The Domina’s Tapestry2023
Architectural Masters thesis
Royal College of Art, studio ADS4 led by Tom Greenall, Matteo Mastrandrea & Nicola Koller
Materials: tencel, sequin & cotton thread
Works presented at the Truman Brewery for RCA Degree Show 2023, and Filet Space Gallery, London.
Thesis awarded the Dean’s Prize from the School of Architecture, RCA 2023
From tourist paraphernalia to artistic re-interpretations, the Villa of Mysteries has amassed an accretion of surfaces and mimicked layers. Disruptive excavation procedures of the early 1900s physically altered the imagery of the walls, and countless perspectives of the figures and their actions have unfolded through gender analysis, psychoanalysis, writing, and art, looking to reveal the mystery of the scene. Notably, the male gaze formalised sexist and objectifying stories for the women depicted on the walls. With the progression of AI and digital tools, there is an opportunity to reinvestigate the site through a digital lens. Being mindful of the patriarchal bias that still exists within AI, the project reflects how reinterpreting through digital tools can provide new narratives for our past and present.
This translation of an archaeological site re-envisions lost identities and designs new physical artefacts and architectural environments for the ancient women painted on the walls through a queer cyberfeminist lens. By working in collaboration with AI, the project investigates the role of technology in archaeology and architectural history but also as an analytical and design tool. A queer cyberfeminist analysis can provide a new common language to interpret the architecture of the Villa of Mysteries and tell revised stories for these women that moves away from the patriarchal lens of the past.
The Domina’s Tapestry was made on the jacquard loom for the domina/dominatrix, the revised story for one of the painted figures in the Villa of Mysteries. The tapestry depicts elements of her new architectural environment, designed in collaboration with AI and references to her archaeological site.
The jacquard loom is one of the first precursor machines to the early day computer. Using the same binary coding, the loom translates pixels to weaves in the thread. Using the jacquard loom became a collaboration between hand and machine, the design of the tapestry was inspired by the story of the translated Domina, a dominatrix warrior refugee who has designed a building in the shape of a teardrop for architectural contemplation, self reflection and communal living.
The use of purple in the entire project was important for the relationship to purple tapestries and garments in the original Villa of Mysteries frieze. Deceptive behaviour occurs behind these painted purple veils, so the colour purple becomes a symbol for mimicry and illusion.