Ancient Futures

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Inspired by the textiles that have held humanity’s secrets across time and space, this triple-woven installation is made with soft electronics to collect, store and cumulatively visualize solicited secrets from viewers using sentiment analysis and long term data-textile storage.

On-going collaboration with Nicole Yi Messier

Ancient Incans used Quipu to document economic and civil data. Enslaved people created a system of railroad quilts as they traversed the Antebellum Southern USA. During WWII, women knit secret war strategies into the sweaters of spies. Technical methods in weaving, knitting, sewing, etc. are able to hide and deliver sensitive details and encode important messages with a visual language that all humans are intimately familiar with: textile. 

We are creating a current, modern precedent in this textile tradition: “Ancient Futures” is a connection to the past and the future. One day this technology will be vintage, just as the quilting, weaving and sewing of precedents past was innovative for the time yet common and almost invisible today.

Ancient Futures collects secrets from anyone who shares them and visually animates the data across the textile using time as a dynamic variable to create an adaptive weaving. It is woven utilizing ancient traditions in triple cloth, overshot and modular weaving along with futuristic materials including fiber optics, proximity sensors, speech-to-text software, sentiment analysis, and LEDs. The woven cloth itself will visualize the collected secrets via a visual encoded system of color based on sentiment analysis via animations across the fiber optic LEDs. Over the lifetime of the textile and as the collection of secrets grows, the textile will also change. Its colors will adjust based on the nature of those secrets and timestamps. For example, increased expression of frustration could change portions of it towards blue while increased expression of joy could change other sections towards red.

As the textile travels and encounters more people - more secrets - its surface will become more dynamic and complex. In traveling around the globe, we hope this textile will be able to capture a sense of what it is like to be a human in the world right now, using the ancient wisdom of textile coding and the futuristic potential of digital technology.