Bérénice embeds secret codes in her woven works…

Bérénice embeds secret codes in her woven works...

As a part of the What’s on your Loom series, we feature the works of textile artist Bérénice Courti. In her creations, Bérénice focuses on textile arts, audiovisual and performance. 


For the past two years, Bérénice has been involved in research around the story of her grandfather Kazimierz Gaca. He was a Polish resistant during World War II, a part of the polish crew that along with Alan Turing, cracked the Enigma Code machine being used by the Nazis. As a part of this project, Bérénice created woven fabrics on TC2 digital Jacquard loom.

In these fabrics that are inspired by secret messages, she hides codes – thus comparing the weaving loom and the Enigma machine, both of which were the origin of the computer and binary code. She has also collaborated with other artists to create an experimental cinema performance on this subject, which was presented at the La Alternativa festival, at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) in Barcelona. The name of her project is called “Webs of Power: Weave resistance”, which comes from the book Webs of power: note from the global uprising (from 1999), by the Ecofeminist writer Starhawk.


Thanks to her research, she also got to look at other different forms of resisting. Her fabrics present an invented cryptic alphabet, which she uses to translate other women’s as well as her own stories into fabrics. This language is made from analog archives from the resistance movement. It was also inspired by a long history of women passing on secret messages through knitted jerseys during the Wars. Bérénice was also inspired by the works of Ozella McDaniel Williams from South Carolina, who used patterns on quilting as a code to assist runaway slaves on their escape.

These pieces are a part of a series of five different fabrics, telling the entire story of the process of how codes were introduced. They are either in the format of flags or banners. The dimensions of three of these pieces are 70cm x 30cm, which are created in the shape of a flag and these are presented vertically. The two other pieces are way bigger (200 cm long x 30 cm high) and are shaped as banners.

The fabrics have been woven to have parts that are conductive, in order to be interactive. These were then used by Bérénice in performances such as at the ACT Festival in Bienne, for the No Walls Association at Espace Legrain in Geneva and at Head University. She interacts with these fabrics to generate sounds and to project symbols.

As a part of her woven project Webs of Power: Weave resistance, Bérénice aims to connect the activation of a machine and the manipulation of fabrics. Since these pieces are woven with conductive threads and are connected to a Midi Controller, when touched, certain parts of the fabric activate symbols and visuals projections, which are generated by Coding and Sound Archives. Different binary codes linked to textiles and computers are put in parallel, playing on the co-relations between women and machines, as Saddie Plant talks about, notably in the book Zeros and Ones.


Bérénice Courtin is a multidisciplinary artist from Paris and has recently been based in Geneva and Barcelona. She completed her Masters in Contemporary Applied Arts at the Massana School in Barcelona and was an exchange student in Geneva, at the HEAD school.

Photo Credit: Nerea Jordana