Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Kelly Thompson.


The themes of land, labor and the port resonate for me and particularly in recent voyage experiences and digital weaving research, which I will attempt to bring together in this talk. These activities converge in new and evolving artwork, generating more questions than answers on the relationships between digital and analog materiality. Trades routes, and the movement of people and goods through ports, notions of networks, flow, circulation, has parallels and resonance with our contemporary digital systems and also, correlations with political issues, namely power and control. The Container Shipping world is fascinating to drop in on, a world so common it often is overlooked, invisible to us, until something goes wrong. That is my relationship to digital technology – I love the advantages, and until recently, had not thought about the implications, control of global communication systems and capital. The shipping world is a very physical network yet usually invisible and that is how I see our everyday computer realities. My research project asks the question: What is the impact when the familiar or implied, the temporal or usually invisible, is translated into material form? In January 2015, I arrived in New Zealand as a passenger aboard the MV Spirit of Singapore container ship, 25 days after departing from Charleston, South Carolina. Drawing on this experience and making connections with parallel studio research into digital jacquard weaving this paper addresses material translations of the digitally implicit which my research project Material Codes:Ephemeral Traces questions.1 Invisible digital systems surround us, at sea and on land, in the tools we depend on and like to use. What do we notice when this is materialized?