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Pixillation - From the Real, Back To the Real - Knitting, Masking, Tweeting

posted Jan 30, 2013, 10:23 PM by Ellen Pearlman

Pixillation - From the Real, Back To the Real - Knitting, Masking, Tweeting

PIxels (short for picture element) are the “smallest addressable element in a display device” and the two dimensional lingua franca that comprises the digital art world. They are a “physical point in a raster image,” and all aspects of the technological revolution would be moot without them, much less any entryway into viewing 3D.

Andrew Salomone used a hacked 1980’s  Brother KH-930e electronic knitting machine, one of the most simplistic and binary machines, (knit one, purl two) to deal with the issue of identity, disguise and pixellation. The hack lets one take any pattern from the computer, bring it into Photoshop and then input it into the machine, from where it turns into a pattern and knits out a design.

Andrew’s knitting machine in his studio

The knitting machine was constructed to talk to an old Tandy floppy drive that worked off large 5 1/4 inch floppy disks. Since there are no more floppy disks commercially available, a Python script was written to fool the machine into thinking it was still talking to the floppy drive.

The images are taken from a picture, fed into in a computer and dumbed down via Photoshop into a very low resolution image (think lots of blocky pixel squares.)

The pixel squares input into the knitting machine look something like this on a computer screen.

A potential knitting pattern in pixels on a computer screen

What Salomone did was take a photo of his face, and initiated the process to knit a clearly identifiable face mask of himself.

Machine Knit Identity-Preserving Balaclava - Photo by Becky Stern

Salomone took a virtual image, turned it into large pixels and through electronic and mechanical means, and made a craft mask of himself as representation of himself.

Carla Gannis also deals with pixels and representation through her digital pigment prints. 

Re(presented) Nov 26 [Wolf] 2012

Re(presented) Mar 25 [Block Head] 2012

This is representation from the real (individuals) to the virtual, and how identity can be rasterized and deconstructed into swatches, blobs and points on a screen. 

Caroline C. Blaker uses Twitter to create “Twitterscapes” in pixels. For example, here is one full of tweets for today. 

Twitterscape, Today

She pulls a Twitter timeline from any one moment, creates an image from the tweet in its author’s profile colors, and saves the image. What does this mean? As Blaker says, she loads “the home page of this site, a script is triggered that pulls the public data feed in the Twitter API and processes each tweet character for character against the profile colors chosen by the author of the tweet, producing the Twitterscape image.” It is built upon Codeignighter, Version 2.0.2 and lots of tweaking and hacking. 

Think of it as a paint-by-number alphabet of any one instant in the Tweetisphere, where letters and characters, even foreign characters like Arabic or Chinese are pulled into their byte and rastered equivalent and assigned a color - a sort of braille for the billions of tweets flying through the air at any one moment.  A sort of braille to make us see.

Gallery of Twitterscapes


Words turn out looking like woven rugs on a loom, which goes back to the knitting and bit pixel analogy of the Identity-Preserving Balaclava. Braille and pixels, concept and color, bytes and numbers, becomes human communication metamorphosed.