Patricia Alvarez

Sintiendo el Tejido / Sensing the Woven
Installation: Alpaca fibers and garments, with audio landscape

Artist Statement

Our current system of supply chain capitalism often creates a disconnect between the consumption and production of objects. Consumers do not readily associate objects of consumption with their socio-economic and production histories. This installation seeks to explore and challenge this disconnect by inviting a tactile engagement with an object of consumption via the physical and aural components related to its making.  This piece aims to create a sense of intimacy between production and consumption processes as well as to reflect on the interiority, materiality and social composition of an object.

This collaborative installation is based on 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Peru. During this time, I followed the growing supply chain of alpaca garments. This supply chain articulates traditional textile techniques and herding practices with global fashion styles. As the fiber travels from the highlands to Lima and abroad, its brings together Quechua speaking herders and artisans, fashion designers, and development workers into emerging dialogues necessary to produce these objects. Central to these encounters are the textures of the fiber and the unmistakable acoustic landscapes of herds, artisanal workshops and fashion arenas.

The installation consists of three alpaca objects at different stages in the production process: sheared fiber turning into thread, an unfinished garment and the completed garment. The objects featured in the installation were made possible through a collaboraton between a Quechua tejedora (weaver), a Peruvian fashion designer, an anthropologist and a computer engineer. This created an interesting dialogue across actors from diverse social spaces reflecting upon the look and feel of the objects and modes of interacting with them.

As participants interact with the objects they will activate touch-based sensors that enable an audio landscape of the environment where the particular stage of production takes place: alpaca herding space, artisanal workshop and the boutique/runway. This experience will be mobilized through the immediacy of touch and the audio landscape that envelops the social interactions that make the existence of these garments possible. Through the interaction of object, sound and touch this piece seeks to emphasize the ways in which we are not only audible observers but actors in the world constantly modifying and being modified by objects.


Patricia Alvarez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology department at UC Santa Cruz. She is working towards a designated emphasis in Film and Digital Media to complement her work in visual anthropology. Her intellectual and creative interests explore ethnography, documentary and other research-based art practices. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, her photographic, video and installation work has been exhibited in the Caribbean and the US. Throughout her graduate career she has collaborated with independent documentary filmmakers in California. She is currently writing her dissertation and editing an ethnographic film on the supply chain of alpaca garments in Peru.

Mozhdeh Matin is a Peruvian Fashion Designer born in Cajamarca. Her work explores and incorporates ancient Peruvian textile techniques and meaning into contemporary fashion. She works in collaboration with artisans in various indigenous communities in Peru and focuses on recovery, re-valorization and re-interpretation of textiles and their meaning. She has also worked for large national garment brands, and as an art director and stylist for Peruvian magazines and music groups.  

Cristina Flores Teves is a 66-year-old Quechua tejedora or weaver from the city of Chucuito, Puno. She began working as a weaver since she was 16 years old and has been living and working in Lima for the past 36 years.

From his early pre-teen years, Greg Ames has been involved with electronics and music. He has worked as an audio engineer for Disney, worked at Apple Computers for more than 17 years and has been awarded 6 patents for software. In recent years Greg has worked on various interactive technology art projects, such as this one.