At the Loom

Hannah Lesser and Olivia Luk (2023)

Hannah Lesser and Olivia Luk’s. project “At the Loom” uses the metaphors of craft and gender for an installation re-framing the social and scientific history of computing.

From the artists,

“Inspired by the often overlooked history of domestic female craft in the development of computation and parametric design, we aimed to create an interaction that would both educate the community on this history and introduce a specifically feminine sense of care into a space on campus. We intentionally chose Carnegie Mellon’s Newell-Simon bridge as our location, as it bridges the computer science and robotics buildings on campus. These are both heavily male-dominated fields, and the design and architecture of the buildings reflect this sentiment. Our installation contrasts with the culture and physical environment it’s in through its colors, subject matter, and material choice. It subtly and poetically subverts dominant narratives around design, and is a soothing reminder of the analog and tactile processes that preceded our technology-dominated world. We were able to define a physical space where members of the community can read about the historical role of domestic and female labor in modern design, or simply pause for a moment to exist in a serene and comforting space of reprieve from the responsibilities they may be facing. There’s a unique sense of patience, empathy and human touch inherent in female craft practices that has been lost in design as it has evolved into a field dominated by men and technology. Most design work we learn about and most projects we’ve participated in are typically digital, and influenced by the design ideologies of white men. We believe that applying our communication design skills and techniques to a physical textile medium will subvert dominant design paradigms, and bring to light a history that has been erased in modern design discourse.”

This project was made possible in part by support of the Frank-Ratchye Further Fund microgrant #2024-004. Additional images can be found here.