From Loop to Loom: 
Weaving conversation between artist, process, and outcome

by Sophie Nadel

    The inspiration for my work came from a desire to create a more inclusive attitude around the conception and outcomes of algorithms. An algorithm in simple terms is a set of instructions, but the word usually refers to coded instructions that a computer can follow. In order to make the understanding of image development via algorithms more accessible and easier to understand, I created a line of work to take computer instructions offline, off grid, and into the ‘real world’. 

    In order to visually enter into this line of enquiry, I devised an experiment to generate images using the 10print equation. This is a randomized equation that creates maze-like structures. The instructions for both humans and computers are below along with the outcomes. 

    Below are the two sets of rules and their outcomes: 

    1. Start in the top left corner space.

    2. Roll a dice.

    3. if the number on the dice is even,  shade the space in black.

    4. If it is odd, leave the space white.

    5. move onto the next space to the right.

    6. when you reach the end of a row, start a new line below moving from left to right.

    This experiment highlighted the efficiency of computers with almost instant image generation and the ability to create multiple variations in just a few minutes. However, this created a gap in the making process where once the author clicks ‘run’, they are excluded and there is no space for intervention or reflection until the program is finished. It highlighted the importance of the making process itself as part of the final outcome even once the parameters have been set. 

    In order to turn code into something more physical, I was drawn to the medium of weaving. Weaving and coding both exist in frameworks and have to follow a set of rules in order to have successful outcomes. Weaving can create stunning and very functional pieces but in order for them to have integrity and retain their structure, there are many rules to be followed such as compacting weft lines and choosing relevant fibers for the designated use. This comparison of coding and weaving throws up the use of grids in two different ways. When referring to the concept of ‘off grid’, one is usually referring to a grid of electricity, communication, and/or digital technology. When drawing the connection to weaving, the grid is very physical. The warp threads run vertically and give structure to the horizontal weft in order to create the desired pattern. 

    To create my work, I was moving ‘off-grid’ in a colloquial sense by following the instructions myself without the aid of a computer. However, this was really just a transfer onto a new kind of grid. Weaving long predates any concept of computer algorithms. It can be made successfully with no form of digital intervention and yet it still exists within this grid framework. I found an irony in the term ‘off grid’ as it led me to think about other structures and how grid-like they were. In leading an ‘off grid’ lifestyle, escaping from modern society's expectations of consumption and communication, is one not instead reconnecting with the natural structures of ecosystems and closeness with the land that forms a web or organic grid system? This new line of thinking allows space for appreciation of structures and rules in which to grow and be creative. It lessens a desire to be ‘off grid’ and instead opens an avenue for finding a system that is beneficial to exist in and creating a network of connection whether that refers to communication, social connection, or consumption. 

    Taking this research and using it to create something physical leads to an artistic practice that is less about following decisions made by the artist until the work is finished, and more about a conversation between artist and artwork. The back and forth allows more space for growth and understanding of a practice. For example, in my work I am conscious of the materials I use as I understand my work exists in a wider frame of environmental consumption and production. 

    My work is inspired by Anni Albers, a trailblazing artist using a variety of mediums including weaving and finding strong connections to both her tools and the history of her practice. 

    Below is the Annie Albers piece, my code and visual outcome. Note the colors and size of my work are due to physical limitations of materials and tools. 

    From here I moved my desired image onto the loom and into the ‘real world’. Throughout the process I was conscious of points of reflection and how this allowed me to have further influence on the piece. It allows for the maker and audience to interact with grids in a new way. 

    This investigation into image making via algorithms within different systems created a strong appreciation for personal interpretations of instructions. The benefits of generating images on a computer also come with downsides. The same image can be created in seconds,however, a physical piece existing outside a screen can’t be erased or altered by the press of a button. It can’t be held, provide physical comfort, or weight. The physical practice of making serves a further purpose in connection to the wider world and the pace offers space for reflection and meditation. The space for growth of new connections, networks, and grids allowed by this slower making process is where creativity from the individual can flourish and from the same set of instructions there can be multiple different outcomes.