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Fabric with motors


Body Extension

Clothes are like a second skin, an extension of the body. They act as a representation of your personalities and identities. In a way, we speak to each other through our clothing. They act as an extension of our senses, they enlarge the feeling of sense through colors, textures, and silhouettes. They act as an extension of our emotions; they reveal the reflection of emotions, obscure or authentic. Most of my works are some type of clothing form because it is a kind of extension of my previous background, an extension of communicating and experiencing with my artistic practice. Now, I use clothing and visual representation as an extension to make the invisible movement and tension tangible and visible.

In Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty tells the story of a blind man and his cane. He explains how blind people use a cane as a form of vision and touch to see and feel the world: "The blind man's cane has ceased to be an object for him, it is no longer perceived for itself; rather, the cane's furthest point is transformed into a sensitive zone; it increases the scope and the radius of the act of touching and has become analogous to a gaze5." When our body habituates the use of the cane, the cane becomes an attached object for the body. The cane becomes an extension of blind people’s senses. Thus, it is not only an extension of the physical body but also an extension of sensorial perception. Similarly, any bodily extension, whether device or clothes (or both combined), is used by our bodies to stretch our emotional and sensory abilities and states. Merleau-Ponty’s story gives me a different angle to think about a cane. It is not simply a functional object, and by expanding from the arm it becomes part of that arms sense of touch. This concept opens many perspectives for me to know the many ways an "extension" relates to the body. Many objects can be combined with different parts of our bodies to stretch and enlarge not only how to engage with the outer world, but also how we understand our inner states. Take the blind man and cane as an example, a cane is a kind of synthetic extension of the body and it expands our existence in the world and also helps us know ourselves again. These extensions connect us in new ways to other people and objects around us and can be used to help people sense what we really feel inside, such as pain or tenderness or fragility. These extensions can hold and project these inner feelings.

Every form of technology can be a bodily extension, so I am curious: Can robots be considered as an extension of the human form? Can we think of this human-robot interaction like how a portable hard drive is used as an extension of storage for computers? In this way, we can add to the shell of the human body. We can extend our capacity as humans and also use technology as a vessel for carrying on a human’s lifespan. By wearing or installing extensional devices in/on our body, we can optimize original, organic bodily functions. We are already living in an information age that is enveloped by dynamic digital surroundings. Technology has evolved into consciousness; we are already becoming cyborgs. We can sense the invisible digital flow coming from an external device. My artistic works help reveal that our bodies are aware of these interactive flows, making the invisible digital flow visible. In a certain way, this invisible data and information from/to both devices and the body are already an extension of our bodies, communication of digital consciousness of what your body is. My digital projections (graphic patterns) help reveal this connection by creating a numeral representation of you, showing your consciousness as a digital flow.

︎Glove with accelerometer sensors and cardboard               

︎ Glove with changing graphic patterns while it moves    

I always am interested in finding new ways to reveal how data flows between certain objects and bodies. In my most recent try-out, an experimental response project, I fuse two ideas: The functioning of the blind man's cane as explained by Merleau-Ponty and the conscious extension of all technology. I modified and improved the previous glove project (that used interactions to create graphic patterns) by installing accelerometer sensors, which navigate the direction of movement and allow the moving object(cardboard) to respond to data inputs, which come from the movement of the glove, and then appear on the graphic screen (along with the graphics created by the hang movements). Technically, in order to let objects move with my movement, it involved a simple mechanism and controlled motors as a driver of pulling threads. When I wear the glove and move my hand, the data reacts through motors.There are transparent threads ties between the motors and the moving object (a fabric). And then the threads make the mechanism work properly so the object (a fabric) can respond to my movements. For example, I wave my hand with a certain movement, such as right and left or up and down, or some gestures, and the fabric can move with my hands movement. Although the movement direction of the fabric is not precise and totally synchronous with my hands movement yet, I have created the first step: There is something moving according to part of my body’s movements. The working of the technical part is that the sensors on the glove detect the data and send it to the MAX/MSP, which in turn sends the data to servo motors through Arduino. It is these motors that create the movement of push and pull in the strings that makes the fabric move. It seems like magic but it needs a very accurate combination for each part. It is like a machine, if it loses a small gear or a component is not in the right position the whole instrument cannot work. Although it is only in the prototype stage, I can already imagine what it will look like when I finish this project. Imagine a person wearing several devices, installed with different types of sensors for detecting data from the body. The person will be covered with many complex cables and surrounded by interwoven wires that link them to varied mechanical systems. By moving their body with these devices, they perform and become a huge sculpture, generating new images by moving the body and interacting with various small objects. This scene is like an amalgamation, combining the analog robot with synthetic and natural forms, using the digital to reflect and extend the form of the body.

︎ Videos of how the glove and fabric moving

5.Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Primacy of Perception, ed. James M. Edie, trans. Carleton Dallery, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Revised by Michael Smith in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, Galen A. Johnson, ed., Evanston: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1993.