Scribal Drift

Scribal Drift is part of my practice-led PhD, “Material-Digital Resistance: Toward a Tactics of Visibility.” In this larger project, I look for ways in which the digital image reveals something of its own structure and substance. I am interested in the materiality of digital objects, and search for ways in practice to blend digital and manual techniques for making.

With Scribal Drift, I propose the possibility of a handmade digital image. To this end, I use the process of crocheting as a scaled-up way of materializing an image from a code of my own. Beginning with a sampled source image, I observationally write a linear code of B’s and W’s (blue and white) that corresponds to a crochet pattern in the hope of reproducing the original photographic image in crochet. Once the code is written, I spend weeks crocheting a digital image one “pixel” at a time.

It’s a semi-blind experience. I don’t know whether the resulting image will be any approximation of the original until late in the process. The first attempt resulted in an image that swirled sharply with the crochet pattern. A second attempt and a rewritten code resulted in the image swirling in the opposite direction. The third attempt is nearing completion and occupies a space somewhere between these two in accordance with the source image.

The title of this work refers to a phenomenon of the same name. In tracing handwritten text, there is an inevitable drifting from the precise shape of the original characters. The greater the number of successive tracings, the farther adrift the resulting scribal shapes. The material expression of the “copy” bears incremental difference from the source. Not only does this drifting suggest that the digital reproduction might be a unique, materially instantiated object, but raises questions around the roles of image and text when characterizing a digital image as the expression of written instructions.

The three finished crocheted pieces should constitute one work meant to be installed on the floor. Each individual piece takes on a rippling shape, has a body, exists as three dimensional object as well as image. Clouds in sky looking upward from the floor, fallen skies perhaps, ask me to consider the weight of the matter which makes up a cloud as well as that which makes up this work. They refer to an idealized and imagined place for data which asks us to see digital objects as fundamentally disembodied and distant, when their actual resting place is perhaps more earthly and much closer.