Fragmented Memory

by Phillip Stearns

Fragmented Memory is a triptych of large woven tapestries completed in May 2013 in Tilburg, NL at the Audax Textielmuseum’s TextielLab. The project uses digital practices and processes to blur the lines between photography, data visualization, textile design, and computer science. The result are works of visual art that serve not only to render visible the invisible processes mediating everyday experience, but also to operate as distinctly tactile and lo-fi digital storage media—the process becomes a means to capture, record, and transmit data.
A snapshot of my computer’s physical memory was extracted in a core dump (using OSXPmem). Three selections of the binary data were converted to images using custom software written with the help of Jeroen Holthuis in Processing which grouped 6 bits into RGB pixel color values (2 bits per channel). The resulting 64 hues in the images were then mapped to a custom woven color palette created by mixing 8 colors of yarn using variations on a satin weave. The resulting patterns were then woven on a computerized industrial Jacquard loom. Because of the direct mappings from binary data, to image, and from image to woven pattern, it’s actually possible to decode the original binary data sourced from my computer’s physical memory. In fact, a key to the binding patterns is provided on the back of each piece.

The assemblage of data in a computer’s physical memory serves as a record of human activity and agency, however abstracted and fragmented. By analyzing and understanding the data in a computer’s physical memory, it is possible, in some respects, to reconstruct a profile of the individual operating the machine. The physical memory of a computer contains the program data, instructions and file data, that are stored temporarily for future execution and processing. This includes media such as photos, video, sound, and text. In a sense the physical memory can be viewed as the part of a computer in which programs queue their instructions for the computer to execute. Those instructions once executed however, radiate, mediated back to the user, which brings into question the locus of agency in regards to who or what is programming or being programmed.
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To watch the video “Fragmented Memory Process” visit Phillip Stearns’ vimeo page

Fragmented Memory
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