ARTIST: Laura MacCary and Lawrence MacCary
TITLE: Dialectric: Connection
MATERIALS: Woven wire, yarn and electronics
DIMENSIONS: 33" x 45"
DATE: 2003

This interactive piece consists of a hand woven panel of switches attached to a circuit board with LEDs which correspond one-to-one with the switches in the panel. The switches are made of pairs of fine wires, which are woven into the fabric so that they are in close proximity but do not touch. The viewer's finger provides a conductive surface across which the current can pass to connect the two sides of each circuit. Touching a switch causes the corresponding LED to light.

I am a weaver studying electronics. My father, Lawrence MacCary, is a sculptor and a longtime electronics experimenter. I grew up playing with electronic toys he made and sometimes I got to help wind coils or salvage parts. His "infernal machines" came out of the workshop for hair-raising demonstrations at parties. All of this gave me a sense of delight about electronics. When I decided to make a series of works which combine weaving and electronics, I was excited that he was interested in collaborating on circuit design.

Weaving is a ubiquitous but little-noticed technology, viewed as unremarkable even though it is essential to human survival. Electronics is another technology that is becoming so omnipresent and so integrated with our lives that we will soon cease to notice it. However, electronics is sure to cross the boundary of our skin, and enter our bodies. Its fields already do.

It is this intimate interface between people and technology that I'm examining in this series of works. Each piece in the series consists of an electronic component woven of conductive or resistive materials, cast-off by industry, and a circuit designed around the weaving. By interacting with the weaving the viewer physically enters the circuit, and the circuit passes through the viewer, blurring the boundary between them.

The title of the series, Dialectric, is taken from the words dialectic, meaning the juxtaposition or interaction of two conflicting ideas or forces, and dielectric, an insulating substance or one in which an electric field can be maintained with a minimum loss of power. I see these as metaphors for the participants in an interaction, and the space between them.

ARTIST: Laura MacCary
TITLE: Huggable HAL
MATERIALS: Electronics, glass, fabric, foam
DIMENSIONS: 9 1/2" x 9 1/2" x 9 1/2"
DATE: 2005

This HAL references the HAL 9000 computer from the movie 2001. Each HAL is a cube or block about ten inches on a side, with a glowering red eye that lights up when you hug it, but the eye fades unless you keep hugging. Ironically, hugging them forever would eventually run their batteries down, sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of thing.

I'm thinking about our relationship with technology, how intimate it is, how we anthropomorphize, and as the movie points out, how technology is a double-edged sword. For me there is some conflicted pathos in hugging or consoling this murderous/helpless device. Who is manipulating whom?

Laura MacCary
Seattle WA
laura AT