What Sophie de Oliveira Barata makes is wearable art, and she illustrates her point using pictures of her one-of-a-kind prosthetic limbs. Most of them are highly impractical: they are meant to be flaunted, shown off, photographed. Her creations bridge the gap between wearable gadgets and artwear.
She is not the only one who merges art with wearable technology.
The Kind of Art to Wear
Wearable art used to mean unique, imaginative clothing items. Not fashion but art coincidentally shaped like something to wear. While the basic definition still holds, the “clothing” part has been evolving, and technology is the usual suspect.
One of the first innovations to make it into the world of wearable art was the tiny, inconspicuous LED. It enabled fashion designers to incorporate light into their projects. Glowing dresses and body-turned-installation, predictably, followed.
Image credit: Maria Castellanos
But here’s a thing about art: it shrugs off function as well as mass production.
Mundane wearable devices like a fitness watch did not conquer the artwear scene. Wearable art is never mass produced. A limited edition wristband would not qualify as art as long as its primary functions remain telling time and counting steps instead of expressing an artistic concept. The line between art and ornament becomes pretty clear when approached (and surprisingly few do approach it).
The core hardware involved in wearables, however, has been adopted by the wearable art creators as soon as it entered the market.
The Kind of Wearables to Art Up
More and more, wearable technology becomes the vehicle for wearable art. These days it is responsible for all the moving, glowing, and interactive parts.
Cutting-edge microchips enabled Sophie de Oliveira Barata to make her prosthetic art reality. They also inspired the attendants of the International Conference on Art and Technology in the Spanish Bilbao.
Behnaz Farahi, an Iranian-born American architect and designer, used the occasion to present her wearable art in the form of “emotive fabric”. It changes shape in response to different stimuli and, being connected to the wearer through multiple sensors, can react to their emotions.
Image credit: Behnaz Farahi
Another spectacular example of wearable art is the project by Maria Castellanos and Alberto Valverde. Dubbed as “The Environment Dress”, it’s a peculiar-looking fashion statement that measures the level of intensity and aggression surrounding its wearer throughout the day. Temperature, noise, radiation, and even CO2 levels are fed into the sensors, making the dress emit light.
Image credit: Maria Castellanos
And if all of the above sounds interesting to you, annual events like the Technarte Conference (Spain), World of Wearable Art (New Zealand), or The Wearable Art Show (Canada) offer a real spread of wearable art – as well as art in technology, including 3D printed pieces.
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