We live in a digital landscape and we have therefore grown accustomed to "glitches", or annoying malfunctions and technical errors, appearing in our lives while we browse an Internet page, look at the screens to check when the next train is due or use an automatic teller machine. Quite often, rather than correctly visualising the information we are looking for, we just end up seeing jumbled letters or coloured blocks. Children even have their own "glitch heroine", cute pixellating Disney character Vanellope von Schweetz who appeared in last year's Wreck-It Ralph.
All these examples may prove glitches are destined to remain confined in a digital and therefore impalpable world, but Japanese artist (you can check out the gallery events he organises with some friends here), musician (he's part of an electro-ambient band) and fashion designer Nukeme doesn't think so.
Prompted by his passions that include not just art and fashion, but also data re-writing, and technology, Nukeme developed in the last few months experimental knitwear and embroidery patterns disrupted by glitches purposely induced by him.
In the first case he connected an Arduino platform to a Brother knitwear machine linked to a computer; in the latter he rewrote the binary-code that moves the needle of the embroidery machine. In both cases the programme sent from the computer to the machine goes through a loss of control, creating small but visible disruptions in the final pattern or logo.
Though the final effect is imperfect, the knitted swatches, or clothing items with glitch embrodiery still look aesthetically pleasing, and, above all, quite amusing.
Can you tell us more about your background?
Nukeme: I was born in 1986 in Okayama, Japan, and, after graduating from the fashion school in Osaka, I started living in Tokyo. I studied fashion for three years, focusing on womenswear in the first two years and menswear in the last year. Now I’m working part-time sewing toiles at a fashion brand in Tokyo, while also developing my own creations.
You're an artist, fashion designer and musician, do you have an inspiring person - like a favourite artist or somebody who influences you in your work?
Nukeme: I think Yoshinori Henguchi, ucnv, and Dorita - the member of my band and also the partner of TANUKI - have a large and direct effect on me. In the first place, the collaboration with Henguchi led me to start working on my brand activities: it was him who suggested the name "Nukeme". It was ucnv who taught me the "glitch" techniques and concepts and I often discuss the ideas of creation with Dorita. As for the influence in my fashion designs, I think I received a great influence from BLESS.
What inspired the "glitch project"?
Nukeme: The participation in the glitch workshop that was held at Tokyo University of the Arts, lectured by ucnv, Yosuke Hayashi, and Shusaku Hariya. During this two-day workshop, I learnt the history of glitch and basic techniques to glitch images and movies. After participating in the workshop, a friend of mine told me that he was going to sell a computerized sewing and embroidery machine at an affordable price and I bought it jointly with Dorita. I applied the techniques that I learnt at the workshop to the machines and it happened to work out. Though the idea to glitch the embroidery had been just a mere thought, I think it turned out to be a very good way to turn the glitch into an artwork.
Which was the most difficult aspect of this project, hacking the Brother KH-970 knitting machine with the Arduino platform?
Nukeme: Tomofumi Yoshida and So Kanno took charge of the hacking’s technical part, and I was just looking at their trial-and-error process until the hacking made a certain success. Of course there was a long series of failures and I had a really hard time, but it was them who took all the pains tech-wise. My part was thinking what I should knit with this hacked knitting machine and how I should express the glitches in knitwear. So I guess the most difficult aspect of this project is to decide what I should create from now on with this hacked Brother KH-970.
Which offers the best solutions in knitwear, traditional machines, computers or a combination of both?
Nukeme: What I find interesting is the misapplication of things, and things that were created from unexpected use of machines, I have no intention of creating a great knitwear piece. For instance, I think it would be more amusing to turn something that was made to be a basketball net into a great knitwear design.
On your site there are also other installations and a series of caps made in collaboration with poet Yoshinori Hengichi: did you ever think about making textile installations for art museums?
Nukeme: If I have a chance, I'd love to. But since I can't create them all alone, I guess I will have to form a team to work on it.
One of your previous installations showcased at the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival Entertainment was a very long T-shirt with a series of "Glitch Embroidery" logos of various brands. Are you fascinated by commercial logos or do you use them in ironic ways to highlight how much they influence our lives?
Nukeme: It was Dorita who suggested me the idea of using commercial logos. I thought the idea was perfect since I’d been working on Nukeme with the brand concept of "hat as a media" and "fashion as a media". I guess I’m fascinated in something that has an element of advertising rather than in commercial logos. By embroidering a commercial logo on a clothing, the clothing turns out to have a function of an advertisement. The clothing itself is rather trivial, but I feel there is a little bit of fun in the fact that the clothing starts advertising something regardless of the wearer’s will. And since those commercial logos are what everyone sees in their daily life, I’m using them as a common language. To express and tell the action of "glitch", there is a need of understanding "what it used to be before it was glitched".
There is a lot of talk at the moment about smart textiles - do you feel that new technologies will help us developing innovative garments in the future?
Nukeme: I think new technologies will multiply design ideas. Now we can casually and easily digital-print on textile, and that's much easier than it was when I was a student. There are even fibres that change their colours according to temperature now, but there aren't garments made with them at the moment. But I expect that even today's latest technologies will turn into something universal in a while. And if there’s a new technology that spreads widely - so widely that people forget that it was a new technology - I think that's an innovation.
Is there a technique you'd like to experiment with in future?
Nukeme: I’ve been using knitting and embroidery machines usually employed for household purposes, but now I want to try using data and machines for industrial use. I would also like to try knitting full-coloured Jacquard. And for a long time, I’ve been interested in printing and dying not on the cloth but directly on products (clothing) too.
If you could launch a collaboration with a scientist or an artist who would you choose?
Nukeme: There are 2 on-going projects right now, a collaboration with Jeff Donaldson (noteNdo) and another collaboration with ucnv. Both of the collaborations are fun. I’m planning to upload them on my website as soon as they are completed, so I would like to urge your readers to check them out. If there’s a chance, I’d like to collaborate with anyone regardless of their occupation. Even a music session with my band would be great fun to me!
What plans do you have for the future?
Nukeme: I usually create clothing items like art pieces, and I want to keep this style on the one hand, but I also want to try mass-producing my works on the other hand. I would also like to take part in competitions and receive work from private clients too. Right because I accept as many requests as possible, many projects expanded in a very short period of time. I can’t even imagine how things will develop in future, but I hope I will have fun!
All images courtesy of Nukeme
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