Historical Threads: How the cotton industry spread from Manchester to Sikka


The artefact at the center of my interactive experience, an Indonesian cotton gin, is a deeply historical object. It is a manifestation of a technology and an industrial economy which first emerged in Manchester at the dawn of the industrial revolution and then spread across the globe on the back of the historical forces of imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism.
I want exhibition goers to participate in a non-linear journey across the globe, beginning in Manchester and culminating in Sikka in Indonesia. It is my intention that through this journey the participants will gain a deeper historical conception and appreciation of this seemingly innocuous wooden contraption.

To this end I have designed an interactive audiovisual experience to illustrate this history.
The physical components of the installation are a set of headphones, a 3-sided room (two adjacent walls and a floor), and the cotton gin atop a plinth located at the intersection of the 3 planes of the room. By traversing a map projected on the floor participants will travel through time and space, witnessing vignettes and hearing corresponding historical descriptions. These vignettes will take the form of projected video montages, immersing the participant in vivid scenes painted with light.

This journey is not on rails. There are different historical threads which can be followed, all of which culminate in the Sikka region of Indonesia. As such the participant will ultimately be led to an up-close encounter with the cotton gin itself, but not before they have glimpsed the vast history which it encapsulates.

This design is part of the student learning experience in 87009 or 87445 VC Design Studio: Visualising Experience Spring 2021 in the Faculty of Design Architecture and Built Environment (DAB) University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and is not a professional design outcome. This project was developed under the guidance of studio leaders and demonstrators. As a response to a notional assessment brief, it is not directly connected to the Powerhouse Museum.

Roberta, by Les McCann.
McCann, L. (1969). Roberta [Song]. On Much Les. Atlantic Records.