Nibbles for Tea
My practice focuses on the intersection of art, craft, technology, and language. Having grown up with the development of the Internet and social media, I have witnessed very personally how the expansion of these innovations has changed who I am and how I communicate. I am excited by the prospect of being able to interact instantaneously with anyone in the world through audio, visual, and written means. However, these same technologies also limit my use of language through restrictions on length and vocabulary. Long beautiful prose from past centuries currently has no place in this new environment and that scares me. To overcome this fear, I turned to my art and focused on ways to render words completely meaningless as both a prediction and protest to what I see happening. The craft forms of quilting, weaving, and needlework became my visual language of choice to explore this consequence. These practices have been passed down for centuries and involve precision, time, and acquired skill, while social media platforms function through universal accessibility, short cuts, fragments, and speed. The tension between these two forms drives my practice. I have been working with digital means to weave traditional designs. My laptop becomes my loom and each keystroke a stich. They are hand-typed, line-by-line from left to right just as they would be done normally. They are hand-made digital pieces: an oxymoron. The technology loses its sense of speed and effortlessness. It is clear how painstaking the process is. The slowness of the work is its protest. It is further heightened by the fact that the texts woven into the pattern are written in a language only computers can understand – binary or in this case hex code. The language in the works becomes meaningless through the very translation that makes it so easily shared. To the human eye, it is simply an aesthetic object and a feat of patience, but when plugged into the computer it becomes a story: the very story that is hidden in plain sight.
For this piece, the story is the fourth chapter of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, more commonly known as The Mad Hatter's Tea. I first translated the text to hex code where each two digit number (or in computer slang known as Nibble) represents a letter. This in turn is manipulated so it forms a pattern common in American Folk textiles. The geometric floral with hearts makes reference to the later chapters of Alice in Wonderland in which the Red Queen makes her presence. The geometric circles in the center allude to the fact that Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland not only as childhood fantasy story but also as a mathematical critique. The fourth chapter is a metaphor for Hamilton's discovery of quaternions, a branch of abstract algebra which most simply describes space in angles and arcs. This concept is based on the idea of a circle, hence the use of a circular pattern in the center.