Wearable Technologies

Fashionable Wearables in Digital Performance by Marios Samdanis, Yikyung Kim and Soo Hee Lee/ Air as material – the conceptual fashion of Ying Gao by Renee Baert/ Dress Acts: Wearable Technology and Virtuosity by Susan Elizabeth Ryan/ Vjacket – A Wearable Controller for Live Video Performance by Andreas Zingerle and Tyler Freeman/ enVella by Henry Lin/ Body Graffiti: Expressive Wearable Art through Bodily Performance by Younghui Kim
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:45
Chair Person: 
Kristin Stransky Mallinger
Marios Samdanis
Yikyung Kim
Soo Hee Lee
Renee Baert
Susan Elizabeth Ryan
Andreas Zingerle, M.A.
Tyler Freeman
Henry Lin
Younghui Kim

Fashionable Wearables in Digital Performance

by Marios Samdanis, Yikyung Kim and Soo Hee Lee

This paper provides an interdisciplinary study at the intersection of fashionable technologies and performance arts that focuses on the sensual and embodied abilities of electronic arts; questioning how fashionable wearables affect digital performance, while exploring the new qualities they introduce.

As performance demonstrates the transition of performers’ emotions into expressions, digital performance incorporates digital technologies in order to increase its aesthetic, visual, sensorial, intellectual, and emotional effects. Fashionable wearables, as wearable computers which emphasize aesthetics and style, offer a new stream of experimentation in digital performance; as they become an expressive digital extension of performers’ bodies, sensing at same time the performing environment.

Fashionable wearables enable digital experimentation in digital performance based on embedded electronic textiles and smart garments that transform them into ‘interactive interfaces’ displaying information captured from the body, other sensors, or the environment; as well as constituting ‘emotive interfaces’ which visibly broadcast performers’ emotions by sensing the human body.

Birringer and Danjoux (2009) introduce the term ‘wearable performance’ to describe the impact of wearable computers in performance arts; distinguishing ‘display garments’, which demonstrate interactive effects, and ‘performative garments’, which capture and integrate into performance stimulations from performers’ bodies or the performing environment. In particular, ‘performative garments’ enable a process, called ‘sensorial embodiment’; according to which wearable computers generate digital events in the wearable space.

In addition to ‘sensorial embodiment’, this paper argues that fashionable wearables introduce three new qualities to digital performance. First, fashionable wearables ‘remediate’ digital performance, which becomes a form of radical interface design reflecting visual, sonic, and sensual experiences. Second, they cause ‘re-embodiment’, in which the performers’ bodies become indistinguishable from fashionable wearables, and their extended bodies participates in an invisible electronic network which shapes the fluid architecture of performing space. Third, they enable ‘digital bricolage’; a creative process which blends the live and the digital, as performers and designers develop or alter fashionable wearables in order to match the aesthetic and functional expressive needs of the digital performance.

Unfolding the key design qualities of fashionable technologies in digital performance, this study aims to understand how interdisciplinary art and design fields shape electronic arts.

Air as material – the conceptual fashion of Ying Gao

by Renee Baert

The expressive garments of Montreal designer Ying Gao are made of air and light.  Bridging art, science and technology, they materialize the immaterial as a kind of sheath mediating between the real and fantasy, the body and its environment. Their poetic effects are developed through computational systems, motorized sensors, pneumatic and interactive technologies, electronics – and distinctive aesthetic grace.

My presentation centers on the conceptual core of her practice and on the specific property of the ‘immaterial’ in her work – the significance of air, light, water, transparency, breath and related animating features and interfaces.

Ying Gao’s works react to their immediate environment; a focus on the urban and its cultures, social character and transformations is central to her work.  In the pneumatic garments of Walking City - influenced by Japanese origami - triggers such as wind, movement and touch activate each of three dresses, which expand, contract, unfurl. Index of indifference (2006) uses a software program that compiles statistical data concerning Internet users who declared themselves “indifferent” to political, economic or cultural issues; Gao manipulates this data to modify the basic structure of 10 men’s shirts over time to reflect this “index of indifference”, made visible through the shreds of the shirts that still remain after the statistically relevant percentage of fabric is excised.  In the installation Living Pod, one garment, equipped with micro-motors and light sensors, breathes when a viewer-activated light source triggers the sensor, while a second garment ‘mimics’ the first.  Her recent research has been on “modulatable” garments that integrate microelectronic technology, and is inspired by transformations in the urban environments of Berlin and Nagoya.

Ying Gao is a professor at University of Quebec in Montreal. Her pioneering work is positioned along 3 axes: within the art world in its aesthetic and conceptual foundations, as a professional engagement within the fashion industry and operating a ‘laboratory’ model of research. Her critical and poetic garments contrast with the instrumentality of the field of industrial research in wearable and smart fabrics, while also challenging stereotypes within fashion.

Dress Acts: Wearable Technology and Virtuosity

by Susan Elizabeth Ryan

This paper concerns two dominant but oppositional agendas at work in wearable technology research and practices today. One of these conceives of wearables in terms of display and functionality—products are worn by subjects that intelligent systems sense and manipulate. This approach, which bears the stamp of its origins in military research, has been more recently advanced under rubrics like “Smart Clothes,” “Responsive Clothes,” “Computational Garments,” and “Fashionable Technologies.”  “Smart Clothes,” etc., explore innovative marketing concepts and coordinate with invasive regimes of control societies based on the speculative reach of digitized global capitalism. Examples include Scentsory Design’s aromatherapy clothing, Philips Technology’s mood-activated luminous dresses, and a wide range of other innovative applications based on sensing and piezoelectric technologies, such as Yoel Fink’s acoustic and color-changing fabrics which can be used to monitor autonomic body functions. So-called smart wearables, however beneficial their intent, advance a notion of subjectivity in step with neoliberal agendas.

