Live coding the warp-weighted loom
Live coding has developed into an international community of practice over the past two decades, where artists make live use of programming languages to express and create time-based works, predominantly at the fringes of electronic music. By contrast, warp-weighted weaving goes back to Ancient Greece, with looms now a topic for preservation and reconstruction. While live coding and warp-weighted weaving lack common history, we have seen that they share much in terms of a uniquely human approach to making. This has to do with counting, abstraction, discrete forms and pattern, but also cyclic ways of working, and bridging the world of discrete mathematics and material experience.
We argue that the high status of the warp-weighted loom, as the dominant, advanced technology in Ancient Greece, structured human understanding from number theory to the cosmos, just as weaving still structures our thinking through metaphors, which pervade modern language even in those cultures where weaving is now relatively uncommon.
The above video demonstration shows the first version of our warp-weighted loom designed to be live coded via electric solenoids, bringing together live coding and weaving. As the captions explain, the live coded mechanism is designed to support hand weaving, where nothing is dictated to the human – they are free to ignore the outcome of running the code.
We already experimented with coding weaves in the Textiles Centre in Haslach Austria, on the TC/1 loom there, but the interaction was rather slow, as it took some time to upload a new image to the loom controller. The interaction between the coder, loom and textile was something like this rather hastily drawn diagram:
The aim with this ‘live loom’ is something more like this:
In this configuration, the weaver-coder is able to interact with the weave as abstract structure through the code, but also directly with the woven textile on the loom – with the primary channel of feedback being from the textile itself, and not from the screen.
It’s certainly early days for this loom, but we have already run a small workshop with Berit Greinke’s students in UdK Berlin, and will share the designs soon with a permissive license, in case you would like to build your own.