Stitching Stories – ReNUM expo in Nantes

From Thursday to Sunday I was in Nantes finishing the collectively made map with stories of inhabitants of Nantes – part of the ReNUM project organised by Ping.
Early December 2010, 4 Constant members (Nicolas Malevé, An Mertens, Wendy Van Wynsberghe, Peter Westenberg) were invited by Ping to Nantes. For once, we were not organizing Constant activities together, but actually creating a work with inhabitants.

The wonderful Nantais ladies shared their stories about work with us. An Mertens fictionalized them – and these tales were recorded (audio). Projected maps were used to link the stories to the geographical locations and to get a feeling of the sense of place & trajectories. On another level we worked with the Breil inhabitants on the future of work as such. One of the outcomes was the dehumanizing aspect of a digital society, where work conditions are dictated by machines, not linked to human desires but focused on a predefined form of efficiency (or how humans tell machines what is efficient). Our discussion on this possible future lead to a story about a revolution…

For these stories we made two ways of listening to them: Nicolas Malevé added a layer to Openstreetmap, where you can listen to the stories:

We also wanted to make a physical map/interface for listening. Peter’s pen drew the contours of the regions and neighbourhoods that were discussed on a piece of fabric.

On the fabric we (=the participants & Constant members & Ping-ers) added active points, sewn with conductive fabric, connecting them to the electronic cables with conductive thread.

All the photographs of the workshop are here.

At the end of the four day workshop, the physical map was not finished.
It was working – but not ready for an exhibition. You could listen to the stories by gently pushing a pin in the active zones.

I was stuck with the clumsy situation of two Arduino’s and two waveshields that were playing the sound, which meant that sometimes two sounds were playing at once, as the Arduino’s were in no way synced or linked to each other.

The digital map and the physical one are part of an exhibition, so I continued working on the technical aspects of this map in Brussels. This was not an easy process as you can read here.

From Thursday the 24th of March till Sunday the 27th, I worked on the map itself, in Nantes. Very well prepared I did run into obstacles, namely decoding what we did 3 months ago. We took photo’s of our notes – but it’s still written in a code you understood in December – and not immediately in March!

Once these texts & drawings from the past were legible again, it became purely a matter of making.
Soldering, gluing.

Shifting, trying, looking. With Raum, the scenographers, we decided on a velcro back of the whole map.

All this in the Ping Fablab space – making a mess, contaminating their whole workroom.

Once everything works and when it all fits, testing stiches -> I chose the blanket stitch, it’s time to sew up.

Luckily I was not on my own (thanks a lot Irene & Mona), because it took about 6 hours to finish sewing up this map by hand…

At 15h54 we were ready, the inhabitants/visitors were already in the hallway…

Here is the finished map.

A close-up, to illustrate the cushionlike soft thickness:

The visitors were very enthousiastic and curious to find out how it worked.

Next week somewhere I hope to have some close-ups and even a little video of the map -> to see how it works.
If I would start again, I would chose a different fabric, less wrinkly, easier to embroider, and perhaps a bit smaller, because the hand sewn labour is quite heavy.

I could go on telling more stories – but I need to get cracking on other things. All images of the preparion and the set-up by Raum (thanks guys for the velcro solution, Ping for the invitation, last but not least the fantastic Breil ladies!).

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  • […] Suite à l’atelier-résidence de décembre 2010 et à l’exposition reNUM, Wendy, du collectif Constant, a rédigé un article sur les coulisses de la réalisation des cartographies (leur réalisation avec les participants lors de la résidence en décembre, et les finitions techniques pour l’exposition, l’accrochage etc) à consulter, en anglais, ici. […]