World Beat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 2005, 12:00am

What's going on around the globe

A group of Australians has knitted a room and called it art - and no, they say, they're not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

Melbourne artist Caroline Love says it's 'an ongoing investigation of mark making as a record of time and place'.

Inspired by large wall drawings she made while living in Scotland several years ago, she decided to create the The Big Knit, now on show at Melbourne's West Space gallery.

When she raised the idea at her local knitting group, Love was thrilled by members' enthusiasm. So, she wrote guidelines for anyone wanting to contribute: a panel of any width, using any number of stitches, any type of yarn and any size needles, but only in red, orange or yellow, and no more than four metres high.

There was good news for beginners: dropped stitches and loose ends were no problem - the more the better to create interest. 'I encouraged people to leave holes because it would create texture,' says Love. 'Technical excellence wasn't something I emphasised. When you look at the whole thing, it doesn't matter whether something is particularly excellent in itself.'

But when The Big Knit was hung at a textile arts event a few months ago, it mattered to some knitters who saw it. Many viewers said they loved its warmth, comfort and tradition. But Love says others couldn't get past the fact that ends weren't darned in and holes weren't mended. For them, it was 'bad' knitting. But for others, it was 'good' art.

Love knitted some 60 per cent of the work and her mother knitted 10 per cent. But as more and more knitters have become involved, the work has grown by a third in the past six months

She still sees herself as the artist who created The Big Knit, but the work itself as a collaboration. All knitters - more than 70 contributed - are acknowledged on the wall of the two galleries where it hangs.

For Love the project was about creating an entire environment from freeform knitting. 'I had the idea of something big and red and warm that would have a worth to it and emphasise the quantity of all the stitches together and the fact that you could look at it as a whole and could also go up really closely and have a good look.'

She kept that in mind as the panels arrived at her studio, sewing them together in such a way that pockets and dead ends were created - as are corridors of knitting when the panels are hung from a ceiling. 'I wanted to emphasise the way that people interacted with the work when it was up,' Love says. 'I wanted to make places people could walk or even crawl through.'

The Big Knit even has a soundtrack - the stories of knitters recorded in interviews and replayed in whispers. 'The use of lighting and sound for this exhibition provides other avenues for experimentation with recording and documenting 'histories' as well as creating atmosphere for the here and now,' Love says.

'Each piece has hundreds of stitches and each stitch is kept together with hundreds of personal experiences and stories, some shared over the familiar click-clacking with fellow knitters, others silently remembered alone and some are known only to the rhythmic flow of wool which obediently weaves a net to catch all those dreams and unconscious stirrings for us to catch later.'

The Big Knit, West Space, 1/F, 15-19 Anthony St, Melbourne. Ends May 21. Go to