By means of rethinking, modifying and redefining the functionality of an obsolete knitting machine and using both financial data from the databases of National Manpower Employment Offices and selected patterns inspired by Greek folk art, a textile is generated algorithmically and in real-time.
The installation Oiko-nomic Threads represents a system commenting on the notion of work through the production of a textile. By means of rethinking, modifying and redefining the functionality of an obsolete knitting machine and using both financial data from the databases of National Manpower Employment Offices and selected patterns inspired by Greek folk art, a textile is generated algorithmically and in real-time. This way, the woven textile is to be understood as both a document of its own making as well as a dynamic base of archival resources which presents a computer-generated interpretation of the original financial data.
Oiko-nomic Threads has been exhibited on several occasions around the world, allowing the artists to experiment with different installation set-ups and ways to present the core elements the work pivots on. The work is typically ‘performed’ during an exhibition’s opening and in regular intervals thereafter, so as to produce new knitted textiles and so as to demonstrate its operation to local audiences.
At a technical level the project pivots on backwards engineering and re-appropriating an obsolete knitting machine so that it becomes indeed possible to make it part of an operating system. In this fashion the project brings together several different labour and production paradigms, in both symbolic and concretely operational levels: pre-industrial labour (traditional folk mottifs), industrial labour (knitting machines as the motor of the industrial revolution), digital labour (code, computer, data, knitting machine as the predecessor of the computer), DIY (hacking/tinkering), manual labour (the system still needs a human operator), advanced (venture) capitalism (data related to unemployment in Greece the first years following the financial crisis of 2009).
In this fashion, the combination of elements from diverse production/labour paradigms into an operational system, also becomes a symbolic gesture towards the need to rethink economy, tradition, labour, technology, and computing in more inclusive and more open ways.
The building blocks for the visualisation are a series of digitised Motiffs that originate in the Greek knitting and weaving tradition. Weaving in Greece has historically played an important role in societies; woven textiles were (still are) consider valuables, so that women would typically weave their wealth at home. Women with lots of such textiles (and other valuables) were considered worth marrying and woven artefacts are still given to young couples as wedding presents all around present-day Greece.