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Peake Performance

Selvedge

With a nod to Tim Peake we looked through our archives for a suitable space-y feature... Albert Einstein said ‘Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.’ You could be forgiven for thinking that machines are a moral issue and technology the evil of our time, and, as in the opinion of David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, that ‘All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent’. These days we are accustomed to achievement at the touch of a button rather than by the sweat of our brow. Even so, each advance in technology sparks suspicion and the same fight or flight response. Hype would have you believe that technology – and the scientists behind its unchecked progress – are poised one step away from the destruction of life as we know it. Genetic engineering, cloning, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology have supposedly brought us to the brink of disaster … or the birth of a new Eden. The trouble is deciding which. fee Textiles have always been at the forefront of change. In previous centuries, various aspects of cloth, from its colour to its commodity value, have altered the structure of society and fuelled the engine of progress, but this progress has not been smooth or easy. The industrial revolution caused suffering and hardship on an unprecedented scale but although we understand their actions, the machine smashing Luddites aren’t justified by history. The Flying Shuttle, Spinning Jenny and Mule are examples of human ingenuity, and demonstrate that once created no sledgehammer can destroy a good idea. The resistance to new technologies is often strong in artistic circles. The nightmare of a blank conformist culture controlled by ‘the machine’ seems to haunt sections of the textile community. This response is hinted at in debates on ‘the hand’ versus the computer. The defence of creativity is often presented as a series of ideas in opposition, sensory versus rational, touch versus tech, and error versus perfection. The latter seems fundamental to many individuals’ perception of craft. Like the beautiful Islamic carpets and mosaics that contain a deliberate flaw to appease Allah, it seems makers dislike perfection. To err is human and technology with its mechanical perfection is deemed diabolical. Verna Suit balances the virtues and vices of technology on the basis of what it does for us versus what it does to us. But, even here, the assumed dangers of technology seep into the language; ‘one’s reaction is to step back and keep to a more leisurely, reflective, more human pace’. The italics are hers. Seemingly machines have the potential to dehumanise those who use them. This is an extract from Elizabeth Smith's article in the Launch issue of Selvedge.


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