As part of my research for my FMP, I joined a 1 week workshop program called the Creative Dance & Technology Lab where 4 people from each of fashion/costume design, dance, and technology/media design are selected. These 3 ares are ones I personally am very interested in working in.

The Creative Lab is a week of experimentation within the fields of dance, fashion, and technology. You will participate in a series of workshops facilitated by highly-experienced tutors and practitioners who will introduce you to the different areas of practise, offering a balace between knowledge sharing and practical exploration.”

There are workshops in each discipline everyday including: movement, choreography, costume making, projection mapping, and physical computing. Then we are put into groups of 3 from each discipline to collaborate and make a short experimental project together.

Here’s my encounter of the workshop and what I learned from it for my FMP. I joined from day 2 because I was unavailable to attend day 1.

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We begin and end the day with a stretch and movement exercise.

Day 2:

“Wearable Technology” -Mouhannad Al-Sayegh & Dimitrios Coumados

  • I found many sensors I could use to create wearables: flex sensor, conductive fabric, ribbon, string, accelerometer, stretch sensor, tilt sensor, pressure sensor etc.
  • I am becoming very interested in the field of wearable technology and want to experiment in this field in the future

“Costume as a trigger for intervention” -Agnes Treplin & Claire Christie

  • I learned various techniques and basics in sewing with an industrial sewing machine and this would come in handy when I am creating garments and wearables
  • I was paired up with a costume designer, Hana Zeqa who is interested in making organic shapes in her work similar to myself. We started by talking about the emotional and physical states of the body and that changes posture and behaviour emitting  information about one’s wellbeing and mindset. So we based our design around this concept. We are both interested in making sound with fabric and I am interested in the natural sounds that come from materials. Using organic forms found in nature, we use the body as a canvas to “grow” organisms on that would emit information about the state of the body when movements happen. The body changes states which changes the garment which changes the body study through feedback.
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Front and back sketch of the wearable design

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Day 3:

In the morning, Hana and I worked on the garment we started yesterday by first making a mock-up on a mannequin. I learned how to prototype a garment by pinning strips of pattern sheets and then how a garment needs to be put together by putting together a skeleton that the fabric would be sewn onto. I also practiced my sewing skills but mainly Hana sewed together the skeleton and we managed to use a thick rubber band material mixed with nylon in order to create the textures we wanted to get on the garment. We imagine that these rubber parts would be pulled and released to change the shape of the garment. Although we had a nice form in mind, it was hard to recreate with the technical limitations. The garment had to be made in a certain way to be property worn and the technology to  move the rubber bands would be motors which could be difficult to work with.

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Conceptual “sketch” for a breathing garment

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detail of the construction of a stretchy part of the garment to be controlled by motors

“Projection mapping & Tracking” -Mouhannad Al-Sayegh & Dimitrios Coumados

  • software: Isadora
  • Isadora was developed by a choreographer and it is intended for making interactive projection mapping projects with movement and dance.
  • This program is compatible with sensors, Arduino, Kinect, Leap and many other interfaces that could be used in my FMP.
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Example of Isadora used here to control shapes on a projection which can be manipulated by light

 

Much like MAX/MSP it is a visual coding software which is quite easy to manage. I could essentially control for example, a screen of dots reacting to movement or the dots can be translated into physical objects. OR I could also project onto a moving dancer who’s movements are tracked by a Kinect.

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Using Kinect to track motion of the body

This is a technology that I will be exploring in the practicality part of my FMP.

Key takeaway: I learned other challenges that I may not have thought about when working with a wearable by working with a costume designer. I can see how she thinks from her perspective and how that will be applied to when I design my own wearable.

We both have similar interest in continuing this project into our own thesis studies and working together.

Day 4:

“Playing with Parameters” – Eleesha Drennan

  • working on collaboration skills and setting a goal and rules in doing projects
  • the movement workshop opened up my mind to ways of moving in terms of performance and working in groups
  • We did a daily activity of stepping and clapping to the repetition of 4, 3, 2, and 1. I found difficulty with this in coordination and when we did the group exercise we went from individually doing this to trying to do this together as a group of 12 people. Through this, Eleesha showed the importance of a a sense of belonging, achievement, and how collaborative teams work. We had to think about leadership, co-ordination, and how to come together as a group. This is a very interesting way of explaining how a collaboration may feel.
  • The next exercise is to do with pattern making and collaboration. We were in groups of 4 each coming up with a pattern to communicate to the others.
  • Exercise 3 and 4, we were put into our final groups for the week and I’m working with shoe designer, Kristina and Dancer, Emma. We created 2 performances through motive and restraints. For example, the motive is to communicate each of our names with the restraints: no using arms, keep to a specified space, 1 minute timing, and no spoken words. This was to familiarize us with setting parameters for our projects and how to reach a goal with these restraints in place and how they can help with focusing ideas. The interesting result is, 2 other groups unknowingly used their arms, which shows the unconscious decisions in our gestures and how we perceive “arm movement”. This ties back into my thesis about the invisible characteristics of some of our daily gestures and how they can mean something or are in place to achieve something.
  • In the exercise 4, a group’s motive was to be blindfolded while the audience guided them to the washroom to then pour out a cup of water into the toilet with everyone in the bathroom in 2 minutes. Although we didn’t achieve it by the time, it taught me a lot about immersive and interactivity with the audience. Think about where the audience is for their experience, this can change the project drastically. How to demand attention or control the audience.
  • Summary: pattern & parameters, motive (knowing why), question (not assuming).

In the afternoon, we worked in the small groups to experiment with all that we’ve learned during the week. So we decided to attach a accelerometer to the dancer, made into a shoe wearable and programmed through Arduino and Isadora so that the dancer’s foot movement would draw on a projected screen. We will continue making this tomorrow as an exploration into how body movement could make visuals and I can use this to extend into future projects to do with body movement.

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Sensors attached to dancer’s foot

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Stitching Adafruit Flora and accelerometer onto fabric to be attached to a wearable band

Day 5:

This is the last day of the program, in the morning, we did a quick warm up then went straight working in our groups again to experiment with drawing with movement. The concept of our project came from a chat about how hip-hop culture relates with sneakers and how dancers could identify each other from signature sneakers and footwear. So we wanted to take this idea of the dancer’s identity and belonging to a tribe and translate it using visuals.

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Wearable components

In the 5 hours that we had working together, not only did I learn much about the dance and fashion disciplines and how to collaborate, I also expanded my personal technological development by prototyping this wearable made with an Adafruit Flora, an accelerometer, and Isadora. This is one of the ways that I will consider working in for my FMP.

I found difficulty in tracking movement and mapping the data into smoother, more reactive outputs. Also, the next step would be to make the wearable wireless so the dancer can dance freely. Some interesting ideas for the next step:

  • projection on a building
  • dancer has a space to color in specific spots and the audience controls/changes color to control the movement of the dancer
  • different dancers have different brushstroke/color, as their identity and when they dance together, a mixed painting effect appears

This workshop was very helpful in contributing to my personal practice as well as FMP research. I could not find people who can give expertise in different disciplines to help in future projects, which I want to continue involving fashion and dance.

Here’s a video of the final prototype:

Next for CDTL:

  • Regroup in September 4-8
  • Spring 2018, commissioned fashion, dance and tech event by East London Dance