Tech and textiles: An exhibition of socially engaged art at The Lowry

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The Lowry’s Edit series of gallery projects and collaborations returns Sat 17 March – Sun 22 April with Edit.02 > thread {}, an immersive installation by artists collective > thread {}. Here we interview them about the art exhibition that will display their innovative quilting processes using coding to digitize human data drawn from a group of Salford young people.

How has Edit.02 > thread {} come about and what can audiences expect to see when they come to watch the show?

The name > thread { } is a coding command, a conversation and of course the fibre within a fabric, which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of our work.

> thread { } came together from a textiles movement at Islington Mill, we’d been having various philosophical discussions and ideas about the future of textiles and its place in society. The Mill has been synonymous with music for over a decade but there has been a shift towards textile innovation. This coincided with a residency opportunity through Manchester International Festival working with the Jeremy Deller piece ‘What is the City but the People’ and our collaboration formed in response to this. We started to use biodata capturing techniques to translate the interesting narratives that came from the participants lives. This sparked a lot of interest, in particular, with Michael Simpson director of visual arts at The Lowry, which in turn presented itself with the opportunity for this exhibition.

In the run up to the exhibition you worked with Salford young people. How were they involved in the project?

We holed up at Islington Mill HQ for a week where the group were immersed in an intensive residency project. They hit the ground running with sound sampling, glitch art, biodata extraction and also more traditional print methods such as screen printing. By the end of the week we’d bonded over tech and textiles, it was amazing to watch their skills and confidence grow.

What is the importance of socially engaged art to you?

As human beings we are innately creative but many of us are blocked through lack of access, disadvantage or non-inclusive attitudes. To encourage connection to inner creativity and the creativity of others is of proven benefit to wellbeing. If we can do that in an inclusive and contemporary way, even better. We empowered our young people with skills and used our artistic experience to provide a creative framework for them to explore ideas and confidence to develop their creative capacity.

Your work combines traditional and digital technologies – do you like mixing up the old with the new?

We love to mash up tech, textile heritage, traditional and futuristic processes! To be able to take live biodata and turn it into textile motifs, glitch hand printed work then play the sounds of the images and record the sounds of the process to create a truly immersive finished piece is really exciting for us.

The exhibition uses human bio-data as inspiration. What type of bio-data does this include?

We used a pulse rate monitor to capture the heart rate and naturally occurring numbers that come from the narrative of the young peoples lives such as significant dates, locations, times.

Edit.02 > thread {} runs at The Lowry from Sat 17 March – Sun 22 April. For more information visit the website.

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