The idea of a “ web” actually came from an activity on connectivity in IDP 316. In this activity, students were sitting in a circle and had to throw a ball of yarn to each other after answering a certain question. The end result was a giant web of yarn that was a physical manifestation of how we are all interconnected. We wondered if we could accomplish this same idea on a very large-scale. What if we could cover Burton Lawn with a giant web? It would be both visually stimulating and really interesting to see how people all around campus share this common thread. We wanted to prototype this and had a series of questions we wanted answered. What materials should we use? Should we get experimental with how we define string? Will we actually be getting people to talk about how they are connected with each other? That is, will this activity go beyond a tangible web? To answer some of these questions, we had to build a prototype. With a piece of recycled wood, a hammer, some nails, yarn, plastic bags ripped into long strips and even a shoelace we brought together essential materials to create this web. On the day of Fall fest we set up shop. We asked people to hammer two nails wherever they pleased and to attach a string between the nails. At first, people were hesitant to use the hammer as it seemed forceful and destructive but eventually got more comfortable as they saw their peers participating. Many called this activity “therapeutic” and “wished that they could do this all the time.” People become playful with how they constructed a path, and many nailed in 3-4 nails at a time. Some even created a path that went over and under other people’s paths. By the end of Fall fest, we had a beautiful display of string in all forms. It was interesting and visually impactful. Future iterations of this prototype should be done on an even larger scale. We can imagine seeing people walk from one end of a room to another to attach their string or be crawling under string like a game of limbo. This would be highly interactive and be able to exhibit physical connections in clear way. Secondly, we would focus more on asking questions to guide the path people create. That is, instead of creating random paths, people would have to opportunity to create something of meaning. The questions would surround a central theme so that we could make sense of the data that makes this giant web.
The Weaving Loom
We wanted to make a loom to test what a fiber based project might look like. In particular, we were prototyping weaving in order to eventually create an enclosed, tent-like space that the Smith community could weave together. The loom was constructed with part of an unused wooden box and popsicle sticks. Most of the people passing by Fall Fest were willing to stop by and weave for a minute. We found that everyone liked the idea of something they had made/participated in ending up somewhere public and permanent. Weaving brought up different memories for people who came by of family members, knitting, etc. This project was implicitly connected to feminism- fiber is traditionally connected to mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers making rugs, clothing, and art. In fact, we invited the father of a student to come weave and he looked at us awkwardly and walked away. One drawback we found to weaving is that it was harder for people who had not previously woven to connect to. We found that for some of these people, weaving was connected to a white hippy and summer camp image that made it completely inaccessible. Moving forward, if we used fiber arts we realized we should connect weaving explicitly to non-Western cultures and think about how crafts in general can create an exclusive space.