Patches, Seams and Material Semiotics

Shai rapoport
3 min readJan 17, 2021


Here are some thoughts following the reading of John Laws “Material Semiotics” and Kristina Lindstrom and Asa Stahl’s “Studies in Material Thinking”:

*Patching is a metaphor for a way of conducting a research, and it asks to put the process at the center of attention. This stands opposite to the way research is perceived in the academic world- a clear outcome and conclusion hiding the elaborate, complex process which was trimmed, stressed and reduced so to usually fit an already known conclusion.

*The Threads project immediately reminded me of Noa Eshkol’s carpets, almost as a 1:1 medium reference to patching and stitching, but with a different DNA to the process; the students/dancers of the ensemble Noa founded are to follow Noa’s vision, already put and pinned to the fabric. (Noa left behind her a huge amount of carpets already prepared for stitching and sawing, with the patches already pinned to place). They are still doing it to this day, continuing her legacy. Is the outcome glorious? Yes. Is it mostly centered on restricted non-subjective labor of the current dancers, with Noa’s knowledge exclusively imprinted on them? Yes. As it follows the vision of an idealized icon, It in fact represents a 180 degrees turn from what Threads is trying to create.

Yellow Tree, 1998
The Strange Carpet, 1990

*Support and belief in a project like Threads is also subject to capitalistic values and how they shape our perception of importance and contribution. Capitalism endorses the production of things that have sufficient reputation to take a substantial part in the economy of objects/experiences. Therefore it marginalizes experimental practices and keeps them available only to those researches and practitioners who are privileged and do not have to participate in this game of supply and demand to make a living. It a way, it restricts the experimental practices from emerging and developing as they would have should the criteria of a good practice based research change.

*Commenting on the issue of the Keep Sweden Swedish patch, I think this was a missed opportunity to prove the viability of the model. I do not agree with the way that the project leaders handled this situation since this patch could have been targeted by other patches and seems. With other people reacting to it, they could: (a) get a clearer picture of the weaved network and different opinions, (b) imitate the human immune system, where a threat is being surrounded by reactive white cells that address the problem. In my opinion, deciding on taking it out was a misuse of their own power as project leaders, resulting in a distorted narrative which essentially disguised reality and hid it under the rug.

My own research

*My research lies mostly in the seams, not the patches. This gives space to non-linear connections and intuitive thinking rather then just reciting other people, walking their already laid out paths.

*As in Threads, I aim to allow criticality and curiosity in my research. I plan to explore why am I so appalled by technological innovations that other might be fascinated about. Hopefully Ill be able to understand both sides to make up the whole.

*“To dare to engage not only with the known but also the uncertain” (Lindstrom and Stahl, p.12); I am curious to see whether I can implement the patch-stich method in my academic research.

*Material semiotics resists explanatory reductionism. Therefore it avoids abstraction and works its theory through cases, tracking the specificities of the materials constructing the weave being scrutinized. The research is thus filled with controversies, debates, points of view and seams patching it all together, ultimately cultivating a tailored storyline told by the individual who led it and put it all together. I becomes a valid truth in the economy of truths.