ZQ-II: ‘16 -’22

Newby, Christian (2022) ZQ-II: ‘16 -’22. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This practice-based research project redirects the function of a hand-held carpet-tufting gun from its origin as a manufacturing device and explores its more mutable and itinerant capacities. It couples drawing with publishing, performing as complementary nodes within a textile practice concerned with the activities of assemblage and re-assemblage, capturing key moments within this process. Together these disciplines offer a speculative and sideways glance at the industrial applied art of carpet tufting. The machine, the ZQ-II from Dayang Carpet Machinery, oscillates between the high-volume anonymity of commercial production technologies and the emboldened mastery and skill equated with artisanal handicraft. Its uniqueness as a portable and technologically articulate piece of equipment separates it from other, more stationary means of tufted carpet fabrication. It resembles other tools such as the sewing machine and the electric power drill. Still, even more so than these, it possesses much more gesticulatory equivalences to the pencil, the spray can, the paintbrush, or the tattoo needle. ZQ-II:‘16-’22 employs mark-making, carpet-tufting and self-publishing. It is a broadsheet newspaper-cum-operating manual-cum-artist book drawing an autoethnographic line around the jetsam of art and craft production. The large-scale tufted artworks, Post-It-Note doodles, workshop demonstrations, scripts, travel diaries, and homespun technical pamphlets track an artistic process aimed at thinking through the obscurity of carpet manufacturing and its relationships to other forms, techniques and bodies of knowledge. This thesis looks at the tufting gun as a mark-making tool that bypasses textile as a terminal state of objecthood and looks at it more as enacting states of formation. This research consists of a series of tufted works and a user handbook: a glossary of terms, artworks, artefacts and anecdotes documenting the expanded components of practice beyond the hierarchies of form and exhibition. It puts the ZQ-II device at its centre, moving from one drawing enterprise to the next. As the tool’s actions and ontingencies are accounted for, it undergoes a process of subjectification, mutating into a theme or motif in its own right. Reports become rants, footnotes become anecdotes, and writing exercises become lyrical mini-manifestos. This thesis summons the role of the diarist, integrating personal conflicts exclusive to one maker’s technique. This project plots a course of reflective experimentation, encountering the machine rather than simply operating it. The manufacturer’s tool is fashioned into acts of portraiture; the ZQ-II becomes ZQ-II through the conditional permutations and figurations taking place in the studio or workshop. It attests to a process of transformation where textile-making extends beyond cloth and stitch and into a system of dynamic personal compositions on and off the printed page. It offers a means of viewing beyond the frontier of the determined edges and tidy piles of the finished carpet-form and into a speculative and reactive mode of material and textual play. This broadsheet, this operating manual, this diary is textile. It is a record of activities performed with and alongside the ZQ-II carpet gun between 2016 and 2022 that serve the question what happens when you use a carpet gun as a drawing tool? Its function lies not within a divorced position as observer but instead within its accumulating and fallible collection of first-person episodes. To be a tourist or to tour can often suggest a negative pursuit, an imposition or lack of knowledge, but a tour also denotes an overall sum of movement, a sum that traces the body’s negotiation with tools and materials, as well as the articulation of knowledge from one format or location to another as it happened. ZQ-II:’16-’22 is a procedural inventory of instructions, travelogues, concrete poetry, anecdotes, reflections on failure, micro essays, lists, carpet drawings, diagrams, reading aloud, the flipping of pages, collages and fieldnotes. Its assorted voices carry the viewer in and out of the phenomenon of artistic practice, codifying an index of multivalent tools, materials and encounters into a novel methodology that prioritises the devising of form. This research imagines textiles as documents, as accounts of muscle ache, travel, myopia, flowers, and mutation.

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