Wearable Spaces

Between Shadow and Reflection, Nicky Assmann

Wearable Spaces

The E-Textile Workspace of November 30th 2010 was organized around the subject of "Wearable Spaces". The schedule for the evening consisted of a discussion, a presentation of Nicky Assmann’s final exam project and time to discuss the participants’ own projects.

Nicky Assmann showed us her research about her final exam project Between Shadow and Reflection and started the discussion about wearable spaces, with the following questions as its point of departure:

  • How abstract can we define wearable spaces?
  • Should we consider a dialogue with the space around us?
  • Is it important as a visitor to be part of the wearable space?
  • What are the challenges for wearable spaces and what makes them work?

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How Abstract Can We Define Wearable Spaces?

If we can see the second skin as a wearable or layer around the body then we can see the third skin as the space around us either in architecture or as the empty space or void around us. But when does an interior become a wearable exactly? Amba Molly for example designs wearable interior spaces. By using everyday familiar interior objects into a garment she takes the concept of wearable spaces very literal, in a nice way. This is actually a form of combining second and third skin wearable’s together.

Between Shadow and ReflectionNicky Assmanns master project is related to this concept and tries to form a new space around the body with the help of foam bubbles. She found some inspiration in the project of Sam, a performer who started his interest for making huge bubbles in 1989. He holds world records for his skills by putting 50 people inside a giant bubble. Nicky is experimenting with the bubbles more as an art installation by creating a space within a space around people or forming landscapes with soap-foam. These kind of textile-like spaces might create a new way of looking at materials and textile-like structure. She presented her research on this topic during the night. There were some questions about the topic among the people present.

Examples of Wearable Spaces Projects

Christy Wright designs wearable accessories made from ceramics. With her esthetic way of looking at accessories and everyday interior objects she places the human body in wearable interiors.

Cocky Eek is teaching at the Art Science Interfaculty of the Royal Conservatory and the Royal Academy in The Hague (NL). Her classes are dealing with all sorts of lightweight and inflatable structures, looking for ways to merge the digital and physical worlds in urban surroundings and nature. She is a really good example of how to interpret wearable spaces as a wearable.

Joo Youn Paek designs wearable spaces more in a humoristic way and critiques the self-sustainable with a project that makes walking into “an amusing interactive performance”. The self-sustainable chair is a wearable commentary piece on how we balance the act of sitting with the act of walking. In her dress design she combined interior objects like a chair, and therefore the wearer is self sufficient in sitting somewhere in the big city.

Kathy Ludwig focuses more on second skin by transforming it into a third skin. Her inspiration derives from several psychological diseases that seem to take over western society like phobias and anxiety states. The skirt is constructed out of pockets and can camouflage you as a tree when lifted over the head. The skirt forms a space around the upper body, hiding you from the outer world and perhaps giving you a safer feeling.

Studio Acconci developed an architectural new space around the human body by re-interpreting the umbrella in an esthetical way. For this purpose they created a new space around the body to protect it and give shelter.

White Swan from Sil van der Woerd is a project that visualizes a dress made out of cotton candy. This experimental way of developing a dress and use it as an installation for a music video shows us how wearables can be experimental and how unexpected materials can be textile-like.

Should We Consider a Dialogue With the Space Around Us?

Look at You 01Sara Vrugt focuses on people stuck in interior spaces and how this meets an esthetic world. With this created third skin she designed a dance act to examine the proportions between the hatred of females among each other. This 3rd skin she developed is an interesting view on wearable spaces and creates a dialogue between the space and the wearer of it. The Veasyble Bag creates more of a space between 2 people. A kind of symbiosis membrane between two people and brings them together while at the same time protecting them from the world around them. This work shows us a connection between protection and communication. This project shows us a non dialogue with the space around the two people that are completely hidden from their surroundings.

Cinematique, a poetic dance act by illusionist Adrien Mondot tries to embed 3d sculpting in a beautiful way into a performance. The shifting boundaries between the physical and virtual seen in an audiovisual dance performance where modern dance and play are combined. Another example of a dance performance is Glow a solo work choreographed by Artistic Director Gideon Obarzanek, incorporates a real-time video landscape generated via motion tracking technology and designed by interactive software engineer Frieder Weiss. Performances alternate between dancers Kristy Ayre and Sara Black. It’s a concentrated and complex work, yet has immediate visual and visceral appeal. Choreographically, theatrically and technically, this is a refined piece. Both of these dance performances show a really beautiful and technological way of starting a dialogue between the dancer and the stage, where the dancers really have to anticipate to the created virtual space around them.

What Are the Challenges for Wearable Spaces and What Makes Them Work?

Trying to make clothing one-size-fits-all may pose a problem. The suits of the Whisper project, for example, ended up being huge on many people. But this way you do guarantee that anyone may participate. Another difficulty may occur when you try to personalize the space. In Whisper they used projections on the floor to show interpretations of the internal body. How do you make people feel that an interpretation of bio data that they cannot feel or see really is an extension of them?

Erotogod is an art installation in which the public is taken to another mythical world. The public creates its own mythical world by touching their own bodies, which triggers visuals on a screen in a disclosed space especially designed for this installation. Somehow there is a kind of erotic and scary feel to it. The body in this installation becomes an emotional surface. Melissa: I had the feeling that I as a viewer really was part of this installation. The physical feedback through vibration motors made a very clear connection between the visitor and the space.

Is it Important as a Visitor to be Part of the Wearable Space?

In Hussein Chalayan’s laser dress performance/catwalk show we can clearly see that his design for the dress was consistently based on the performance of it and how the dress should interact with the space around it. The model in de dress marvelously takes over the entire space around it by the laser technology embedded in the dress. Through this we can see a bridge between wearable spaces and performance art. Nicky argued that the audience should be part of an installation, so she tries to work on this part for her project. Melissa later added that an installation should start a dialogue with the space around it, just like a performer needs to fill the whole stage with his presence.


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