encoded textiles


Interactive Crazy Quilts:

The history of computing begins with textiles, for it was punchcards from the Jaquard loom that inspired Ada Lovelace to write the first programming code.  In 2010 I began a series of crazy quilts that reflect on this shared history and lead a double life: they are simultaneously embroidered textile works and functional high capacity color barcodes.   These works were the focus of a 2011 exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art entitled “NEW/NOW: Interactive Crazy Quilts by Carol Padberg”.  I am intrigued by how weaving and code are two examples of binary systems, with endless variations coming from warp and weft in textiles, and “0” and “1” in computer programming.


In West Africa, abstraction is often encoded with specific meaning.  Adinkra and Kente designs on textiles refer to specific old world proverbs or historical events.  In 2009 I was mulling over what an American abstract textile design infused with meaning from the cultural wisdom of new world proverbs might look like.  I designed a pair of textile pieces called “Franklins,” inspired by two Benjamin Franklin proverbs: “Where there is hunger, law is not regarded.  Where law is not regarded there is hunger,” and “An empty bag cannot stand upright.”  These are mediations on spiritual and material wealth and poverty.


In 2012 I collaborated with artist Andy Deck on a commission for the Yale University Sterling Library. We created an artwork that presented books that could only be read by the electronic eye.  This show asked questions about who owns knowledge, and the history of roots of propriety thinking.  The installation included Babylonian legal contracts written in cuneiform text in clay, and Microsoft and open source barcode languages,as well as images from the Yale Library special collections, including the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.