Pattern Language

In March and April I took up residence in August Art, a gallery on Shoreditch High Street. I had researched the history of the area, investigating the Huguenot silk trade and lace-making, and visited the national archives at Kew to look at Huguenot silk and lace samples. I wanted to explore ways of re-translating the patterns made in previous works, Confabulation and Aurophone, using the idea of lace-making from a previous work for the Gift exhibition in 2008 (OVADA Gallery).

In design, a pattern language is a language applied to some complex activity other than communication. In the same way that language provides a structure for communication, pattern language provides a series of structures for design. I used these ideas to develop a new work, Pattern Language, that plays with the idea of language, communication, translation and migration. In this combined map/lace work, the routes of individual migrant histories are plotted using the patterns generated by the Aurophone, and as they cross and interweave new patterns are formed.

Through the process of making the work in the gallery, I invited passers by with a connection to the area to come in and tell me their stories of migration and family history, trading these for the Memory Preservation Salts we had used last year in Brixton Market. Collecting the stories as the work grew gave me an insight into this area and its many diverse connections. Shoredtich and Spitalfields have long been a crossroads and point of arrival for different migrant communities from the Huguenots in the 18th century, to the Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries and more recently the Bangladeshi community.

The physical process of making the work was painstaking and time-consuming, involving hundreds of tiny knots. As I made the work I thought about memory processes, and the use of knotting in many societies as a way to ‘tally’ memory, to exteriorise and make physical a mnemonic aid, so that as the ‘narratives’ grew on the table I was literally and metaphorically weaving a story onto the map. Meanwhile, recording oral histories of travel brought me to thinking about how in the telling of narratives, each time a story is told it is re-translated, altered slightly, for audience, context, and as words are passed down and lost or changed.

This relationship between the physical and the oral recording and translating of memory seems to meet at the point of a ‘pattern language’, finding ways to decode, translate and understand a structure of how we tell and understand memory of place.