Thursday, February 11, 2010

participant view, by Nikki

My participation in #plateaknit has made me think specifically about a few key things, but not limited to; nostalgia, stratification, interpretation and networking/collaboration.

Nostalgia: I come from a large family of knitters however don’t knit myself. It was something I always wanted to do as a kid; but as the only left-handed person in a whole family of right-handed people; as you can imagine the attempted teaching/learning became a source of frustration for all concerned. We used to all congregate at my Grandparents house on the weekends and there didn’t seem to be a weekend in my formative years that brightly coloured yarns - with symbolic tin cans - didn’t connect us all in some form. It seemed to me that the ability to make something from wool was akin to a rite of passage in our family and I would experiment with other ways of forming yarn into objects so as not to miss out on the experience altogether. I still think of knitting as quite mystical yet at the same time social and have fond memories of garments and toys that were created during that time.

I also feel that the resurgent interest in handcrafted items (I include knitting in this broad category) is partially driven by nostalgia. Many environmental (and also in some part economic) concerns have driven me personally to seek alternatives to mass-produced items, preferring to opt for something a little more unique, or thoughtful, when considering gift options.

Stratification: I’m interested in archaeological matrices and their formation through palimpsests of data, which bears an interesting correlation (I feel) to a crowd sourced knitting pattern. As assemblages of cultural and environmental information stratify in an archaeological record you could perhaps view this as mega-tweets of social instruction/trends overlapping each other as displayed in some of the pics of #plateaknit pieces on the @Platea Flickr pool. I hadn't really considered the application of archaeological process to an artistic endeavor before, but its certainly something I'll give a bit more thought to on the back of this project.

Interpretation: I was fascinated to watch how the reader interpreted the data presented to them and translated it to fit within their working model, particularly when both literal and metaphorical instructions were provided. All the makers involved in this project produced very distinct pieces from basically the same instructions. But then, I do still have a childlike awe for knitting viewing it as alchemy!

Networking and collaboration: With so many social networking sites opening up greater avenues for exploring many crafts/arts/hobbies it only takes minutes to find a community of people from all over the world happy to share their knowledge with the uninitiated or those rediscovering a forgotten passion. With this too comes an increase in collaborative ventures that, I feel, strengthens not only our relationships with each other but gives us a greater visualisation for what we can achieve as individuals. For example, through the work of the collaborators on this project – and in deed a great many friends whom I see (in person) regularly - I’ve been inspired to have another shot at knitting!

(apologies for the lack of pictures with this text)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#plateaknit: the aftermath! by Ingrid Murnane

#Plateaknit Wristwarmers by Ingrid Murnane

Well, it has been a month since #plateaknit took place and I'm only now feeling able to wrap it up. I must admit to having had total knitting burnout, not to mention writer's block over the project. Five intensive days of knitting, knitting, knitting for hours took the fun out of it, to be honest. But eventually, as with all things, it worked itself out and here I am again.

If you missed it at the time, or if you would like to follow the entire performance and knit or make something from the tweets, you can visit the hashtag vault for #plateaknit, archived on twapperkeeper.

From 25th-29th January, @platea's Project 6, #plateaknit took place. The idea was to perform #plateaknit by crowdsourcing knitting instructions and make up designs via the Twitter hashtag #plateaknit. There were two types of participants in #plateaknit: instructors and makers. @Platea asked the instructors to use the hashtag #plateaknit when they gave the makers abbreviated knitting instructions in a tweet. These were be picked up by the makers and incorporated into the piece they were knitting, or making in some other way. Although we primarily made use knitting abbreviations, it was important that makers used whatever media they liked to interpret and perform.

That is all very well on paper, but how did it work in practice?

I performed #plateaknit as both an instructor and a maker. The project gave myself and others the freedom to instruct in uncommon ways and without necessarily knowing how others would interpret it or indeed if they would at all. Due to none of us knowing how the finished items would turn out, the conventional order of succession of the pattern, and even the usual abbreviations within the language of a knitting pattern were suspended. Several things stood out from the volley of instructions given across Twitter. As well as the conventional knitting recipes tweeted, there were instructions which pertained to transient events which even now are no longer current and that may in the future defy easy explaination or interpetation. The two main examples were Apple's launching the iPad and the UK's Iraq Inquiry. These gave rise to tweets such as:

#plateaknit INSTRUCTION wrap & turn (a short row) when anyone in your twitter stream mentions #Blair #IraqInquiry


#plateaknit kfb every time someone tweets about the Apple tablet (@thatwaszen)

Detail of #plateaknit project by Ingrid Murnane

The temporal nature of the project came out again in the use by @InnBrooklyn of instructions to be interpreted first via morse code and then knitting. Knitting into your hat what you had for lunch on a given day will change whenever you knit this, but unlike our interest in Tony Blair's apparant misdoings, lunch remains a constant. There was also the option of ReTweeting an instruction at will, in order to repeat it:

RT @Bungy32: Weave an 8" bit of yarn into the next 9 stitches. Let leftover tails dangle on RS of piece. RT this instr. to repeat. #plateaknit

I felt that the instructions given by those who were not knitters were particularly interesting. Although some did make use of 'conventional' abbreviations, most gave us rather more out-there tweets including @newcurator's 'knitting interlude' the results of which you can see on his site.

Hello #plateaknit crew! For the next row only: close yr eyes & trust yr inner-knitter (@sortingtrolley)

Plateaknit2 by joaniesanchirico. Used under Creative Commons licence.

...and how did all of this translate when making something from it.
As knitters we are used to following a pattern: this was DIFFERENT. Oh yes. In being a maker, I dipped in and out of the feed, as and when I was on twitter. I knitted for about 5-6 hours each of the five days and ended up making two hats, some wrist-warmers and starting a full-instruction scarf too. Initially I had chosen two greens as my base colours and knitted predominently with them. Changing colours when instructed, adding and subtracting stitches and yarns, and interpreting others' instructions as I pleased. I did wonder though, whether my instructions were being influenced by what I was making, rather than the other way around. For instance, I fancied a bit of zing in my hat, so I tweeted an instruction to 'make the next five rows sparkle'. I'm not sure whether that matters or not either.

There were a lot of scarves knitted from the instructions and a long, flat item does lend itself to the instructions rather well: much like a visual print-out.

#plateaknit scarf by itsokadascat. Used under Creative Commons licence.

@_randomthoughts made a great interpretation of the tweets in her drawing, below.

'Hat' by wecome_to_my_own_little_piece_of_heaven. Used under Creative Commons licence.

I think that Christi Nielsen summed up the project best of all when she described her #plateaknitting as 'a roadmap, of sorts, of your tweets the last few days'.

I'd like to extend my thanks to all participants in #plateaknit, both instructors and makers, and say a big thanks you to An Xiao for letting me be the first resident for @Platea Project Space.