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Experiment: The stitch of life

My rediscovery of The Game of Life reminded me of its hypnotic value and the simplistic beauty of its black and white algorithm judging whether a pixel should live or die.

This experiment considered whether there was a way to create a analogue equivalent of the game and somehow overlay my data source of written letters in amongst it. This felt like a fairly tenuous experiment at the outset

A clear equivalent to the digital pixels was the craft of cross stitching. These patterns represent home comfort, nurture, caring, parenting and stability. Quite a contrast to the fractured nature of the letters I was going to put into the mix. The idea of creating a series of stitched patterns that would represent a sequence from The Game of Life was considered but I decided on a digital representation initially to make the process quicker.

So in PhotoShop I created the crude animation below. A scan of a letter sits behind a wire mesh and a cycling sequence of cross stitch moves across the surface. I only wanted to give a sense of the writing and I certainly didn’t want it to be readable. The sequence I chose was an infinitely repeating pattern from the game, that moves from left to right.

This outcome feels quite disparate as there is no tangible connection between the words and the movement above it. Even if the stitched patterns were physical would this lift the outcome to another level of meaning? The pattern itself being never ending resonates with a relationship that is stuck in a cycle, a broken record, no one being prepared to budge. But a physical version would highlight care and attention in creating a stitched pattern but again, what is the connection to the words?

If the pattern spelt out words then we would have that connection. But would these words be moving or static? What words would we choose and how would they be represented? Words in cross stitch would reflect how someone has really taken those words to heart – enough so to take the time and patience to create a home spun craft from them. Cross stitching has a historical indication of home making so could we subvert this and create woven objects with a much darker context?

Next steps

I don’t think this experiment has achieved a great deal but it has made me realise that the real power is in the written word. This result focusses the eyes on a clever algorithm, not the real object of power – words from the past. I’m convinced that the analogue ‘top layer’ is the direction to take things.

A deeper exploration of language and it’s meaning and representation in art will be worthwhile. In particular, the use of type as the object of art needs consideration. Dipping my toes into the work of philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Immanuel Kant and Slavoj Žižek will be studied before proceeding further.

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