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Idea sketches of moving cloth

Project of a moving cloth with wall sculpture

Invisible Tension: String and Pull

In the first chapter section, Living in Time, I mention that human body movements can be analyzed and visualized. I created the “MADtechers elements”to show how seemingly obvious, easy movements have so much depth to them. From this point, we can consider that our body has a similar construction to machines, as well we can associate human body movements with mechanical movements. Based on observing machine functioning, it seems that they are forced by certain unseeable powers, driving them to move; similarly, when you observe the motions of the human body, it seems like there are many invisible threads controlling every muscle and joint. I envisage the human body becoming a paper puppet doll: the connection joints turn into dots, I fasten the linkage point and put on a string, then it starts moving. The very idea enlightens my project of a moving cloth with wall sculpture. The concept I am developing questions the idea that we can totally control ourselves consciously. In actuality we are limited by our body capabilities and we are controlled by others in society. Take as an example the clothes I make, when you wear them, you pull and push the transparent string in the clothes, which causes various layers to move. Some layers move through the same thread, while the clothes as a whole mechanism show the slow movement and mechanisms in our bodily responses. When you try to do the motion of pull and push with this clothing, it is not as easy to control the direction you want to move your body as you might expect. The body is trapped and confused by this new ‘skin’ or ‘shell’ and the clothes challenge our body schema; the clothes make us move like a bulky robot. In some way, we take our muscle memory for granted when thinking that we can control our body. Doing simple, usual actions when wearing my clothing reveals how uncontrolled much of our body is when we consciously think about it. The body is bound by the clothing with light and fragility fabric and it seems to be easy to break free, but actually it is stuck in a heavy shell that is hard to move around. This creates a contradictory feeling between the light appearance of the clothing and the difficulty to control and move the body in this new schema.

︎Try-out and experiments of wearing the moving cloth and pull strings

︎Moving details from the cloth in different parts

I see this artwork as revealing the relationship between us and the body through the metaphor of pull and push and the tension created by such movements. I feel like there is this unseen thread that ties my body with the bodies of others together, pushing us apart and then pulling us close again. The thread brings us together as a group. So, because of this bondage that ties us with each other, we are governed by others sometimes; we cannot do what we really want freely in society even though we are still individuals. We cannot eliminate the invisible line that binds each person together. It is like each person is a small gear, indispensable and important; then each thread fastens and influences each other, sparking the wave. The more mechanisms linked together, the larger and more robust the system. And, after thousands of years, we are living in a sturdy construction of machinery society. From these angles, the human is not so different from the machine world as we are also living in a sort of systematization. The society where we live in is like a giant machine that is driven by us, the little gears. The propelling force driving the big wheel (society) is from the interactions of people, many threads and tensions moving in new ways forming this human-interacted mechanism.

Recently, I can strongly feel this tension, this importance of contacting with others. This feeling comes from the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. My artistic metaphor helps show that the big wheels of the society are facing a breakdown, as the small gears are interacting less. The strings have become loose or have disappeared altogether, so there is a lack of tension, a lack of functioning. During the quarantine in the Netherlands, people have to stay at home for work and we have to make sure to keep a certain distance from others. The sunlight blooms in warm yellow light, which is in stark contrast to the lack of interaction between people. This lack of interaction feels cold blue, diffusing in the air against the warm yellow sun, making a strange atmosphere. Before the breakout of the coronavirus, I loved to take walks around my neighborhood, when I saw people, most people would wear their shining smile and say, "Hoi” or “Hello," and I could feel very warm in my heart. As I am a foreigner and a person who is not familiar with Dutch language and culture, I feel isolated sometimes. But that simple action of saying hello makes me feel warm and inspired as a shy person. It helps me to be more open-mind and enjoy the moment with people I don't really know. Hence, I am really missing these soft tensions with people, even just making a smile in real life, as I cannot see many faces as people wear masks or just keep social distance as well as physical distance. Now we have to be like a robot and follow the strict rules and commands of the government. It is like everybody waits on the line to enter the supermarket orderly and sequentially, and then we all act in a repeated circle: work at home, go to the grocery store, then go back home to stay there to work, then more staying at home, and maybe go out to get more food, only to go back home. This kind of cold distance, the lack of tension between strings, makes me feel as though we are living a metallic existence. I think humans are more "machined" than a machine during this period.