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Ann Kaloski
eakn1 at york
dot ac dot uk

Centre for Women's Studies
Grimston House
tel: x3671/4

Alicia Felberbaum :: Holes-Linings-Threads
Sadie Plant :: Weaving Women

key texts

Alicia Felberbaum, 'Holes, Linings, Threads', 1998. http://www.aliciafelber.com/projects/holes/holesliningsthreads/index.htm

Sadie Plant, 'The Future Loom: Weaving Women and Cybernetics' in Mike Featherstone and Roger Burrows, eds Cyberspace/Cyberbodies/Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment 45-64. Sage, 1995

Felberbaum work was inspired by Plant's article, and she uses source material from the textile mills of Batley, Yorkshire in order to explore and expand Plant's theories. Taken together, the two works offer a history of computing that is part fact, part myth, and which places women firmly within the stories that a society tells about its culture.

some ideas to start your thinking

  • READING ONLINE. What was it like engaging with Holes-Linings-Threads? Was it like reading? Or browsing? Or viewing? Make some notes on how you read: what caught your imagination, and why? Where there parts that were hard to understand, and do you know why? How was it different from reading a print oral history text? What did you find out about the lives of the Batley women? What did you find out about artistic intent?
  • ARGUMENT. What is 'Weaving Women' about? What are some of the key arguments? What do you make of them? Are Plant's ideas liberating for women? Is that an inappropriate question?
  • HISTORY. How is history presented in both the Plant and the Felberbaum? Focussing on specific 'historical' examples in both texts, consider alternative approaches.
  • THEORY, ART AND HISTORY. How did reading the Plant and the Felberbaum together help you understand each text?
  • MYTHS. Think about the new myths imagined by Plant and Felberbaum. Are new myths useful for women? Which women? Why now? Could you have a bash at developing a myth of your own ...?
    If this aspect interests you, think about myths in other key texts: He, She and It by Marge Piercy; The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson; 'The Cyborg Manifesto' by Donna Haraway as well as other feminist re-writings you have come across (try, for example, Amy Thompson's Virtual Girl or Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time).

class discussion

If you are facilitating this class session, feel free to use any of the ideas above to begin your investigation, although you may develop your own questions if something really grabs you. Make sure you bring ideas to class which attempt to provoke discussion. What do you really want to discuss about these texts?

secondary reading

Sadie Plant Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (Doubleday, 1997). Here Plant explores some of the ideas introduced in 'Weaving Women' in more depth. Beautifully written and highly recommended.

See also these reviews and commentaries on Plant's ideas:

review of Zeros and Ones by Laura Lee.

Alex Galloway, Sadie Plant in relation to cyberfeminism, article.

Sexing the Machine; Sadie Plant in conversation.

Breaking the Myths; interview with Susan Geller Ettenheim in Cybergrrl.

Sadie Plant and Linda Dement, interview with Miss M, as Plant was writing Zeros and Ones.

see also: Linda Dement, Cyberflesh Girlmonster, 1995.
"...Cyberflesh Girlmonster is a macabre comedy of monstrous femininity, of revenge, desire and violence...About 30 women donated body parts by scanning their chosen flesh and digitally recording sound. From these, conglomerate bodies were created, animated and made interactive..."
Sadly, I haven't yet been able to get hold of a copy of this extraordinary CDROM, a work that inspired Plant. But you can read about it in the interview with Miss M (details above) and on http://contactzones.cit.cornell.edu/artists/dement.html.

Helen Whitehead Web, Warp and Weft Also inspired by Plant, and offering a different take on the issues, and lots of useful links to other creative explorations of women and weaving.

Alicia Felberbaum and others The Future Looms available on CDROM from me.

CocoaReworks An Oral history of Rowntree's chocolate factory in York, developed by Emma Robertson, Helen Graham and others from Emma's MA dissertation, and funded by a lottery grant. A different take on recording womens's lives - this one is meant to be read by the women who worked in the Rowntree factory.