Machine Knitting: Dave
Two 25 metric ton excavators.
Twenty-foot-long knitting needles fashioned from
utility poles. A truckload of acrylic felt.
And over 800 carefully executed stitches.
Orchestrated in a complex, noisy ballet to create
a knitted American flag over the Massuchusetts Museum
of Contemporary Art this Independence Day weekend.
Cole doesn't see himself as a performance artist
and believes that the finished product -- in this
case an American flag -- is the art. However,
it's hard to argue that the process of creating
this piece is not spectacular, absurd, and well
worth watching. If you happen to be anywhere
close to the Berkshires at the beginning of July,
head out to Mass MoCA to watch Dave and his crew
knit with heavy industrial equipment.
flag is just one part of his exhibition. Inside
the gallery you'll see more of Cole's work.
A series of knitting kits that he imagines would
be appropriate for a number of U.S. involved conflicts.
The army never issued knitting needles, but what
if they had?
Cole sees his knitting as taking something domesticated
and feminized and injecting testosterone into it
-- it's bigger, louder, more dangerous, more expensive
-- "just what boys do."
began knitting during lectures at Brown University
to help him sit still and maintain focus in class.
He moved away from wool and conventional yarns though
and began exploring other substances and fibers.
Steel wool, Kevlar, lead, and porcelain spun like
cotton candy at temperatures that would vaporize
typically view knitting as a soothing, sometimes
meditative activity -- at its best when the stitches
flow easily from our needles. Cole's knitting
stands in stark contrast: each stitch is slow, difficult,
and mindful. A test of perseverence. "I'm
knitting with lead. I'm knitting with lead..."
Each stitch. 5000 times. And for each new
project Cole has to fashion equipment. The
technologies of knitting are among the simplest
tools there are, but to create an object from steel
wool, Cole not only had to manage to knit the stuff,
he had to create a spinning wheel to spin the steel
wool into yarn. Taking simple technologies
to absurd ends.
his seemingly more benign pieces -- teddy bears
and baby blankets -- are tinged with an edgy violence.
The lead teddy bear is both cute and deadly.
The porcelain baby blanket that could withstand
the most raging inferno is so rough that the knitter
had to work under industrial safety conditions to
Go see what all the noise is about.
Dave Cole and his crew will be casting on July 1st
and finishing up on the morning of the 3rd. When
the heavy knitting's finished, you'll be able to
meet Dave Cole and partake of a cook-out at Mass
MoCA on the 3rd.
The exhibit begins June 30th and
runs throughout the summer.