Graduate Alumni > Advanced Fiber Studio (Highlights)

Jessica Walton (Fall 2003)
Jessica Walton (Fall 2003)

My most recent work displays an invented history, one inspired by the story "The Preserving Machine" by Philip K. Dick. The story is about a man who fears that the violence permeating our society may endanger the survival of the arts, literature, and especially music. In the story the narrator thinks, "Music is the most perishable of things, fragile and delicate, easily destroyed. What a dry and unfortunate world it would be without music. How dusty and unbearable. If music could be transformed into living creatures, animals with claws and teeth, then music might survive." So to preserve music, he designs the preserving machine in which the user places the scores of classical compositions in the machine, which creates a living creature based upon the score.

In my piece, I have composed my own fantastical creatures based upon those briefly described in the story. The creatures are displayed as if in a museum and as if the invented history is accurate. By displaying the creatures as if they are actual artifacts, the piece questions how those who display the past can influence history. It also questions how display can provide objects greater authenticity.

I used my own hand-woven fabric, embedded with hairs, feathers, etc., which became the animal's "skins." The process of weaving the skins became like the composer creating the score. Did I become the composer and did the loom become the machine? Should science or a machine be able to produce life? The viewer can question whether in this fabricated history music has survived at all and whether these amorphous, mutated creatures could really help us to remember the music that the narrator so loved.