Drawing Machines: Bambloom

This semester I have chosen to expand on my research with weaving through another handmade loom. I intend to explore textile and fiber art through a simple frame loom constructed out of bamboo tree. The base structure is made from bamboo bark collected from Sunnybrook Park behind Marshall Field and assembled with twine and hot glue. I additionally attached the frame to tree branches that are flexibly intertwined so that the loom can be hung indoors or outside amongst trees. Textile art is a unique craft that I personally understand as a form of drawing and generative art as it requires the intervention of a machine. Textile design is a conscious process carried out by synthesizing visual, aesthetical and applied means, which can be expressed in forms and creations. It is also a subconscious process expressing the designers’ inner world marked by their identity. The use of particular designs often reflects traditional beliefs, customs, and hierarchies, underpinned by transcendent spiritual meanings.

Textile art and design should be reconsidered within the framework of new media. Weaving is a binary art that applies operations of pattern algebra and is widely regarded as a precursor to computational thinking. My own machine (according to my current vision) will weave natural materials such as twigs, branches, dried flowers, ivy and other plant cuttings. I intend to explore methods to engage spectators by creating processes in which they can collaboratively create a weave through joint communal motions.

The loom, as articulated by Andreas Broeckmann in “Machine Art of the Twentieth Century” evokes a particularity in how the object, mechanism, and process of weaving designates a relationship between humanity and the material world. In Ancient Andean tradition, weaving was of particular importance to indigenous nobility and quintessential to its civilizations as fine textile garments testified to wealth and class status. It can additionally be situated within Andean cosmological traditions, often understood as falling under the dominion of the Moon – a celestial object often invoked as the creator of women. Acllas, or women weavers and food preparers in Inca administrative centers, were convinced of the Moon’s own generative powers and her dominion over femininity.

The origins of this project lay within my discovery of Bauhaus student (and professor at the experimental Black Mountain College) Anni Albers. She embraces close handwork with textiles to establish familiarity with the fundamental material elements of the woven object. Albers sought to renew a direct, manual contact with materials through work at the loom and defended traditional handwork to experiment within its tactile constraints. She saw mechanized tools and machines as a sort of creative guide that could reveal how materials change their character in certain constructions and simultaneously how construction is affected by the material. To Albers, the machine displays how an artist can support the characteristics of material or suppress them, depending on the form of construction they use.

Last semester I was quickly drawn to textile work because of its precision and vast potential for innovation through experimentation. It coincided with another research project of mine on precolumbian Andean labor politics and gender ideologies that has effectively nurtured a deep sense of interconnection to the process of weaving within me. As I explore my relationship with the loom, I envision a more intimate process of ancestral healing and acknowledging the sophisticated beauty of indigenous traditions, many of which are exploited by the legacy of colonization.

I intend to use repetition as a driving force in my project considering weaving’s foundational use of pattern algebra. As I experiment with the frame I’ve developed so far, I hope to integrate motion by playing with gravity and the loom’s relationship to space. I want to utilize its large scale to nurture a sense of collaboration between the machine and the spectator. I plan to design a mechanism that allows viewers to input a motion that in turn generates an additional weft. This can be accomplished by adding a shuttle stick which inserts weft yarns through the back-and-forth motion of the shuttle. The shuttle simplifies the process by carrying the weft yarn through the warp yarn shed to forming interlacement to produce fabric instead of doing it manually. These ideas were developed largely in response to our conference meetings as I was asked to consider my project’s functional use more extensively, while expanding on its symbolic meaning.