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Coronavirus Reset

Just when I thought my experimentation was beginning to lead somewhere LOCKDOWN happened! No access to the knitting machines, no access to the laser cutter, no access to the photography store or studios. So........what to do now? In rethinking my plans, I realised that this would have major implications for my research, not only because of lack of access to the uni facilities, but especially because the nature of installation is experiential. I had planned to have an installation set up for visitors to gather feedback through questionnaires by mid-June which would give me time to analyse and produce a report. But now I wouldn't have access to a gallery space/photography studio or even more crucially - visitors.

How could I construct a photographic space? Gazebo in the garden? Too weather dependent. After much thought, I decided to use my son's empty bedroom as a studio/photographic space where I could hang my work and photograph/video it. But I had to decorate it first. The Iron Man mural I'd painted for my son had to go because I needed the space to be a white cube.

As my thoughts began to adjust to the new reality, I began to wonder if it might be possible to create a Virtual Reality (VR) experience of the installation. I could send the video out to people and they could either watch it on their laptops or on a VR headset. This would give a very approximate idea of how they might have been able to experience the installation if they'd been able to visit in person. I remembered that in April 2019 I had visited a few exhibitions in London, one of which was at the Saatchi Gallery called 'Ocean of Air' by the collective Marshmallow Laser Feast It was an immersive installation using VR technology combined with body and breath sensors. It was mind-blowing. The technology enabled the visitor to feel part of the plant and animal world - experiencing how water vapour droplets move through the air, collect to form water which is then sucked up into a giant sequoia tree. The visitor flows with the water into the tree roots, up the trunk and out through the leaves. Of course, I wouldn't be able to produce anything like this on my own, but it reminded me that VR could be a useful alternative to experiencing the installation first hand. I started to research what would be needed in order to do this (see later blog post).

The implications for the progress of the knit research were also quite drastic. One of the many advantages of using a knitting machine is that the work grows fairly quickly and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to produce anything interesting in the remaining time (plus, my hand knitting skills are pretty rudimentary). I went back to a monograph I had borrowed from my tutor about the Japanese artist Machiko Agano who uses stainless steel wire, fishing line and paper pulp to produce ethereal, web-like sheets of knit up to 4m wide using hand knitting techniques.

Her work resonates with the intentions I have for my own work: transparency, the interplay of light and shadow, the intricacy of webs which point to the wonder of creation and elicit feelings of awe and wonder.

photo 1: Untitled from Fabrika Gallery's Textural Space Exhibition 2001

She obviously uses very large diameter long needles to get such an open structure into her work. So after an experiment with 15mm needles which didn't produce a large enough stitch, I decided I would try knitting with wooden broomhandles.

In the end, the long handles were too unwieldy and heavy to work with, so I chopped them down to about 60cm long which meant I could sit in front of the TV and knit.

I was beginning to feel that the reset was taking shape and I felt more optimistic about continuing with my research.

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