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Sep 30, 2016 · 3 min read
boredomresearch with Dan Coughlan, Curator of Textiles at Paisley Museum

This is the first blog from digital artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith, aka boredomresearch, recent winners of the 2016 Lumen Prize Moving Image Award and the recipients of the inaugural UWS Paisley Digital Art Commission.

Vicky and Paul will be sharing their inspirations and reflections on their process and practice in the run up to the exhibition launch in Paisley Museum on the 1st of November 2016.

“We are greatly inspired by the underlying mechanisms which give rise to the beauty present in nature. For over ten years we have been using contemporary technology to model the behaviours and growth of imagined beings which explore a similar diversity to that found in nature. From the start of the UWS Paisley Digital Art Commission we wanted to explore the diversity of the paisley pattern alongside our research looking to progress our cultural understanding of notions of diversity and extinction. Investigating the plight of Scotland’s endangered freshwater pearl mussel, we have been considering the diversity of the natural world alongside the creative diversity emerging from Paisley’s textile industry.

Vicky Isley, boredomresearch with Carol Craig, Paisley Museum Archivist, studying a paisley sample book

Through this commission we have had the privilege of spending time in the Paisley Museum archive. Viewing the new and growing digital collection of paisley designs has completely changed our understanding of Paisley both as a pattern and a place. After climbing the grand stairs to what was formerly the children’s section of the library we sat down with the Paisley Museum digital archivists in a small black painted room setup for the time-consuming task of digitising such priceless gems as the ‘Birds of America’ by widely celebrated artist John James Audubon as well as Paisley’s acclaimed Alexander Wilson and of course the reason for our visit was the extensive collection of Paisley pattern books.

Paul Smith, boredomresearch researching the Paisley Museum digital archive

The extensive collection of pattern books stands testament to the creativity of the people of Paisley. These books catalogue the diverse potential of the Paisley form as explored by the many creative individuals working in the industry that grew around the creation of shawls. Although these book have been archived and are currently being digitised, the names of the authors have not been saved.

The textile industry’s rapid production cycle and hunger for new value spawned a powerhouse of creativity, rivalling that of physical production. The words creative and industry coming together literally. Impressed by the diversity of expression brought on by this union we stopped to reflect on the lost names of the authors whose artistry fills the archive of the museum. Could it be that the diversity valued in this collection signifies a growing understanding of the importance of diversity in a wider context? Each pattern is being carefully digitised, each the sole surviving representative of a kind. We feel there is a valuable link here with a broader sense of diversity, from the creative: which makes human culture so rich, to the evolved: that conservationists are desperate to preserve.

As we begin to understand our own time as that of the Anthropocene, an age in which human activity has become the dominant influence on the environment, we are faced with the challenge, what do we value and what do we preserve? Such a question has informed our thinking as we have embarked on our Paisley project.”

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