Category Archives: Research

Research Critique: Costume and Textile

Utam Moses (choreographer) and Eric Lindsay’s (composer)”The Space Between Us” is a collaborative electronic music and modern dance piece for computationally enhanced dancers and MAX/MSP, a programming language for interactive music and multimedia.

the space between us
The dancers’ costumes are augmented a wearable microcomputer (LilyPad Arduino), a wireless transmitter, and various sensors.

The costumes are embedded with LilyPad Arduino technology. One of the dancers’ (with the round skirt) costume combines LilyPad components and an XBee (wireless transmitter) together with pressure and flex sensors connected by conductive thread, which detects and transmits the movements of the dancer to the composer’s laptop, which are then used to generate and control sound within a MAX/MSP environment.

Lilypad Arduino Board


“The e-textiles facilitate interactivity between dancers’ movements and the music that accompanies their dancing, transforming the power dynamic between composer and choreographer by putting the power of live musical improvisation in the hands (body) of dancers. This relationship extends an unprecedented power to dancers, who are most often constrained by the decisions made previously by a composer.”                                                                                            – Eric Lindsay

For the costumes to achieve functionalities and expressive capabilities, sensors are to track the most communicative motions of the dancers, the music controls had to be sensitive to the gestures onstage but conspicuous enough so as to ensure the audience knew what movements elicited which kinds of sounds, and the costumes had to withstand duress from stretching, heat, and perspiration.

Instead of a dancer’s movements being a slave to the fixed constraints of a pre-composed piece of music, the wireless dance costume puts the power of live musical composition in the hands (body) of the dancer, who can explore and improvise new shapes and structures within an otherwise free musical environment.

This project uses Arduino kit which is an open source technology. It is important as all Arduino boards are completely open-source, empowering users to build them independently and eventually adapt them to their particular needs. The software too, is open-source, and it is growing through the contributions of users worldwide. A worldwide community of makers – students, hobbyists, artists, programmers, and professionals – has gathered around this open-source platform, their contributions have added up to an incredible amount of accessible knowledge that can be of great help to novices and experts alike.


Research Critique: Glitch Aesthetics


Glitch art is the aestheticization of digital or analog errors, such as artifacts and other “bugs”, by either corrupting digital data or by physically manipulating electronic devices (for example by circuit bending).

In recent years it has found a central place in contemporary media art, particularly via the Internet where emergent low-resolution glitch forms and other so-called “accidents” of artifacts are often native to the medium. 


One of the key artists who have pioneered the art and theory of glitch aesthetics is Rosa Menkman. We will look at one of her famous works, The Collapse of PAL

The Collapse of PAL is a transmission art project that explores the performativity of television in light of the challenges brought about by a converging mediascape. Menkman’s performance dealt with obsolescence, death of media, and what is most interesting, media archaeology of signals and signal formats.

Instead of the focus on devices, even if at times lost and outside mainstream, we are seeing new perspectives that take in their focus components, processes and such “minor elements” of media history.

The screens were filled with electronic signal landscapes, of waveforms and at times recognizable Gestalts. The angel from future was the protagonist through whose mouth the Collapse of PAL painted a history of the PAL signal as loser to for example the DVB signal.
Despite the fact that I loved the piece, I also sensed the danger of nostalgia in this strong defensive reaction of history of losers – which was framed through an idea of progress as the force that blindly abandons all that it considers inefficient. A critique of rationalism and progress is not grounded enough. Thus there is a serious question for us to think about the answer: To what extent are we in danger of celebrating past media just for the sake of our emotional attachment to them as childhood memories and part of the collective media memories that are now in danger of being lost with new signal solutions and media environments? 


“I could only understand it as irrational and void of meaning, and so I walked away from it, confused and titillated”- Rosa Menkman.


Research Critique: Virtual Bodies in the Third Space

A virtual body is the state of being when inhabiting virtual reality or a virtual environment. The third space refers to a shared electronic social space where the physical and the virtual are blended. This topic is enigmatic and has been open to dispute.

Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming was originally produced as a commission for the annual summer exhibition curated by the Finnish Ministry of Culture in Kajaani, with support from Telecom Finland, in June 1992.

Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming (1992) turns a bed into the support of high-resolution images that might show a partner, intimately alive although being thousand kilometers away. The light-intense projection of the other results in a remarkable suggestion which turns the touch of the projected body into an intimate action.

But Sermon deliberately avoids providing an audio link so as to concentrate attention on the meeting of two bodies separated in real space but virtually conjoined: “human interaction was reduced to its simplest essence: touch, trust, vulnerability.”

Sermon aims at expanding the senses of the user, while it is obvious that the other cannot really be touched but that only swift, decisive, possibly tenderly reactive movements can experience the suggestion of touch—a moment of contemplation, as many users observed.

My response: The computerisation of human experience is generally thought to diminish the physical and emotional sides of life, yet the in the virtual world of Telematic Dreaming questions of privacy, intimacy and identity were central. Not only the performer but also many members of the public were overwhelmed by their experiences on the other bed.  The installation was paradoxical for not only using technology to provide a forum for experiencing the basics of human intimacy, but for situating this private interaction within a public domain.

Research Critique: Dance Performance

Eiko & Koma: My Parents

Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake, generally known as Eiko & Koma, are a Japanese performance duo. Since 1972, Eiko & Koma have worked as co-artistic directors, choreographers, and performers, creating a unique theater of movement out of stillness, shape, light, sound, and time.

Eiko & Koma’s iconoclastic work combines slow and nuanced movement vocabulary with bold theatrical design. Whether performing in a theater or in natural sites outdoors, Eiko & Koma often move as if they are not human.
Eiko & Koma’s iconoclastic work combines slow and nuanced movement vocabulary with bold theatrical design. Whether performing in a theater or in natural sites outdoors, Eiko & Koma often move as if they are not human.

In post-war Japan, nature was part of the life and life was simpler without much technology. Baby boomers including Eiko and Koma protested on the streets for the damages done to the earth during the industrialization. That was where their aspirations came in.

In their dance, they often move as if they are not human. The movements are in their most pristine forms. While they are dancing on the floor, they reminds me of those earth creatures with a long, narrow body and a lot of legs. Many of their works contain nudity, which emphasizes the vulnerability of humans and transforms their appearance so they do not have everyday human bodies.

“A fish is naked and stone is naked. Why not us?”


Motion Control

Motion Control was produced with an Arts Council England / BBC Dance for Camera Award and examines the synergy between camera and performer. The film is notable for hyper-sound Foley score overlaid with text and electro-opera.

Devised and choreographed by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie and directed by David Anderson, Motion Control examines the synergy of camera and performer.
Devised and choreographed by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie and directed by David Anderson, Motion Control examines the synergy of camera and performer.

Take one glamorous and ageing dancer. Trap her in the real world, then smash into her private reality. Control her movement, contain her emotion. Well you can try but she has already beaten you to it. With hypersound and super smart awareness submit to this bizarre journey of entrapment.

This screen dance challenges traditional notions of choreography through depicting movements both viscerally and conceptually. And of course it is very hard to get it out of your head after watching it. The performer’s face, her hair, the soundtrack, the camera angel, the special effect, her dance in the small box trying to fight against gravity made it one of the most strangely fascinating things I have seen in a while. As I was reading through the comments on Youtube, I found one really interesting: “oh my..this is very dark, makes me feel very uncomfortable.a horrible piece of work but one that raises strong and powerful emotions. fantastic!” 

Yes, the film looked really dark and horrible at the beginning, especially when the camera came out of the ground and entered this red room with a witch-like woman lying in the green bed. But the choreography/cinematography really fascinated me.


