Weave theory

In their collaborative philosophical tirade-turned-playscape, One Thousand Plateaus (1980/1987), Deleuze & Guattari famously describe woven fabric as the technological model of “striated space” (p. 552). Archetype of State control and the sterile productions of assimilationists and colonisers, striated space is not the kindly reading of woven form that contemporary fibre artists might relish. But, for Deleuze & Guattari, weaving is a decidedly statutory form. It is confined to the rigid perpendicular relations of warp and weft. The loom sets limitations on outward growth. The hierarchical relations of (a tapestry’s) smooth front and knotted back side. Citing Plato’s dictatorial leanings in The Statesman, which describes masterful governance through its parallels weaverly skill, Deleuze & Guattari denounce weaving to nothing more than a mode of autocracy. As the paradigmatic form of Plato’s “Royal Science”, weaving is essentially where creativity goes to die.

As weavers interested in pursuing textiles as a generative and boundless terrain, we experience a knee-jerk resistance to Deleuze & Guattari’s condemnation. Their assertions about the fundamentally striated nature of weaving misconstrues this multiplicitous field of practice. The truth is weaving can’t be a model for anything because there are so many kinds of weaving–weaving is a vast zone of development. Their flat reading of weaving leads us to turn to other thinkers, who will help us think more carefully about the nature of weaving as a technical practice. Simondon‘s On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (date) offers us the idea of technical kinship to help think weaving as related, not just striated.

Conclusion – weaving lacks an adequate theory. Of course, one obvious figurehead in any philosophy of weaving would be the work of Anni Albers. We are also interested in the work of Simondon. But doing philosophy should not merely be a matter of writing, but inventing concepts. Looking for weaving concepts that can take us farther.

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