FASHIONING THE VOICE | CONTEXTUAL PORTFOLIO to accompany the artefact: prototype 'voicing' trenchcoat
WHEN VIEWING PORTFOLIO PLEASE SCROLL DOWN AS WELL AS ACROSS. CLICK VIDEO TO START
Indicators of Peer Esteem
The current R & D period for Fashioning the Voice comes to a close in April 2020. Our indicators of peer esteem are:
Arts Council England, R & D grant 15k
Request from Trinity College, Dublin to present Fashioning the Voice at 'The The Technologized Voice at the Science Gallery Dublin subject to funding from the Irish Research Council.
Feedback from academic peers through conference presentation and Audience testing:
Fashioning the Voice - Project Introduction
Fashioning the Voice is an interdisciplinary research project that brings together the expertise of Yvon Bonenfant an artist-academic who extends voice across media to explore innovative ways of creating (University College, Cork); Dr. Tychonas Michailidis, whose work focuses on sensor technology and interactions (Research Fellow at Solent University) and myself Associate Professor of the Art of Fashion; my research focuses upon the styled corporeal body and the experience of the (dressed) body.
300 Word Statement:
Within the last decade use of electronics and smart materials has rapidly expanded in the fields of fashion, costume and live art, but there is limited consideration of the affect upon bodies this technology has and nothing to explicitly explore the connections between fashioning the body and fashioning the voice. Both dressing and speaking are situated bodily practices that allow the individual to stylise themselves, to make themselves distinct and to respond to their environment. Using a range of sensors that gather data from the wearer Fashioning the Voice seeks to mix and entwine styling the body and styling the voice through (a prototype) trench coat that literally voices in response to the wearer. The artefact, that for this stage of R & D is explored within a live art setting, articulates a vision for an immersive, participatory experience, that entices individuals into exploring the relationship between how we fashion ourselves, stage ourselves, and glory in the dramatic amplification of the fashioned self across sensory registers.
My research focuses upon the sensory experience of wearing the trench coat drawing upon the field of affect studies by focusing upon the “practical experience of the clothed body in space” (Ruggerone, 577: 2016). I am investigating how this coat affects the wearer, how the coat impacts upon the way the wearer users and explores their voice-body and furthermore the feelings this process engenders. The supporting contextual information presented as a research exposition on researchcatalogue.net articulates how the artefact connects visual and vocal styling; and how the research with the project team and audiences has proven a perceptive sensation for wearers that provides a unique experience of ‘voice-body’ that has not been seen elsewhere. The work has been disseminated through peer-reviewed conference contributions, and tests with publics within art gallery and museum spaces.
How it works
Wireless Microphone (SubZero SZW-50 Lavalier and Headset Wireless Microphone System) – to capture the participant’s voice and transform it or ‘fashion it’ using live audio manipulation as well as record and playback of audio.
Temperature (LilyPad Temperature Sensor) – placed at the back of the coat underneath the collar and secured inside the fabric allowing a small hole for the sensor to be exposed and collect body temperature data from the participant.[Office1]
Light Sensor (Phidgets Light Sensor 70,000 lux) – placed under the right collar to allow the participant to experiment with the position of the collar and allow light into the sensor.
Accelerometers (LilyPad Accelerometer ADXL335) – there are three accelerometers, one on each sleeve and one at the bottom of the coat. These sensors capture hand gesture and movement from the participant as well as whole body movement.
The pockets of the coat are lined with fabric that gathers data from touch and pressure, as the participant pushes their hands into the pockets they can hear the pocket space respond.
The videos below are interviews with the two principle artistic collaborators: Yvon Bonenfant and Jennifer Anyan explaining how Fashioning the Voice creates a voice-body play space, through a prototype garment and the associated experience within a designed space.
