Data and jacquard weaving

30 April, 2015

Artist Rossella Biscotti developed tapestries on the digital jacquard loom in the TextielLab. Biscotti is an Italian artist who lives and works in Brussels. Through her art she explores historical and spatial issues and gives them shape in sculptures and three-dimensional works, that make social and political issues visible.

Rossella Biscotti has won the Mies van der Rohe stipend. With this stipend promising young artists can realize an art project in the by Mies van der Rohe designed villas Lange and Esters. Josef Esters and Hermann Lange were two silk manufacturers from Krefeld. The villas belong to the Kunstmuseen Krefeld. For Haus Esters Biscotti made a site-specific installation with woven tapestries.

By Michel Marie Carquillat (tisseur) d'après Claude Bonnefond (Bonhams) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe Krefeld textile industry had its peak in the 19th century, after the introduction of the jacquard loom. This loom was invented Joseph-Marie Jacquard in Lyon in 1805. Jacquard devised a system with a succession of narrow cards with holes in order to store the information about the patterns for weaving. This is the first time information was stored in a binary manner, with an on / off, 0/1. The jacquard cards are the precursors of punch cards that were used to store information before computers had an internal magnetic memory. At the end of the 19th century Herman Hollerith was the first to use punch cards to store information. Hollerith invented this system when he worked at IBM for storing data for the 1890 census in the United States.

Biscotti used demographic data from Brussels for this project. The historical data Biscotti uses, show the changed family ties. Biscotti put the data into an abstract pattern. This resulted in four tapestries with the titels Acquired Nationality, Children, Dead Minorities and Single Mothers. The interpretation of data makes the individual subordinate to the system, a topical theme in this age of big data. Weaving, the origin of the digital world in which we live, shows how data are in fact unreadable.

27 mei 2015: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam acquired the tapestries for its collection.

More information on the project and on Rosella Biscotti:

Kunstmuseen Krefeld:
Blog Lost Painters:×10/
Radio broadcast WDR3:

Jantiene van Elk

Image Jacquard: By Michel Marie Carquillat (tisseur) d'après Claude Bonnefond (Bonhams) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons