Some artists express themselves with paint. Others dance. Liz Collins’ medium of choice is large-scale performance knitting.
The benefits of the craft are numerous: “It’s a fast way to make fabric, it’s highly portable, it makes an interesting sound,” lists Collins, the artist and designer behind performance piece “Knitting Nation.” “And the motion that a person makes to drive the material-making process is a really beautiful, trancelike kind of dance.”
As part of the ICA’s new Dance/Draw exhibit, Collins and her team of knitters use manually operated knitting machines to create huge fabric installations live in the museum’s space. They’ll perform in five-hour shifts.
“It will be physically demanding. That’s part of the point, that these are endurance pieces,” she says.
In simplest terms, the two shows demonstrate a skill. But they also reveal a larger message about human/machine interaction.
“I’m laying bare a process that is most often behind doors, in factories or workshops,” Collins says. “Here they’ll witness how a person and machine work together to create a piece of material.”
She says traditional rehearsals for these productions are unrealistic. “It’s not about choreography, because what we’re doing is simply knitting fabric. It just requires skill and experience.”
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The ICA’s Dance/Draw exhibit — running through Jan. 16 — examines how the two art forms connect. In the past half-century, ballet has transformed into modern dance and lines have jumped from printed pages to three-dimensional installations. Keeping with the theme, plain knit fabric dynamically fills a space in “Knitting Nation.”
Through Jan. 16
Sunday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Nov. 25 (11 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston; free with museum admission, 617-476-3100