Review of current practice and associated literature
The use of technology including smart materials, wearable electronics, AR and VR technology has rapidly expanded in the field of fashion and visual art in the last 5-10 years to provide more opportunities for arts audiences to engage with what is broadly defined as ‘immersive’ experience. The term ‘immersive’ has been adopted by technologies that immerse the audience typically through an augmented or virtual experience but is is arguable that any experience can be immersive for an individual, dependant upon their personal experience of an artwork that enabling engagement on a deep level, blocking out other aspects of both the exterior environment and internal dialogue, to focus on the artwork and their relationship to it.
Fashioning the Voice developed from a starting point of a desire to explore the connections and synergies between styling the (dressed) body and styling the voice. The project engages with dialogues from public art, fashion, luxury, technology, performance and voice studies and the prototype could be developed for a wide range of outcomes that include stage costume, commercial luxury fashion and visual art. This potential breadth of application is both a challenge and an opportunity within the research and in order to take a rigorous approach to develop a meaningful, effective outcome we have, at this stage of the research, chosen to focus on developing an outcome for a visual art field. This review of practice contextualises our work within the field and emphasises why we have taken this route, through outlining both the continued public interest in the subject of fashion as well as how public art venues are increasingly prioritising ‘deep’ engagement, in alignment with the Arts Council England’s 2020 strategy (Arts Council England, 2020). This review demonstrates how this project builds on dialogues around embodiment, dressing and identity whilst providing an original experience of what we call the ‘styled voice-body’. With the potential to extend the research and practical application in a number of areas, this review could be much more extensive.
Exhibitions and artworks
The Fashion exhibition
Exhibitions that are fashioned themed, typically focusing on the work of a designer, design house, a movement or thematic area that brings a number of designers and styles together have demonstrated huge public popularity in recent years. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams drew more than 590,000 visitors, making it the most attended show in the V&A’s history. Though the 2015 exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, attracted 493,043 visitors but ran for just over four months (14 March-2 August). The number of daily visitors for the Dior was just over 2,800, while the McQueen exhibition had 3,470 visitors a day.(Harris & Da Silva, 2019). According to the Art Newspaper’s survey of exhibition visitor figures for 2018, the most popular exhibition was the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, a Costume Institute show that boldly mixed religious works of art—including 42 ecclesiastical pieces from the Sistine Chapel sacristy—with haute couture, was seen by nearly 1.7 million people (10,919 visitors a day) It is notable that a further 230,000 people visited the show at the “comparatively sleepy” venue Met Cloisters, (Sharpe & De Silva, 2019). Sharpe and Da Silva attribute part of the Heavenly Bodies success to the growth in public appetite for exhibitions that consider fashion, whether that of a designers archive, such as Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, shows that incorporate fashion alongside other aspects of art and design such as the V & A’s most popular show of 2018 which displayed a number of outfits and personal affects of the artist Frida Kahlo alongside her artworks. Even exhibitions of items considered part of ‘everyday’ fashion vernacular such as MoMA’s most popular show of 2018 Items: Is Fashion Modern? have provided high visitor numbers evidencing a highly sustained public interest in all aspects of fashion: couture, everyday and the historic.
Art, fashion and clothing
Vanessa Beecroft ‘s practice for approximately the last 26 years has involved performance art working with (usually) professional models placed in a static formation or choreographed in what she has described as a living painting or tableaux vivant. Beecroft’s models are sometimes nude, sometimes adorned with body paint, wearing wigs and sometimes clothed. When clothed Beecroft’s models are often dressed by high end designers, she has worked with Miuccia Prada, Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana, and Manolo Louis Vuitton, Knappa. Since 2008 Beecroft has collaborated frequently with Kanye West staging shows, music video, catwalk and tableaux vivant that in their location, contextual relationship to fashion brand and commercial opportunity have blurred the boundaries between commercial event and artworld occasion. Concepts of voyeurism and representation are prescient within Beecroft’s work and she has been widely criticised for narrow casting and reductionist representation of women (Ryallcontemporary.com, 2017; W Magazine, 2016). Beecroft’s work, however it is understood, brings high (luxury, high cost) fashion into an art context to be looked at and considered in relation to the (usually female) body.
