one + one + one + one...
one + one + one + one... was first exhibited in The Old Museum arts centre, Belfast in June 2001 as part of the exhibition ‘The Value of Straight Thinking’ curated by Angela Darby of Fully Formed projects. The work was exhibited alone in an upstairs room which resembled a Victorian gallery, complete with red walls, a spiral staircase and a viewing balcony. An 18m piece of woven linen was hung from the balcony, spilling down onto the floor beneath. The cloth was woven with the image of six identical society portraits of Ada Lovelace painted in 1835. The image was also pixelated with each pixel approximately 1 cm x 1 cm. The cloth was hung in such a way that it was impossible to see any one full portrait. It was necessary for the viewer to piece together the image from the bottom of one portrait and the top of the next. From a distance, the image seemed quite distinct, but as the viewer approached the cloth, the image began to fragment due to the pixilation. The piece was woven on a computerised Jacquard loom by Ferguson’s Irish Linen co. The piece was also exhibited in Claremorris Open Exhibition, co. Mayo in September 2002. It was hung in a similar way in the public library.
Ada Lovelace (Lord Byron’s daughter) worked closely with Charles Babbage during the production of the first computer, the Analytical Engine, which utilised the punched card principle which Jacquard had employed to mechanise the loom. I 1843, Ada translated from Italian into English a paper about the functions of the Analytical Engine and added copious notes of her own which far exceeded the intentions of the original text. She analysed the machine and predicted its future potential. It could be argued that she was the first computer analyst. Whilst the achievements of Babbage and Jacquard are well documented, Ada’s contribution to new technology is less well known, her notoriety deriving more from her connection to her father, her penchant for gambling and her hysterical temperament. In the Victoria and Albert Museum, there is a 5 x 5 ft portrait of Jacquard woven in the finest silk on one of his looms. He is depicted in his workshop surrounded by the tools of his trade in a posture which suggests a celebration of his life’s achievements. The portrait of Ada in one + one + one + one... loosely follows this model, but is intended less as a celebration than as a comment on the gendered bias in the construction of biographies.