Satellite 2006

 

Artist Statement


I have long been interested in the relationship between ‘nature’, and ‘constructed or designed nature’, as seen in traditional floral patterns, specifically ornate Rococo imagery with floral motives. A similar tension exists in our current concern with the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual realities’. I have been working with patterns of ‘flowers and leaves’ on a computerized hand- jacquard loom in Montreal since 1998.

During the summer of 2004 I got a fast Internet connection and started looking at satellite images of the earth. Several web sites now allow us to view and download images that are collected by satellites. Photos of the earth have been taken since the mid 60’s and were then highly classified. I am interested in the ways this new technology documents places on earth that no human, except astronauts, have ever seen. Through NASA and other websites, we can visit exotic places that most of us will never visit and we can observe natural events, such as fires, ice breaking up, storms and other weather disasters. One place held my attention in particular, for its visual beauty and exotic sounding name, until I did more research.  Novaya Zemla, according to several sources, had been used by Russia as a Nuclear test sight; no wonder that satellites made many passes over this remote area…… These images initially reserved for highly classified audiences are now in our homes and living rooms and in 2008, have become completely common place. In some cases.


Background/research:

The Jacquard loom was central to the industrial development in 1804 and represents art facilitated by science; it is also symbolic of the limitations of such technology. Developed as part of the Industrial revolution, the Jacquard loom caused obvious labour problems. Ned Ludd was a Lancashire weaver who protested fought the use of the new machinery and left us the term 'luddite'.  While it caused a distinct shift in the level of the required professional crafts skills, it made possible and affordable new approaches. Textiles brought back to Europe from Asia during the 18th century, created a demand for local production of elaborate woven floral designs. Napoleon recognized the economic potential for France to reestablish itself as a leader in industrial textiles and invested heavily in this new industry.

Textiles have long played an important economic role and do so still today; they reflect cultural exchanges, colonial relationships, cause trade wars and labour problems. Crafts and contemporary weaving are often associated with ‘traditions’ and often a romantic view of a past, lost forever. Working with ones hands holds many of the same desires associated with a desire for untainted nature, while in reality, textiles have often lead innovation and technological change.

Computers and weaving have also been connected in Sadie Plant's essay: The Future Loom: Weaving Women and Cybernetics' and her book ‘Zeros and Ones’, which discuss weaving as digital processing of data. Weaving, of course, is, and always has been a digital process.

My interest in Jacquard weaving started in 1997 with Ada Lovelace’s quote: “The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves”. Ada’s unique background in art and science, poetry and mathematics (her father was Byron and her mother a mathematician), reflects my own interests in science, art and language. Ada Lovelace/Byron  was educated in mathematics and collaborated with Charles Babbage, who invented the 'Analytical Engine' in 1843, which never quite worked, but contained the operating principles on which the computer was later built. Ada translated a text by Manabrea and her notes, which took up more space than the original text, contained the first instances of written software. The Analytical Engine used a process derived from the Jacquard loom, with punched cards to store and process information.


Constructing Nature:

In 2000 I presented a paper to TSA (Textile Society of America, published as part of the proceedings in 2001) entitled ‘Nature as Code’ where I made connections between historical flower patterns and garden designs, with a view of describing the changing views on ‘constructing nature’.

In 2006 I presented a paper at TSA on the title:  ‘Walking a line: GPS and Satellite Technologies as Narratives’


Satellite images:

For more information go to the NASA website at Visible Earth http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/

For more on the history of remote sensing: look at the “THE REMOTE SENSING TUTORIAL” written by Dr. Nicholas S M. Short at http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Front/overview.html


Technical Information:

The images were created and composed in ‘Photoshop’ from various sources such as scans, digital photographs and downloaded images form websites. Then the image colours were reduced and each shade or colour was assigned a weave structure using ‘JacqCAD’ or ‘Pointcarré’ software ( industrial Jacquard weaving software). This image file was then uploaded to a computerized Jacquard loom in Montreal at the Centre de Textile Contemporain de Montreal. I wove most pieces there by hand, after testing different weave structures, yarn combinations and/or colours; some pieces were woven by a weaver from files I sent via E-Mail.