Art and the [extended] body
In addition to the fashion exhibition it is necessary to understand the history of artworks that engage with the body through technological intervention and extension. Both The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics, shown from July to October 2016 at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and Superhuman at the Wellcome Collection in London, July – October 2012 combined scientific objects with those that had emerged from more speculative art and design practice to provide a version of the history of explorations of the extended body.
“We have an inherent desire to go beyond our capabilities, to push beyond our limits. We study to increase knowledge, make machines to produce more than we can with our own hands, create devices to go faster, see further, speak louder and, when our bodies refuse to do what we think they should, we find ways to supplement them and exceed our corporeal boundaries.” (Lisa Le Feuvre, 2019)
Le Feuvre succinctly describes a human drive that throughout history has led to scientists, engineers, inventors, artists, designers exploring how we can go beyond the bodies we have seeking to extend, improve improvise and play. Historically we might look at the work of artists such as Rebecca Horn including Mechanical Bodyfan(s) (1973-4) and further back Oskar Schlemmar’s Triadic Ballet (1926-29) as artworks that we could map as part of a historical discourse of working with body, performance, technology and the associated concepts of what it is to be a person in a body, furthermore how that sense of personhood might shift when the body is extended using available technology to do something more or other. Schlemmer’s costumes designed for the Triadic Ballet are particularly interesting to analyse in relation to the aspirations of Fashioning the Voice, using equipment from physical education he attempted to lengthen the dancers limbs, forcing them to “empathise with their own mechanics” (Le Feuvre, 2019). In early audience testing with the second prototype trenchcoat we have provided users with the opportunity to extend their voice in a range of ways and in exploring this; one user commented “the experience made me concentrate on my body, thoughts and feelings rather than what the coat looks like from the outside” (anonymous participant from testing at the Showcase Gallery, 2019). Whilst Horn worked primarily producing body sculptures that she fitted to herself and Schlemmer performers, the audience are allowed to look at the sculptures and documentation through photographs and video of them in use, but they do not experience the work on their own bodies, the art experience is, at a distance, through viewing the work.
Art and embodied experience
Following on from works that extend, explore and intervene with the body for audiences to view, some artists have focused more specifically on the [embodied] experience of the audience. Embodied Encounters was curated by David Familian and Simon Penny at Beall Center for Art and Technology, October 2016- January 2017, the exhibition was staged in conjunction with the Body of Knowledge conference at University of California, Irvine. The conference focused upon interrogating “discourses around arts practices that deal with emerging paradigms of Embodied (and Enactive, Situated, Distributed, Extended) cognition”. (Familian and Penny, 2017)
Included in Embodied Encounters Rhona Bryne’s work Huddlewear (2015) comprises of loose structures akin to a cape or tent with several hoods attached in a bright yellow fabric contained within a matching bright yellow carpeted space. Participants are encouraged to put on the Huddlewear and in doing so have “an opportunity to explore the person-environment relationship and the unstable conditions of place and affect”. Huddlewear is an artwork that provides an art experience that is designed to facilitate feelings of connection that is ‘in real life’ (IRL) rather than online or virtual, an alternative to putting on a VR headset which can be isolating as an experience.
Also included within Embodied Encounters, Sha Xin Wei’s work Time Lenses (2016) provides an art experience that requires the art gallery visitor to be physically active in their engagement with the work. The work is described by Sha Xin Wei as “not a performance but the condition of performance: it conditions an interior space such that ordinary activity can acquire poetic or rhythmic (musical) charge”. Any activity in the space, removing the need for the participant to have a required level of competence produces a different set of rhythmic projections. These works and the conference accompanying the exhibition sought to provide new ways of thinking about “intelligence in action” that puts embodied experience at the centre of the enquiry.
Embodied experience and fashion
Dress, not merely to protect or preserve the body, also embellishes it “the materials commonly used adding a whole array of meanings to the body that would otherwise not be there”. (Entwistle, 2000). The concept of embellishments could also be applied to voice, our voice does not merely reflect our natural body, we make a range of choices that are both conscious and unconscious in the way that we stylise our voices appropriate to both the situation and our identity preferences. Pitch, accent and intonation can be digital as well as physical inflictions, we are familiar with this digital manipulation of voice through popular music.
