The first screencozy I made was inspired by a composition 'Lament for Solo Computer' by Jasha Narveson. To listen to this piece I had my powerbook situated on a table wearing a cozy while playing the music. It was a touching experience, which altered the sensibility of this mass produced machine. I usually spend hours a day behind this machine and do a range of different things on it, from video editing to writing code for interactive video installations. But even though the output on the screen ranges from different kinds of images and text, the actual feel of the screen never changes. It's an LCD-screen, period. The convergence of media, which is an inherited quality of the computer, has become unappealing. It reminds me of processed food where if I eat alfredo sauce or tandoori chicken mix, I always feel like my taste buds are confined within the limits of the chemicals used to preserve the food, by the conventions of an mass-produced taste of tandoori chicken or alfredo sauce. I came to the conclusion that the normalization of the senses is the commonality between processed food and the computer screen. The screencozies are an attempt to protest this normalization by using a craft that is accessible and does not require specialized 'high tech' knowledge, although has a relationship with the binary properties of a computer technology. The knitting patterns used for these screencozies are improvisational.
The cozies alter the sensibility and the functionality of the screen, giving it a human touch. Knitting is simultaneously digital and analogue, the patterns being a combination of pearl and knit and the wool being the analogue materialization of the pattern. This is very similar to the computer: in the computer the binary code is materialized through analogue properties of the materials the computer is built of, one of them being the materiality of the screen. The knitting patterns of these cozies are created intuitively and have a similarity to abstract impressionist paintings. The patterns carry my artistic signature and would have a very different feel if knitted by someone else or if they were based on existing patterns. The intuitive knitting patterns are a humorous commentary on the implicit contradiction between the technological and the craft. The labour put into these cozies is an ode to all the overlooked people who have put their physical effort into manufacturing these computers. Each cozy is an individual commission, which personalizes the mass produced computers not on a functional level but on the level of an object. I see the cozies as small abstract paintings that turn the powerbook into an expressive object.
The individual commissioning the work selects two colors and describes their relationship with their computer. For example the name of the hard-drive, the color, if they have a messy desktop or what they use it for. The next step is finding the right wool. The wool store I go to in Toronto has a broad range of wool, differing in texture, thickness, quality and hue. Selecting the right wool is a process that is done with thought and care; it's very sensuous, and touch plays a big part in the selection process. (I am currently working on a touch-screen cozy. These cozies will match the functionality of the touch screen.) The knitting is an intuitive endeavor and is inspired by the owner's relationship with his or her computer. For example, Glen Gear's cozy has a porthole, which is inspired by the porthole videos he makes.
I invite people to knit their own screencozies or create their own line of screencozies.
Annex, Winnipeg, Canada, 2005.A screencozy is featured on the frontpage of the recent, Public, issue #31.