By contrast, the second viewpoint, put into experimental practice in design institutes and by independent practitioners around the globe, might be classed as “tactical dressing.” This work is structured as time-based events, in line with Paolo Virno’s notion of virtuosity: works created are performative (ephemeral) rather than prototypical (productive in a market context). They use digital technologies’ potential to amplify already perennial capabilities of dress to solidify social sectors and roles, signal cultural/ideological positions to others in a larger community, and demonstrate the irruption of ubiquitous technologies in our lives. In doing so, they execute actions or “dress acts”—an extrapolation of Searle’s (and Deleuze’s) notion of “speech acts.”  Examples include Komalski & Weiser’s sonic Echo Coats, Berzowska’s electronically malfunctioning Skorpion dresses, and Nascimento & Martins’ microblogging Rambler sneakers.

The paper considers the questions: 1) what are the ideological differences, and what might be the relations, between “smart” and “tactical” approaches to wearable technology? and 2) what is at stake —in other words, how important is wearable technology, anyway? What is the real potential for wearables as performative acts—dress acts—in a world where communal space (the traditional context for dress) is increasingly fictionalized, factionalized, and virtualized?  

Vjacket – A Wearable Controller for Live Video Performance

by Andreas Zingerle and Tyler Freeman

This paper proposes an experimental wearable controller for live video performances called the VJacket. The VJacket can be worn by the performer or visual artist (VJ) to control video effects and transitions, trigger clips or scratch frames with the output of the integrated sensor system. The sensors detect body movements like bending, touching or hitting, and can send OpenSoundControl or MIDI messages wirelesssly to the VJ program of your choice. The VJacket brings the rhythmic movement of dance to computer interaction, so the VJ won't have to fumble for knobs and buttons or look at the screen to be sure he's clicking on the right thing - he will be free to control the video using his body movements alone.

Since it is wireless, the VJ will be free to interact with the audience and musicians - on stage or even walking through the crowd - something which most hermit-like VJs do not usually experience, since they are often delegated to the back corner of the club behind the video inputs and lighting controls. With a wireless system, a VJ becomes not just an engineer behind the curtain, but an actual live performer - one whose movements are directly connected to the video projections. The audience will be able to see the VJ's gestures in connection with the video, and become more interested in the performance itself.

This paper will introduce the technology and interaction techniques of the VJacket and explain future scenarios (and social roles of VJing culture) within the performance community.


by Henry Lin

enVella is a kinetic dress with movement triggered by the detection of the wearer’s state of fear and anxiety. The upper portion of the dress is surrounded by four fans which open and envelope the wearer when the user’s body temperature and heart rate increase. When the wearer’s heart rate and temperature increase, the microcontroller concludes that a state of fear has been achieved. As a result, the fans open to comfort and protect the wearer.
An experience everyone has in common is that of being in the mother’s womb. Inside the womb, one was safe and warm. This very experience has molded the human reaction to stress and fear. One naturally feels safer when enclosed and warm, especially when faced with darkness. To outline this effect, consider the comfort that can be derived by being wrapped in a blanket. In spite of offering no real protection, one instinctively huddles into a blanket when frightened.
With enVella, the project designers investigate the feasibility of detecting fear with a combination of biosensors; and, with a working implementation of such a system, to explore whether an enveloping form raised in response to the presence of fear provides a sense of comfort.


Body Graffiti: Expressive Wearable Art through Bodily Performance

by Younghui Kim

Like many fine artists, modern & experimental dancers in the age of digital media have been early adopters of wearable technology. It seems obvious as the wearable itself can be an expressive media platform and at the same time, worn by a performer during performance, it elevates expression of body language as creating a stronger media platform combining two forms of media that have been so close to art and technology -wearable and performance.
This paper introduces a performance wearable project, ʻBody Graffitiʼ, a performance art wearable project that uses the illusion of persistence of vision (POV) to create ephemeral graffiti via body movement. As dancers (in this particular performance—break dancers) perform head spins, windmills and flares, messages programmed into the custom designed LED POV system are displayed. At the moment, the Body Graffiti prototype version 1.0 has been completed and performed with a B-boy team, “Last For One” during HCI Party Event in 2010.

The B-boy dancers wore the Body Graffiti system embedded in vests and leg shields, to express visual graffiti drawn with their body movements in the air. Body Graffiti uses a custom designed LED POV(Persistence of Vision) system which can be reprogrammed to express different messages whether it's text or graffiti. LEDs and electric circuits are seamlessly integrated in wearable items therefore, dancers can move freely to express the message. The Body Graffiti with the B-boy performance has been on-going collaborative project since wearable has to be designed according to dancers' speed and angle of movements; rotation such as head-spin in this case, and graphic and textual
message we liked to convey. Body Graffiti is still in progress as it is being upgraded with more defined custom circuit board design with higher LED pixels to express more detailed graffiti graphics and fragmented sewable PCBs to be conducted with flexible electronic materials for better wearability.