The voice emerges from our vibrating vocal folds, and then our exquisitely responsive and malleable vocal tract sculpts the sounds that emerge. This process is dependent on a wide range of variables – biological, emotional, cultural and contextual – and as such, it is ever-in-flux, under a strange combination of conscious control, unconscious learned habits, and physical limitations and potentials: we fashion our sound. Findlay (2016) contends that clothing intertwines with imagination, self-perception and embodied experience, to co- fabricate a sense of being-in-the-world. Our garments that ‘make’ voice, that shape voice, that project voice, and that literally vibrate with voice, echo the agency we use to choose, shape and move in clothing – grounding it in a dialogue between the ‘biological’ (or more fixed) aspects of embodiment and the tactile, visual and choreographic qualities of clothing. Using ‘voiced’ clothing we stage identity and mark a marginal space that can be played with (Kaiser 2001). Our research examines body/identity/performance relationships through a prototype garment: a trench coat with monitoring sensors used to harness and tease out the synergy between material clothing and internal body, potentially dissolving the boundaries of sensations in fashioning body and voice. Sensors gather data from the body’s interaction with the coat; gestures, movement, EMG, and touch. We then apply different mapping techniques including artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a unique voice for the user that resonates between fashion, performance and voicing. The project engages with debates in fashion and technology to consider future of luxury, fashion and costume that furthers its power to create imaginary worlds and extend the self.
Jessica Bugg’s work developing methods for embodied clothing design and communication is an example of how design process over the last 15 years has been reconsidered through employing a research processes that uses knowledge learned through considering embodied experience. Bugg’s work develops garment design based on analysing body movements on video and then refining the design on the body(Bugg, J 2002-2004) . Made for performance and exhibition outcomes working with professional dancers or performers wearing the clothing the final outcomes Bugg proposes that if design is approached with the body, the embodied experience at its core it can provide an alternative dialogue to clothing developed through more traditional design process. Our project extends this opportunity through developing garments and the environments they are situated within not for the ‘expert’ or ‘professional’ but for broader publics to experience and embody. By designing for general publics, rather than professionals we extend the enquiry by allowing a broader range of people, without specialist knowledge to encounter an experience that provides an opportunity for them to explore their extended voice-body. Through working with diverse audiences the research can have a greater impact.
In terms of conceptualising the art experience we are developing in relation to commercial fashion experiences, as a team, we have been influenced by considering Efrat Tseëlon’s chapter in the collection Fashion and Art (2012: 111–20) entitled Authenticity, as a way of thinking about how the experience we might be providing could be understood and developed for different audiences (this builds upon Bonenfant’s previous work with Curious Replica’s (2018)). Using Tseëlon’s theory of Authenticity we can consider how the experience of wearing our tech enabled trenchcoat (or other garments yet to be developed) might allow a user to participate in a sort of vocal styling of the self that goes beyond ‘mass fashion’, in terms of pret-a-porter (sold as ready to wear, standardised sizes we buy ‘off the rack’ as opposed to made to measure clothes). Although the coat is the same coat for all the voice is what we might refer to as ‘bespoke’.
“The body [in contrast to digital technology], though, is analogue and driven by the senses, and we have long built palpable extensions for it. Often the best way to understand something is to try to make it. What happens, then, if we try to make a body?” (Le Feuve, 2019). Le Feuve’s comment sums up where we are currently in creating and testing these prototypes and exploring how audiences respond – what can happen if we try to make a voice body and invite people to try it on?
Arts Council England, 2020. Let’s Create 2020-2030. Arts Council England Startegy 2020-2030 [accessed on 20th February 2020] available from: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Strategy%202020_2030%20Arts%20Council%20England.pdf
Bugg, J. 2002-2004. Movement Collection 1. [Accessed on 6th March 2020] available from: http://jessicabuggdesign.com/portfolios/movement-collection-1/
Bonenfant, Y. 2018. Your voice is hair: Speculations toward a metaphor for styling vocal identity. Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2. Pp 143-166.