Research Critique: Sensing Garments and Smart Textiles

Wearable Kinesthetic Systems, Alessandro Tognetti, Federico Lorussi, Mario Tesconi, Raphael Bartalesi, Giuseppe Zupone, Danilo De Rossi (2005)


“This paper deals with the design, the development and the realization of sensing garments, from the characterization of innovative comfortable and spreadable sensors to the methodologies employed to gather information on posture and movement.”
The report was about developing a wearable kinesthetic system for capturing and classifying body posture and gesture.
It started with the relevance of body kinematics monitoring technology in several biological disciplines and applications like rehabilitation monitoring. Some drawbacks of the conventional technologies were then mentioned. For example, the clumsy mechanical plug and wires of traditional sensors may bound human movements.
ULKG prototype
ULKG prototype
Two types of sensorized garments based on conductive elastomer (CE) sensors were created: an Upper Limb Kinesthetic Garment (ULKG) and a Sensing Glove. The piezoresistive properties of CE sensors made it possible to obtain a sensing fabric which could then be used to manufacture garments capable of monitoring human movements.
The process to obtain the fabric was rather technical. Refer to the link for more details.
The report then further described the prototypes of ULKG and sensing glove and their electrical models and data acquisition techniques. At the end of the report, it evaluated the performances of both garments. The results turned out to be quite accurate.
In this work, the garment’s wearability was placed with priority, which led to its advantage over the traditional monitoring wearables.

 Wearable Electronics and Smart Textiles: A Critical Review, Matteo Stoppa and Alessandro Chiolerio (2014)
“This review focuses on recent advances in the field of Smart Textiles and pays particular attention to the materials and their manufacturing process. Each technique shows advantages and disadvantages and our aim is to highlight a possible trade off between flexibility, ergonomics, low power consumption, integration and eventually autonomy.”
The review started with an introduction of smart textiles. It described the convergence of electronics and textiles into fabrics which were able to sense, compute, communicate and actuate. More attention was devoted to the materials and methodologies to develop smart textiles. Each scientific approach was followed by a review of the related work carried out by companies, universities or research institutes.
Smart Textiles are defined as textile products such as fibers and filaments, yarns together with woven, knitted or non-woven structures, which can interact with the environment/user.
Smart Textiles are defined as textile products such as fibers and filaments, yarns together with woven, knitted or non-woven structures, which can interact with the environment/user.


It discussed fabrication techniques like conductive fibers and conductive inks. These conductive materials could be used as sensors due to their electrical properties. Other types of sensors like stretch sensors and pressure sensors were mentioned, too.


Each method presented has a very specific feature such as conductivity, flexibility, biocompatibility, mechanical resistance and washability. With only a few approaches able to satisfy all these requirements at the same time, trade off often exists.
The review concluded with a vision of future wearables. The final key factor for user acceptance of wearable systems is the fit comfort.

Research Critique – Biometrics

Dana Haim is a textile designer living in London. She finished her MA in Design for Textile Futures at Central Saint Martins. I found one of her biomimicry projects during MA Textiles Futures course particularly intriguing. It’s called the braided beaded ball suit.

Vimeo caption: ‘The braided beaded balls suit’ eventually becomes a paradox of adornment, seduction, and fashion. In a way it mimics nature, whilst being an artificial counter strike to its natural descent.

This video was made in collaboration between Dana Haim and Learke Hooge Andersen. It was part of a biomimicry project where they were very much inspired by the glowing creatures of the deep sea as well as weird formations in the human body to inform new approaches in design. They created a kind of hybrid of the two using this costume that they made specifically for this video.

Dana (Left) with her Danish buddy Learke (Right)

They also used several kinds of recycled materials to create the costume such as left over tights, ribbons, and beads. The dancer in the video is Supitchanga Vanasirikul.

” I am inspired by: The beauty of a forgotten old wall layered by the patina of time, remnants of posters, flyers and staples, cracks running down it and rust dripping through the cement. Multi colour neon graffiti dancing between the layers of paint, paper and dirt. Colourful dreamscapes. Wild animals and all the patterns and textures found in nature for instance the beauty of wood grain or the many facets of mineral stones. ”                                                                                                                            – Dana Haim

What is special about this project is its emulation of the beautiful symmetry in nature. For centuries, symmetry has remained a subject that’s fascinated philosophers, astronomers, mathematicians, artists, architects, and physicists. No one’s sure why it’s such an ever-present property, but it’s definitely one of the greatest gifts from nature.

Examples of symmetry in nature