Coded Threads: Textile and Technology
September 27 to December 8, 2017
This exhibition brings together fourteen visual artists who use new textile technologies in their art. In her statement, the exhibition curator Seiko A. Purdue explains:
Textiles are among the oldest products of human art and skill. The earliest textile techniques in our civilization (basket weaving, indigo dyeing, etc.) are still practiced, even as technology has been changing our lives radically. While maintaining a connection to our past, textile fields are using technology to expand possibilities for innovative materials, products, arts, and environments. Artists and designers are working with scientists and creating new materials and new arts using digital technologies. We should also remember that “technology” (as well as “technique”) comes from the Greek word tekhne, meaning art or craft or skill. Our latest innovations are connected to, and grow out of, our oldest crafts.
New Textiles comprise a range of materials: spider silk, nanotechnology, biocouture, smart textiles (conductive threads, fiber optics), incorporation of Arduino microprocessors, etc. Collaborations between scientists and artists are producing new materials and projects that span both domains. New materials such as carbon fibers have been used not only as clothing but also in sports, medicine, astronautics, architecture, the military, in hospitals, etc. Military technologists have created a soldier’s cloak that camouflages the wearer in the environment. NASA’s robonauts’ (robotic astronauts) hands can perform tasks using the same tools used by human spacewalkers using a sensitized glove. Medical textiles enable, for example, the surgical use of machine-embroidered textile grafts as a form of scaffolding to promote nerve and muscle repair.
In the textile art field, artists are producing wearable art, gallery installations, and public art by collaborating scientists and engineers. Some work explores visual communication or conceptual approaches involving the intersections between art and technology. LED light ornaments, thermochromic ink, and conductive threads can be materials; images from social media, scanned portraits, microscopic viruses, and data from laboratory experiments can be motifs. Laser cutting, 3D printing, heat press machines, computer looms, and digital sewing machines can be tools. Maker spaces can be artists’ workshops and studios, where people get opportunities to use new tools and facilities as well as meet and collaborate with creative people.