|FF: Tell me about this installation project
youre working on with a sculptor.
Aly Wolff-Mills: Well, her name is Eve Andrée Laramée, and she is an installation artist, and shes working on a project for MIT thats really writing the history of the computer. And instead of starting with World War Two and the technology that came out of warfare, shes looking all the way back to Jacquard and his punch card loom. And basically taking the idea of textiles as the beginning of computers, and working with that concept.
And so part of what she did with our project is design a tapestry fabric that incorporates a lot of the elements of the time period, which is around the Napoleonic empire, as well as other bits of technology that were going on at the time.
And its the most amazing textile. Its got a portrait of Ada Lovelace on it. Its got a portrait of Jacquard with a jacket that has wooden zeros over it. Its got spiders and ants and a guillotine, two different kinds of computer tips, and a phrenology head. Its got the mechanical clockwork duck on it -- its fantastic.
And so shes using that fabric, which she had made at a textile mill, and had some enormous amount of yardage made of this fabric. And shes taking all of this fabric and has designed a Napoleonic empire style period room which is going to have large draperies and wall paneling. And the draperies are made out of the tapestry that she wove, and also shes having furniture upholstered in that tapestry fabric.
FF: And this is at MIT?
Aly Wolff-Mills: Uh huh. Its going to be at MIT. And then thats sort of the base of the design of the room, but then the rest of the room is going to be filled with objects that relate to the early automatons and all of that. Its absolutely incredible.
FF: What part do you play in this?
Aly Wolff-Mills: Ive been designing and actually fabricating the tapestry, hangings for the walls, that are basically curtains with lambrequin swags, tails, the whole works. Lots of fringe, crosses, deep swags everywhere.
FF: And now you mentioned Ada Lovelace? Tell the readers who she was.
Aly Wolff-Mills: Shes considered the original computer programmer. She worked on Charles Babbages computation machine, and learned how to program it, and make it do things that he himself couldnt even figure out how to do. So she was very impressive. Shes actually Ada Lovelace Byron. Shes Lord Byrons only legitimate child.
FF: Is that right!
Aly Wolff-Mills: She had some sort of friend, I dont remember who it was, who was also a mathematician and studied with that person and became a mathematician herself. So -- certainly an incredible person.
FF: You never even hear about the women who were involved in the early days of this. And around what time was she doing this work?
Aly Wolff-Mills: Lets see; that would have been pretty much a little bit later than Jacquards invention I think. So it would have been probably maybe 1820's.
FF: Wow, interesting period.
Aly Wolff-Mills: Certainly much, much earlier than anything that, you know, is the official recorded history.
FF: Right, right. And the installation goes up at MIT when?
Aly Wolff-Mills: In April.