Inside / Out, wereable tecnologies social potential

Katherine Moriwaki

In the art world, authors like Stelarc and Krzysztof Wodiczko have produced worrisome images of technology and body integration ignoring the expressive and aesthetic potential of wearable technology. Actually, thanks to the interchange among fashion, technology and art, artist / designer hybrids are developing works that question disciplinary boundaries, blur the borders between digital and analog, and try to expand our communicative possibilities. Katherine Moriwaki is an artist and researcher investigating this kind of potential, that is clothing and accessories as active channels for people building networks in public space. One of Moriwaki’s projects is Inside/Outside, a handbag that integrates an air quality sensor and audio microphone input connected to a microcontroller. As the user carries the bag through the city, changes in ambient air quality and noise levels cause conductive embroidery on the bag surface to heat and subsequently cool. Thermo-chromic pigments mixed with acrylic paint applied onto a fabric substrate create a visible color change that is both controlled and programmable. From a conceptual perspective, while an ordinary handbag collects very personal physical objects, Inside/Outside collects digital data about the outside environment, generating awareness, and possible actions to create an intimate relationship with the city and / or other individuals in the urban space. From a social point of view sensitive data can be used by a community to monitor their own neighborhood and public spaces. This pro-active interpretation of fashion could also be read through the words of Otto von Busch who calls “fashion renegades” the marginal fashion actors who use unconventional, hacking, strategies to modify and break the system. “But they do not oppose the inherent power or code processing of that system. Not boycotting fashion or scorn it as “the emperors new clothes”, but instead celebrating the magic and desire flowing through that system, reconnecting it to empower instead of regarding it as an enslaving culture”. Inside/Outside is in fact, the intersemiotic translation of a fashion accessory into a personal environmental monitoring tool. The handbag becomes a metaphor for information storage and retrieval. As Moriwaki writes “We are looking at what we carry, collect, and how we make sense of our inner and outer worlds”.

Valentina Culatti