Heidi Pietarinen (FI), Noora Sandgren (FI), Anne Yoncha (US), Melissa Grant (UK)

Digital jacquard weaving by Vesa Annala Weavers (FI)



Installation of view of Kangas, Birmingham Open Media Gallery, UK.



This jacquard weaving stitches together images from drawings, photographs and microscopic slides from the Kilpisjarvi expedition. The group of artists are interested in the Finnish idea of ‘kangas’ – a word which translates to ‘fabric’ and ‘forest type’, describing the intricate enmeshing of species, human and non-human, aerial and terrestrial. After collecting and identifying the microbial ‘collaborators’ in Kilpisjärvi, this piece attempts to get to know these other-than-human materials. The artists ask: what are the abilities of these microbes? What are the bridges between us? This ongoing process of understanding involves many translations, moving from analog to digital, and back again.



Detail image of the jacquard weaving texture


Kangas behind our copper wind-sock sheathings used in Finland to collect microbes


Kangas in the gallery


Photos: Thom Bartley


Read about Kangas on the High Altitude Bio-Prospecting site, and in the statement below:



How did a bacterium first isolated in Antarctica make its way to the air above the Arctic circle? Is the microbe widespread, or did it travel this distance? This still-incomplete process of understanding involves many translations, moving from analog to digital, and back: flying our helikite with wind socks to collect samples, then translating those samples via PCR into genetic data we can use to identify them; taking our drawings of these microbes and “planting” them in a digital environment, then making these digital images material again through the jacquard loom – arguably the first computer. What do we gain and lose in these translations?


We also want to engage with the problematic concept of “bio-prospecting” and questions about our processes of building and sharing knowledge. Our drawings borrow from the language of Flemish still-life, and an era of microbial naivete – a means of image-making which contemplates the fleetingness of life while also focusing on non-human life-forms. The jacquard medium and its positive and negative sides allow us to show both the more organized and intentional image on the front, and the more complex, rhizomatic, web-like image on the back. 


Our group is interested in exploring Jane Bennett’s idea of multiagential, multispecies cowork, a coming together as assemblage; Tim Ingold’s concept of the “thing-place-gathering” and the potential for artworks to create a space that has the ability to gather people – and other beings – together; and Donna Haraway’s writing on sympoiesis, meaning “making with” – how different materialities have an affect on each other. By scaling our images of these microbes up, we hope to encourage viewers to reconsider our relationship with our microscopic neighbors.