August 2021
Charlotte Rohde
soft power

A Guide To Softer Ware is a collaborative exploration of contemporary and not-so-contemporary languages of instruction in the context of “womanhood”, calling out their binary notions of gender designation as a social construct. The format of the manual is used as a rhetorical construct that explores how the social roles of women have been impacted by the rise of new technologies from the second half of the 20th century until now. We deconstructed and reprogrammed these languages of instruction: From the wording used in 1960s technical manuals for sewing machines, knitting machines and various domestic appliances addressing women as a new target group to Memes and YouTube tutorials as a phenomenon representing the contemporary internet culture of self-optimization.

With our show Guide To Softer Ware, we reflected on the supposed need for guidance and the forms this guidance has historically taken and still takes. The exhibition at soft power presented new works that can function as a manual for the spectators and simultaneously as type specimens.

My work consisted of three knitted tapestries made with a hacked knitting machine from 1980. Each of the tapestries contains a reference for women in computing between 1950 – 1980. Back then, computing was considered ‘soft work’, a typical woman’s job, and consumer electronics such as the knitting mchine were meant to emancipate the tasks of nuclear family women. The former division inexplicably tilted upside down with the rise of consumer computers in the 80s.