristic in concept, is made simple, sinuous and organic.

COMING UP

Backstrap weaving workshop at Make Town!

My last workshop from Jan!

Sunday 21st of April, 11am -3:30pm

Get booking now! Would love to see you there.

More details here:

I’m coming to sending this newsletter out monthly. So see you IN A MONTH for more body parts! You know you want it.

As always, thanks for reading.

Have a great rest of your weekend,

Alex

P.S. Don’t be shy and feel free to email me back on this email if you have any thoughts on what I’ve made. I always love hearing from you!

Next

Work In Progress

It really is November!