Choreographed cartography: translation, feminized labor and digital literacy in half/angel's The Knitting Map

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Gilson, Jools
Barkun, Deborah
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Textile Society of America at DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln
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The Knitting Map was a large-scale, durational textile installation by the Irish-based performance production company half/angel that took place during Cork’s year as European Capital of Culture (2005). Bringing a decade of experience with emergent technologies and art practice, half/angel developed technologies to connect the physical busy-ness of Cork City (captured via a series of CCTV cameras) with correspondingly complex knitting stitches (stitches became more complex when the city was busy), and Cork weather (captured by a weather station) to yarn color. The resulting textile was an abstract documentation of a year in the life of an Irish city, in which a community of the disenfranchised (largely middle aged and older working class women form Cork), were given cartographic authority. To realize The Knitting Map, which required a year-long process of hand-knitting by over 2000 participants, half/angel embraced translation in myriad forms from data procurement and conversion, to language and culture. Here, digital vocabulary, initially unfamiliar and intimidating to many participants, empowered a group of women to speak through a traditional art form in an innovative voice, in which knitting became a radical act. In this paper, we explore the role of translation in engendering gestures of mapping, both intended and unintended. We examine The Knitting Map’s cartographic gestures as they played-out within an Irish context and how the work’s foregrounding of femininity and traditional craft troubled history. Such disruptions, we argue, are contingently consequent when traditional craft claims monumental cultural space.
Jools Gilson , The Knitting Map , Cork European Capital of Culture 2005 , Translation , Cartography , Choreography
Gilson-Ellis, J. and Barkun, D. (2010) 'Choreographed Cartography: Translation, Feminized Labor and Digital Literacy in half/angel's The Knitting Map', Textile Society of America 12th Biennial Symposium, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 6-9. Available online:
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