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Liz Collins: Knitters with attitude

October 14, 2011

Published in Metro

Some artists express themselves with paint. Others dance. Liz Collins’ medium of choice is large-scale performance knitting.

The benefits of the craft are numerous: “It’s a fast way to make fabric, it’s highly portable, it makes an interesting sound,” lists Collins, the artist and designer behind performance piece “Knitting Nation.” “And the motion that a person makes to drive the material-making process is a really beautiful, trancelike kind of dance.”

As part of the ICA’s new Dance/Draw exhibit, Collins and her team of knitters use manually operated knitting machines to create huge fabric installations live in the museum’s space. They’ll perform in five-hour shifts.

“It will be physically demanding. That’s part of the point, that these are endurance pieces,” she says.
In simplest terms, the two shows demonstrate a skill. But they also reveal a larger message about human/machine interaction.

“I’m laying bare a process that is most often behind doors, in factories or workshops,” Collins says. “Here they’ll witness how a person and machine work together to create a piece of material.”

She says traditional rehearsals for these productions are unrealistic. “It’s not about choreography, because what we’re doing is simply knitting fabric. It just requires skill and experience.”

If you go

The ICA’s Dance/Draw exhibit — running through Jan. 16 — examines how the two art forms connect. In the past half-century, ballet has transformed into modern dance and lines have jumped from printed pages to three-dimensional installations. Keeping with the theme, plain knit fabric dynamically fills a space in “Knitting Nation.”

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