A {Digital} Stitch in Time

A great article from New Media Caucus:

FALL 2012: V.08 N.02: FOUND – SAMPLED – STOLEN – STRATEGIES OF APPROPRIATION IN NEW MEDIA

A {Digital} Stitch in Time


Alexia Mellor
Independent artist.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

From laser cutting, to computer-controlled embroidery machines and Arduino-enabled clothing, artists employ technology and craft practices to new and exciting ends, challenging our imaginations and preconceptions of craft. However, there is another trend within visual art that deserves attention: artists using needlecraft techniques to explore digital technology, not as a tool, but as the subject matter of their practice. No longer reserved for our grandmothers, needlecraft has become a subversive tool of counter-culture. Whether revealing the underlying relationship between computer coding and embroidery patterns, or documenting the digital landscape through portraits of cotton stitches, artists encourage an intimate participation with the digital through the laborious, and social process of needlecraft, questioning the meaning of “social networks” and participatory production while exploring collective meaning and ownership in the digital age.

 

Merriam-Webster defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” [1] With the proliferation of digital culture, the term has been adapted to include images or videos spread from one Internet user to another. These memes, though fleeting, offer a window into our growing online culture and serve as a reflection of our interests and values. My own interest in the relationship between digital and craft cultures has led to ongoing practice-led research translating popular social media memes into cross-stitched tapestries. Memes are, in effect, cultural DNA: spreading and mutating while carrying the essential character of our society. As with genes, there is a natural selection that occurs with memes. The most popular survive and are canonized in contemporary Internet folklore. Yes, I am guilty of testing my limits on how long I can listen to the annoying Nyan Cat theme song, and I have shared frustration at being “Rickrolled.” I have LOL’d and ROFL’d at the Chloe Sevigny parodies on YouTube, and “Rainbow Stalin” always brings a smile. Apparently, I am not alone.

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