Margo Wolowiec, Blanket, 2017
Margo Wolowiec, Blanket, 2017
Multiple. Blanket. Superfine Geelong wool. Five color. 53 × 74.8" (135 × 190 cm). Folded dimension is 11.8 × 15.7" (30 × 40 cm). Made in Scotland. Published by RITE Editions in collaboration with Jessica Silverman Gallery.
Text on tissue paper by Alex Bacon.
Edition of 45 with 5 APs.
Text by Alex Bacon
Investigating our image-saturated present, in her work Margo Wolowiec turns a critical eye to the images that are ceaselessly uploaded and downloaded on the Internet, and especially social media and picture sharing sites. Often she uses algorithms that select the images for her based on pre-determined parameters—such as the geo-tag of a particular location in the world. She then abstracts these images through a painstaking weaving practice that gives them body and shape by dying them into the polymer fibers she weaves on her loom. In both chance and orchestrated ways, Wolowiec’s weaving practice breaks these images up into fragments and recombines them, deconstructing them and recoding their meanings in the process.
Wolowiec’s dialogue with the digital extends past just her source material to the very medium that she works in. Instead of dealing directly with technology itself, Wolowiec draws from the parallels between the loom and the computer, which evolved out of the punch card technology developed to automate the weaving process, and which presaged the binary code essential to the computer. As such, when she subjects the material she sources from the Internet to the mechanics of the loom, in a sense she is collapsing the present with the history of the computer by playing off of its underlying logics.
Most often Wolowiec displays these works on canvas supports, annexing painting as a framing device, or else on free-standing armatures, bringing these woven fields more into dialogue with sculpture, and even the craft tradition that weaving inevitably suggests. It is this last element that Wolowiec explores in more depth with this blanket, questioning what it means to add another link in the chain of transmission that her work has always been involved in exploring. Despite using automated algorithms borrowed from advertising, her practice is typically contained within the space of the studio, which acts as the space of both conception and production.
With this blanket Wolowiec is adding a specialized textile mill in Scotland to a network of circulation that otherwise had included: the person taking and then uploading an image, the algorithm that finds the picture, to Wolowiec, the artist who selects and downloads it, and then puts it through the paces of her weaving practice. To produce this blanket the textile mill has interpreted one of Wolowiec’s works through their own, more traditional, craft-oriented, knitting practice. In the blanket we thus see a flattening of the physicality that Wolowiec had given the imagery that entered her loom, returning the image, which after all started out as a flat representation of something spatial, to a two-dimensional sphere, but one that operates on a different register from Wolowiec’s woven artwork: that of the textile. This amounts to a perverse new layer of mediation and retranslation that further complicates the fraught question of how images function and take on meaning in our digital age.