WOOL PUNK is a collective, participatory reimagining of the power structures that currently define technology and computation. It uses a lens of craft and textiles to weave counternarratives and alternative histories that privilege inclusivity and critique hegemonic structures in the techno-social-cultural sphere. On a more meta level, it is an emerging methodology for narrative exploration in the still nascent field of electronic textiles. It is a tool to imagine stories and blur boundaries, a means of unpacking historical and cultural aspects of engineering and computer science through speculation and storytelling. In the words of fellow Wool Punk Zoe Romano at the 1st Wool Punk Congress, “this is an opportunity to provide a context from which our practice gets nurtured.”
The Wool Punks are a community on the north of Scotland active during the last century which now have almost disappeared, as we know.
Wool Punk is a term used to describe a movement originating in 19th century Scotland that invented a new form of power generation using wool. A small isolated community developed this methodology after discovering the curious electrical properties of the wool produced by the Scottish Dunface sheep in the highlands. We believe that they found that when friction is applied to this wool, it generated a substantial triboelectric effect that they could use to power machines. This knowledge permeated their lifestyle and culture, allowing them early insight into technologies that would not emerge for decades.
Almost all traces of this community were lost after a brutal suppression by the British Crown at the end of the 19th century. We have reason to believe the Wool Punks led a massive resistance campaign up through the mid-twentieth century that may still exist today. Through our research, we have unearthed various clues that give us insight into their lifestyle before and after their disappearance.
We have curated a selection of artefacts that are an attempt to recreate the tools, techniques, and they used and adapted for their campaign to retake their land, identity, and autonomy.
This cape was conceived as a secret 8-bit communication tool to convey morse code messages among subversive clans people.
This project was created by the Fictional eTextile focus group at the 2016 eTextile Summercamp. Inspired by cyberpunk fiction, we devised an alternative history of electrical generation using speculative design and improvisational storytelling methodologies. We researched Scottish subversive histories, tartan traditional dress and other cultural emblems; magnetic and rope core memory theory and production, as well as the Little Old Ladies who wove it; and the material and electrical properties of wool.
Cape created in collaboration with Afroditi Psarra, Ingo Randolf, and Anna Blumenkranz.
Other focus group members included Aniela Hoitink, Ana Piñeyro, Audrey Briot, Barbro Scholz, and Martin De Bie.
Wool Punks recently sighted at the Grouphug exhibition as part of NYCxDESIGN Week from May 5-7.