Knitting to Listen

Jessica Watkin

2020. Installation and performance with yarn, fibers, knitting needles, and audio.

This installation addresses knitting to listen, Watkin’s way of holding her focus on audiobooks, which she uses for academic reading since becoming blind in her late teenage years. The installation includes many scarves that Watkin has made while listening to audiobooks for her university and graduate studies; a listening station with an audio book or voice recorded story playing. This work demonstrates the ways in which access hacks and other crip work-arounds become, through repetition, ritualized. For Watkin, reading means knitting; and, the material output of her knitting-reading practice evinces the hours of her labor. Evocative of Aztec narrative knot-tying, the scarves literally have ideas and stories knitted in. The tactile fiberwork pushes back against sophomoric platitudes about sensory “replacement” in case of sensory impairment; Watkin describes the knitting as a way to stay focused while listening to books because listening is hard for her, and she prefers kinesthetic to auditory learning. In this way, the motion of knitting is the act of reading.

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