Sam Meech’s work combines traditional stop-motion animation with digital textile design to create machine-knitted ‘film reels’.
Sam Meech (b. 1981, Huddersfield, UK) is a digital artist and videosmith whose practice includes interactive video installation, stop motion animation, documentary film, and digital textile design. He is interested in the overlap and interplay between digital and analogue hybrid design processes and the possibilities of combining the two in production and performance.
His machine-knitted animations explore the materiality of digital film-making whilst drawing attention to shared evolution of computing and textiles. Knitting is a tactile form of digital media – a tangible expression of binary design systems. As such, many ideas that we associate with screen-based digital technology (data, encryption, compression, colour, resolution) can be explored and expressed in textiles. There are limits to this approach to filmmaking – the ‘resolution’ of the image is much smaller, stitches (pixels) can easily be dropped, and the physical film format is prone to stretching and warping. However, you can wear it as a scarf.
Sam works with both mechanical ‘punchcard’ domestic knitting machines and ‘hacked’ electronic machines to produce his films. The punchcard machines utilise a maximum design width of 24 stitches / pixels, and must be punched by hand, one pixel at a time. This small resolution provides a tricky design constraint, however one is left with a handy physical ‘programme’ that is easy to reuse and store. The hacked electronic knitting machines can take a digital image (png file) of up to 200 pixels wide, vastly increasingly the potential for detail, as well as complexity.
HD Video / 02:43 min / 2019
TRICOTONE 01 explores the knitting machine as an electronic instrument -using traditional punchcard patterns as analogies to the oscillators and waveforms found on a synth. The soundtrack is generated in real-time by the colours in the film as they mix several tones from a Korg Volca synth via an interface developed in Isadora.
Knitted Horse Firework
HD Video / 00:36 min / 2014
Knitted Horse Firework explores the lo-res limits of video compression by taking Muybridge’s Horse in Motion and data-moshing it with a clip of fireworks before translating this new sequence to a black and white knitting pattern using simple dithering tools.
Ceci N'est Pas Un Spectacle
HD Video / 02:04 min / 2015
Ceci N’est Pas Un Spectacle uses the tradition of motif making in knitting as an absurdly reductive approach to documentary. The artist conducted over 40 interviews with people in downtown Montreal, as well as conducting visual research to map the connections and concerns in regards to the rapid change in the area. The result is a bizarre collage of logos, motifs as quotations that resists a simple coherent narrative or consensus.