Ruth Scheuing


  • Built To Code

    June 19–July 31, 1998

    Customized Island (three motile versions towards a train-of-thought, including a prototype for utopian upholstery)

    (We are only as crafty as the secrets we keep.)

    I think Proust would be amused at the idea that your own work should seem like an interesting game about other people, rather than something terrifyingly banal about the self.

    Nature hides: Heraclitus said it 2700 years ago (it was an oral culture then). You have to have a sense of humour if you’re going to go after the unconscious. Now we might add that it is also nomadic, it takes its baggage with it, plus it squirrels away things in different places, it makes memory devices of the visceral, it has its own time clock and keeps its own anniversaries, itâs capable of endless displacement, and it practically invented economics.

    The Titans are the prime residents of the unconscious, whose forms have nothing resolute about them, so that there is constant drama in trying to distinguish these figures from the ground they’re made of. (We tend to think of the relation between figure and ground in adversarial terms, of the ground as something against which we see figures. Tsk, tsk, say the Titans. A tisket, a tasket.)

    —Kati Campbell, 1998

    Thanks to: Susan Edelstein, Warren Murfitt, Robert McNealy, and Irma McInnis.

    REMOTELY IN TOUCH explores images created by remote digital signals sent via satellite or robotic camera found on the internet or from other sources. I have chosen this process of imaging as a framework for my curiosity into how digital visualization, and its attendant technologies, alter our codes of signification. By this I include questions of how these digitized, visualized and informational processes alter the way we perceive the world, the way we perceive ourselves and the act of perception in general. Within perception we learn to move in the world. Perception and movement evolve in a symbiotic interplay, where skills are gained and skills are lost, many times without our choice or knowledge.

    Juxtaposed with these digital images are analog video images that encapsulate a “visceral moment” or an “embodied movement”. By contrasting the binary of digital/information and analog/body,

    I intend to challenge my investigation to raise issues of what is ‘real’? what is ‘body’? how is ‘representation’ inadequate? what is constructed or ‘science fiction’? what are the implications of “pattern” over “presence”, “randomness” over “absence” within information systems.

    I have included images of my blood cells ‘captured’ by an electronic microscope; NASA’s Pathfinder mission to Mars; ultrasound imaging; an underwater volcano; exploratory surgery using a robotic camera; wing chun martial arts, the Human Genome Project and satellite imagery of the earth’s surface. The audio also continues my exploration within digital, musical and narrative possibilities.

    The process of making this first videowork has shown me the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. By choosing images sent by satellite or robotic camera, particularly those from the internet, I found myself embracing the low-resolution, highly pixelated quality of the digital and of video media in general. During this installation study, for the purpose of particularly focusing on issues concerning ‘duration’ and ‘real time’, these analog, magnetic tapes will not be replaced as they degrade with drop-out caused from repeated over play. Thus, near the end of this exhibition, the images on these video loops may possibly not be as clear nor as recognizable as during opening night. The tapes will only be replaced if they break or get tangled in the machine.

    For more notes on REMOTELY IN TOUCH please ask for the folder in the office.

    —Laiwan, 1998

    Thanks to: Wendy Oberlander Susan Edelstein E. Centime Zeleke Jennifer Abbott Warren Arcan Michelle Frey Winston Xin John Fukushima Steve Chow Louie Ettling Chris Welsby Donna Zapf Ellie Epp Roberto Ruiz and the world wide web SFU, School for Contemporary Arts Artspeak Gallery Grunt Gallery Semperviva (blood imaging) my family Video In the Canada Council for past and present BC Arts Council support and resources.

    “The analytical engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.” (A. A. L. (Ada Lovelace))

    This quote initiated my interest in the connection between Jacquard weaving and the beginnings of the computer in the mid 19th century. It also provided an excellent forum for reinvesting patterning, composed of flowers and leaves with new meaning, interwoven between language, imagery and pattern.

    Ada Lovelace/Byron was educated in mathematics and collaborated with Charles Babbage, who invented the Analytical Engine in 1843. Ada translated a text about the Analytical Engine by Manabrea and her notes took up more space than the original text. This engine never really worked, but it contained the operating principles of the computer. The process was derived from the Jacquard loom which uses punched cards to store and process information. The Jacquard loom was developed to produce elaborately patterned weavings with representational imagery, based on fabrics brought back to Europe from Asia during the 18th century.

    Donna Haraway’s notion of the ‘Cyborg’ bridges opposites against a simplistic reading of divisions between nature/culture and many other categories. By embracing seemingly contradictory concepts, possiblities open up for new dialogues in well established territories, in this case computer technology, the hand-made, domestic and functional design, women’s work etc. Lastly, weaving often uses complex equipment and requires an efficiency of movements, which causes the weaver to become an integrated part of the process and blurring the boundaries between human and machine—a Cyborg is born.

    “We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short we are cyborg”. “The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possible historical transformation”. “This is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction”. “Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other”. “The cyborg would not recognize the garden of Eden: it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust”. “Cyborg are not reverent; they do not remember the cosmos”. “The main trouble with Cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential”. “The cyborg myth subverts myriad organic wholes, in short, the certainty of what counts as nature—as a source of insight and promise of innocence—is undermined, probably fatally”. “Cyborgs are floating signifiers moving in pick up trucks across Europe”. (Donna Haraway from ‘Cyborg Manifesto’)

    I have long been interested in myths about weavings of the past and the future. Ada died of cancer at 32 and was ill most of her life, she might enjoy her new seat and virtual life in order to take the tradition of the Fates into the future and create a new mythology composed of cyborgs, weavers and computers.

    Cyborg women weave translucent thought into sturdy cloth and with Arachne still defy the gods. The Fates still weave with Ada’s help on ancient looms and computers. Nature weaves a digital dream into the text and Philomela has her own web page now.

    —Ruth Scheuing, 1998

    Thanks to: Susan Edelstein for her interest in pushing these ideas forward; to Marianne Danylchuck for her professional upholstery of the chair; to Louise Bérubé at the Centre des Métiers d’Art en Construction Textile in Montréal for help with computer and the Jacquard loom and to the Canada Council for Financial Support.

    Sources: Sadie Plant in ‘Clicking-In’ and ‘Zeros and Ones’; Donna Haraway in ‘Cyborg Manifesto’

    Titles: Flowers and Leaves #1: Ada: Enchantress of Numbers – Queen of the Engines upholstered chair with computer assisted handwoven Jacquard cotton fabric,

    Flowers and Leaves #2: Cyborg women weave translucent thought…. computer assisted handwoven Jacquard cotton fabric

    Flowers and leaves #3: The Fates still weave…. computer assisted handwoven Jacquard cotton fabric

    Web links: Ada Lovelace Site listing several webpages on Ada Lovelace:

    Ruth’s web page entitled: ‘to weave a virtual web: textiles as metaphor’ (creates a context for Ada, the Fates and Philolema and etc. mentioned in my text)