“Dangerous Supplement”:
Weaving as Parergon

“The parergon is an element that may appear at first to be peripheral and superfluous, marginal as decoration or ornament, but is in fact integral to the overall work (the ergon). Derrida argued that the parergon is no mere supplement but a “dangerous supplement,” for it […] “causes to be seen,” something essential about the ergon itself, namely a lack.”[3]                                 -Romy Golan, Muralnomad

To Romy Golan, tapestry acts as a parergon to “the master narrative of modernism.”[4] The ancient technique of woven imagery was revived by some artists in the Modernist period, and received with much discomfort. This is because tapestry reveals the master narrative’s ultimate lack: a disavowal of the physical body and the desire for tactile stimulation and decorative excess. A weaving hung on the wall is “a dangerous hybrid,”[5] situated somewhere between painting and decoration, seemingly because it is produced in the same mechanical way as the functional textiles we throw around our homes with domestic casualness rather than artistic significance. But the strict categorical separation of ‘painting’ and ‘decoration’ can no longer be applied universally, or even generally. Neither can we place these categories in a hierarchy of importance or of contribution to humankind. Tapestries and the art of weaving must be analyzed on their own terms, encompassing the breadth of the medium and the complexity of its history, developments, and fundamentals. “If a sculptor deals mainly with volume, an architect with space, a painter with color, then a weaver deals primarily with tactile effects.”[6] Why is weaving always talked about as so much more tactile than painting, sculpting, or even coding?

The weaver knows through touch. One of the first and only texts to put forward a theory of weaving, Anni Albers’s On Weaving, makes the importance of this haptic modality clear. Handling and forming materials, testing their textures and densities, exploring their potentials and limits, is a different but essential way of learning. “We touch things to assure ourselves of reality. We touch the objects of our love. We touch the things we form. Our tactile experiences are elemental. If we reduce their range, as we do when we reduce the necessity to form things ourselves, we grow lopsided.”[7] Most artists or craftspeople know this feeling. They are collaborating with a material, listening to what it wants to do. Weaving is particular in that it deals with both raw material and specific, intricately engineered processes.

Albers notes that in weaving, as in architecture, structure and surface overlap, affecting each other, and must always be kept in play with one another [8]. “Textile images are always emergent from an active matrix, implicit in a web which makes them immanent to the processes from which they emerge.”[9] Even the most complex woven imagery remains connected to the binary structure of weaving: the interlacing of horizontal weft threads and vertical warp threads. Weaving is tactile but also intellectual, requiring complex puzzling out and calculated planning, which in turn can only be achieved with the hands-on understanding of its physical process.

Our “dangerous hybrid” is interesting in and of itself, but in the end is still a medium – one that is particularly suited to express the embodiment, materiality, and excesses of our experiences and uses of the Internet.

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3. Romy Golan, Muralnomad: the paradox of wall painting, Europe 1927-1957, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 202. 
4. Ibid. 
5. Ibid. 
6. Anni Albers, On Weaving (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), 64.
7. Ibid., 62. 
8. Ibid., 63. 
9. Sadie Plant, Zeros + Ones: Digital Women and the New Techno-culture (London: Fourth Estate Ltd., 1997), 66.

Weaving simulation in Pointcarré software

Weaving simulation in Pointcarré software