Recounted Is a collaborative art installation built using Unmade’s groundbreaking on-demand knitting technology.
Originally commissioned by the V&A as part of London Design Festival, this interactive installation invites visitors to leave a recorded message which is converted into a graphic inspired by traditional Scottish knitting patterns. Each graphic is appended to a larger composition to produce a series of tapestries, serving as an account of the experiences of visitors to the exhibition. Each tapestry was manufactured on-demand using Unmade’s knitting technology and hung in the space as the exhibition progressed.
Before the Industrial Revolution, most knitwear was produced by small groups of women who – as they knitted – sang songs together to keep count of the number of stitches. This installation reimagines the folk heritage of knitting, drawing inspiration from the communal approach to production and its aural traditions.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to look through the V&A’s archives and peruse their huge collection of textiles and tapestries. This formed part of our research and helped us to define an aesthetic for the generative patterns. From this research we found a similarity between some of the traditional patterns used in textiles and the patterns created by Chladni plates — a visualisation of the effects of vibrations on mechanical surfaces. These patterns — Known as Chladni Figures — can be produced from audio frequencies, which is how we are able to generate patterns from sound.
Short audio messages left by visitors are analysed and automatically converted into a fairisle inspired knitting pattern in real time. Each recording can be heard by interacting with integrated touchscreens. By utilising multitouch gestures, the listener can layer the playback of the recordings by touching on the patterns, allowing them to choose whether to hear messages in isolation or to create a composition.