Artisan Brisbane, 31 July - 7 November, 2015. Curated by: Beck Davis & Rafael Gomez
AVA Gallery Hong Kong, 5 - 22 March, 2016. Curated by: Tricia Flanagan, Beck Davis & Rafael Gomez
Technology is increasingly infiltrating all aspects of our lives and the rapid uptake of devices that live near, on or in our bodies is facilitating radical new ways of working, relating and socialising. This distribution of technology into the very fabric of our everyday life creates new possibilities, but also raises questions regarding our future relationship with data and the quantified self.
By embedding technology into the fabric of our clothes and accessories, it becomes ‘wearable’. Such wearables enable the acquisition and connection to vast amounts of data about people and environments in order to provide life-augmenting levels of interactivity. Wearable sensors for example, offer the potential for significant benefits in the future management of our wellbeing. Fitness trackers such as ‘Fitbit’ and ‘Garmen’ provide users with the ability to monitor their personal fitness indicators while other wearables provide healthcare professionals with information that improves diagnosis and observation of medical conditions.
While the rapid uptake of wearables may offer these unique and obviously innovative opportunities, there are also concerns surrounding the high levels of data sharing that come as a consequence of these kinds of technologies. As more 'smart' devices connect to the Internet, and as technology becomes increasingly available (e.g. via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth), more products, artefacts and things are becoming interconnected. This digital connection of devices is called The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). IoT is spreading rapidly, with many traditionally non-online devices becoming increasingly connected; products such as mobile phones, fridges, pedometers, coffee machines, video cameras, cars and clothing. The IoT is growing at a rapid rate with estimates indicating that by 2020 there will be over 25 billion connected things globally.
As the number of devices connected to the Internet increases, so too does the amount of data collected and type of information that is stored and potentially shared. The ability to collect massive amounts of data - known as ‘big data’ - can be used to better understand and predict behaviours across all areas of research from societal and economic to environmental and biological. With this kind of information at our disposal, we have a more powerful lens with which to perceive the world, and the resulting insights can be used to design more appropriate products, services and systems. It can however, also be used as a method of surveillance, suppression and coercion by governments or large organisations. This is becoming particularly apparent in advertising that targets audiences based on the individual preferences revealed by the data collected from social media and online devices such as a GPS systems or pedometers. This type of technology also provides fertile ground for public debates around future fashion, identity and broader social issues such as culture, politics and the environment.
The potential implications of this type of technological interactions via wearables, through and with the IoT, have never been more real or more accessible. But, as highlighted, this interconnectedness also brings with it complex technical, ethical and moral challenges. Data security and the protection of privacy and personal information will become ever more present in current and future ethical and moral debates of the 21st century. This type of technology is also a stepping-stone to a future that includes implantable technology, biotechnologies, interspecies communication and augmented humans (cyborgs). Technologies that live symbiotically and perpetually in our bodies, the built environment and the natural environment are no longer the stuff of science fiction; it is in fact a reality. So, where next?...
The Wear Next_ exhibition illustrates this shifting landscape through a selection of creative, experimental wearable and interactive works by local and international artists and designers. The works exhibited represent a variety of scenarios for the design and future of wearable technology. It includes wearables for sport, health, disability and personal communication through to the use of wearable technology for exploration of new ideas in dance and choreography, political expression and environmental statements. These interpretations of what we may Wear Next_ in the future, are expressed by a variety international artists including Erina Kashihara, Japan; Tricia Flanagan, Hong Kong; Raune Frankjaer, Germany; Tobias Klein, China; Melissa Coleman and Camille Baker, United Kingdom and Kate Sicchio, USA.
Kashihara has embedded technology in fashion since the mid ‘80s and is well known for her work which seeks to express emotions through illumination and light. Frankjaer is an artist and designer from Germany whose work illustrates the convergence of digital fashion with technology. Her enLight work is a jacket that enhances human connectivity by combining luminous, reactive fabric and vibration sensors. Alternative to the technologically embedded, we have works from artists Flanagan and Klein. Flanagan is an artist and academic who uses technology in her fashion, sculpture and wearables to examine possible alternative futures. The confronting 3D printed Vessels of vanitas work by Klein presents the artist’s ‘digital flesh' via a manipulation of 3D rendered MRI scans of his internal organs and spaces. Moving beyond the Anthropocene toward protest, political and ethical concerns, we have works from artists Coleman, Baker and Sicchio. Coleman is a media artist and creative technologist whose wearable artwork Political lace is a visual protest against the needless loss of life globally of young women during childbirth. The digital record of the collaboration between artist-performer, Baker, and choreographer, Sicchio, illustrates the expressive and performative nature of dance combined with technology to question corporate data ownership, surveillance and the ethics of identify.
The works exhibited in Wear Next_ provide a snapshot into the broad spectrum of wearables in design and in development internationally. This exhibition has been curated to serve as a platform for enhanced broader debate around future technology, our mediated future-selves and the evolution of human interactions.
As you explore the exhibition, may we ask that you pause and think to yourself, what might we.... Wear Next_