One of the defining images of DMY Berlin 2012 was without question Andrea Brena sitting cross-legged on his stand, up to his elbows in brightly coloured material and knitting with his arms.
A sight that, as one can imagine, always attracted a crowd as numerous as it was curious.
Although outwardly about knitting with your arms, the central theme of Knitted Army is much more about redefining the personal connection between user and object.
About reclaiming furniture from the cold, dark cave of thoughtless consumption and returning it to the hearthrug of association through self-production
Obviously not a revolutionary theme; but one which Andrea approaches from a very interesting perspective.
Arm knitting is a tool-free process that, according to Andrea, anybody can learn in five minutes. We didn’t try and so can neither confirm nor deny that claim. However we do tend to believe most things Andrea tells us….
Essentially involving using your arms in place of knitting needles and knitting and purling from such, arm knitting can be classed as an Open Design process; not only are all who use it free to modify it or adapt it as required – as Andrea has done – but also as a process it doesn’t limit what can be produced, rather provides a means to experiment and see what is possible.
Andrea’s first objects were shapeless beanbag-esque “sofas” but he has since gone on to develop objects with a more defined form as well as more general domestic objects, for example, rugs.
But much more than being simply about utilising a democratic and globally accessible production process, as a project Knitted Army is also about the end product being an object defined by the person who created it.
Not only have you created the object yourself, but the resultant mesh is dependent on how thick or thin your arms are. The construction of the finished fabric is defined by your own construction and so we all generate individual results.
Le Corbusier probably wouldn’t like the non-standard nature; we’re drawn to the idea.
In addition Andrea’s process uses left-over cut offs from fabric producers meaning that it provides a useful and sensible form of waste reduction, while at the same time representing a much-needed rediscovery of the value of material in our modern “throw away, use and discard” society. And through using further strands of the same material to stuff and fill objects one creates the possibility that the pieces can be extended, reduced or otherwise altered at a later date. Either by the creator or a new owner.
Although it sounds like a paradox, the increasing digitisation of our world will mean that the future will become increasingly analogue.
Not as a reaction against the brave new world, but because the new technology not only forces us to question what is truly important but also gives us the confidence to escape the established political, social and economic systems.
We genuinely believe that in 100 years Europe will once again be an agrarian society with an economic system predominantly based on co-operation and exchange.
And in such a system what could be more fitting than groups of locals sitting round a village green arm knitting the afternoon away, creating whatever the community was in need of.
In that sense Knitted Army obviously throws up parallels with other projects on show at DMY Berlin 2012, in particular Werner Aisslinger’s Chair Farm project or Upholstered Chair by Jooyeon Lee.
The word on the street is that Knitted Army came very close to winning a DMY Award. As in very close. We can well imagine that; however, given that the project is – if we’re correctly informed – still in its first year, just getting nominated was a commendable achievement.
And the good news for all who couldn’t see Andrea arm knitting in Berlin: if we know the European design festival circuit the defining image of DMY Berlin 2012 will soon become the defining image of a design festival near you.
More information on Andrea Brena, and arm knitting can be found at http://andreabrena.com