Reinterpreting the heritage of NW textile industry, whilst documenting the current experience of the freelance creative, Punchcard Economy will comprise of a machine-knitted banner based on the ‘8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest’ slogan coined by Robert Owen of the Eight Hour Day movement. The design will incorporate data collected from a range of ‘workers’ in the digital, creative and cultural industries, auditing contemporary working patterns within the digital economy, and revealing the shift from Owens’ ‘888’ ideal. The final work is produced on a domestic knitting machine using a combination of digital imaging tools and traditional punchcard systems.
The punchcard has played a role both in the development of textiles technologies (the Jaquard loom and the domestic knitting machine) and early digital computing systems. Punchcards have also traditionally been used as a mechanism for logging working hours and thus controlling workers. As digital tools allow us to engage in work at home (or in transit), the distinction between work, rest and recreation is increasingly lost. Whether a freelancer or a full time employee, we often struggle to avoid ‘bringing your work home’.
The popular introduction of domestic knitting machines in the 1950s brought the factory into the home, and saw the elevation of a hobby into a one-person cottage industry. Though Brother ceased production in the 90s, hobbyists and professional have kept the craft alive through sharing of techniques via video tutorials and blogs. More recently the electronic knitting machine has become a popular with hackers and makers.
Punchcard Economy is a development of the artist’s work with the NEPHRA knit and Natter group in New Moston, exploring the overlap between knitting machines and digital imaging, and his research into textiles manufacturing history in North Manchester.
You can take part in the development of Punchcard Economy by collecting a punchcard from FACT gallery, or by logging your working hours at www.punchcardeconomy.co.uk