We built this idea together during a night walk through campus.
Angela and I began through a thought exploration of how we could combine our cultivated skills artistically and scientifically to create a yarn bomb installation that could provoke observations and human interaction. The interactive intentions were twofold: (1) to encourage people to move and think about the three-dimensional world in playful and unusual ways and (2) to catalyze conversations - in both internal and external dialogue - orbiting around the intersection of art and math.
As we continued our walk, we noticed the arrangement of trees on campus and the predictable way the sidewalk wound between them. People move through these spaces in the same way everyday, following the same path. Patterns in space. We started to piece together the concept for an installation that would welcome, encourage, or motivate a different way to navigate a familiar space. A temporary, new pattern.
How could the presence of yarn itself act as an impetus for people to see the world in a slightly different way, if only for just a day?
The first iteration of this concept comprised a yarn ‘fort’ of sorts, which would be tethered to trees and objects on campus. We would use our leftover yarn stashes of bright acrylics to knit a myriad of computational puzzles - different sizes and shapes and weights of yarn.
The imagined concept morphed into a mosaic of pieces, and soon, we realized that this could be a prototype for a learning experience. Youth could knit in an unbounded way - without a pattern or fixed end goal - with the opportunity to explore the materials (fiber) and mathematics (estimation, count, three-dimensionality). Angela and I planned a pilot if the workshop prototype through the crafting of the installation.
|The knitted pieces, each a computational puzzle in itself, are tied together to form a yarn ceiling.|
The installation moved through several other iterations. We ran into numerous challenges for permissions for the installation from groundspeople and other bureaucratic gatekeepers. To our dismay, we felt constricted in our creative flow on campus and concluded that we would not be able to prepare an installation for a school space. We considered other outside spaces in town that might be equally as opportunistic for our hopefully-provocative yarn installation, but we were not getting excited about our options, so we decided to open up our thinking.
What if we created an indoor space - a room inside a room? A conceptual room. A fiber room. A three-dimensional fibers space to move, think, talk, and observe in.
|The geometry of gallery space informed the process of installation in real time.|
Soon, the First Friday of June was approaching and we were give the opportunity to create our installation in the pop-up space at the I Fell Gallery in town. Angela and I loosened our attachment to our initial idea and allowed our design process to be shaped by the pop-up space. We measured the area and used the metrics of the space to help up design the next version of our conceptual piece. The possibility of an indoor installation necessitated a slightly different process of engineering. Instead of tying and tethering yarn to tree branches and outdoor benches, we needed to drill holes in the wall for anchors for our yarn. We deconstructed and reconstructed wooden shelves in order to make a framework for our yarn space. Though the materials remained the same - our bright acrylic yarn stash - the design process of making and installing the installation was different.
It was as if we let the mathematical aspects of the installation space communicate with our yarn through a sort of bidirectional design dialogue. We knitted many shapes, each a mathematical exploration in itself, and then arranged the shapes in a mosaic-like structure based on the parameters of the pop-up space in the gallery.
We considered the high ceilings of the gallery and the challenges that architectural feature may pose for our installation process. In order to create a ceiling in the space, we had to problem-solve the tension challenges that would arise from the weight of the yarn. Though we imagined the flow and flexibility of the yarn in our installation, we did not want to have a sagging ceiling that may droop or fall under the weight of the yarn. This part of the installation was tricky for us, as we needed the reach of our mosaic of pieces to be just big enough to cover the surface area of the pop up space when stretched so that we could pull the yarn over the top of the space while allowing for just a bit of give in the fibers.
After two long days of installing, we finally created piece that matched our intentions, plus some. The impact of yarn room we put together was, in many way, greater that the sum of its individually-knitted parts. At the opening, the space did encourage interaction, as evidenced by the spate of micromovements through the space and overt feelings and touchings by individuals of all ages as they moved through the space. I sat in the installation and knitted most of the night, adding a performance art component to the installing. At one point, a young girl (age 9) approached me and asked for needles and spare yarn. I gave her the extra I had and she sat next to me, the two of us knitting alongside each other, mostly watching, occasionally talking, as people weaved in and out of the yarn around us.
In many ways, I am still untangling this experience for myself, mathematically and artistically. There were goals and expectations that morphed so many times, and I’m not sure we ended up with what we originally set out to make; I think we ended with a piece far more intensive than we had imagined. Currently, we are exploring the possibility of the deconstruction and reinstallation of this piece in another space, which would enable that continuation the narrative of the yarn room and open conversations about the sustainability of fiber art installations near and far.
|A three dimensional knitted cone is reimagined as a home for a plant.|