Collins, E. 2017. VB46 Analysing the Controversy Surrounding Vanessa Beecroft’s Practice. Rayll Contemporary.com [accessed on 9th March 2019] available from: https://www.ryallcontemporary.com/article-1/2017/4/30/vb46-analysing-the-controversy-surrounding-vanessa-beecrofts-practice
Entwistle, J. 2000. Fashion and the Fleshy Body: Dress as an Embodied Practice, Fashion Theory, 4:3, 323-347, doi:10.2752/136270400778995471
Familian, D & Penny, S. (2017) Embodied Encounters. Beall Center for Art and Technology, October 2016- January 2017
Findlay, R. 2016. Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On: Encountering Clothes, Imagining Selves. Cultural Studies Review:Volume 22 number 1, p78-9
Harris, G & De Silva, J. 2019. Exhibition of the late French designer had 594,000 visitors overall but was on for seven months, The Art Newspaper. [accessed on 13th March 2020] available from: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/christian-dior-show
Kaiser, S. 2001. Minding Appearances: Style, Truth, Subjectivity. In Entwistle, J & Wilson, E. (Eds.) Body Dressing: Dress, Body, Culture. Oxford: Berg Publishers. (p79-102) [accessed: 16th March 2020] available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/9780857854032/BODRESS0008]
Le Feuvre, L. 2019. Extending Bodies. Tate: London. [accessed on: 7th March 2019] Available from:https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-36-spring-2016/extending-bodies
Munzenrieder, K. 2016. Vanessa Beecroft Insults Beyoncé, Basic Concept of Race. WMagazine.com [accessed on 13th March 2020] available from: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/vanessa-beecroft-insults-beyonce-basic-concept-of-race/
Ruggerone, R. 2017. The Feeling of Being Dressed: Affect Studies and the Clothed Body, Fashion Theory, 21:5, pp.573-593, DOI: 10.1080/1362704X.2016.1253302
Sharpe & Da Silva.2019. Fashion Provides Winning Formula. The Art Newspaper [accessed on 9th March 2018 available from: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/analysis/fashion-provides-winning-formula ]
Tseëlon, E. 2012. Authenticity, in A. Geczy and V. Karaminas (eds), Fashion and Art, London: Berg, pp. 111–22.
This project sits within the field of art and design practice and the focus of the work is upon the creation of a new artefact and art installation that will allow audiences to try on a coat (and at a later stage perhaps other items) that will enable them to experience and explore a playful 'voice-body'. The work is informed by the diverse discipline areas of the research team and therefore draws from voice studies, fashion studies as well as visual arts and performance practices.
The knowledge acquired is largely through the process of working with the prototype coats. Observing them being worn by a range of participants who we test with, including ourselves, reflecting upon the experience and refining the materials and processes to further understand what potential there is for creating an experience for individuals to experience a 'voice body' that is not available elsewhere.
We work within Ellingson's (2009) articulation of 'crystallization' methodology, a framework for conducting qualitative and multimethod research.
Crystallization combines multiple forms of analysis and multiple genres of representation into a coherent text or series of related texts, building a rich and openly partial account of a phenomenon that problematizes its own construction, highlights researchers’ vulnerabilities and positionality, makes claims about socially constructed meanings, and reveals the indeterminacy of knowledge claims even as it makes them. (Ellingson, 2009, p. 4)
This approach helps us work across our different areas of expertise productively; gives us tools for charting synergies and areas of difference across our approaches, to help critically and professionally inform means of articulating what matters about our collaboration, while scoping the possibilities for next-stage work.
Crystallization methodology is appropriate to our work because it allows the space for an analysis of the dressed body and the embodied experience that is not singular, it "celebrates knowledge as inevitably situated, partial, constructed, multiple, and embodied." (Ellignson, 2009, p.5).
In the first instance, we focused on developing a series of garment prototypes, animated by a range of sensor and other haptic technologies. These capture the participant's spoken voice, and then shape it; sensors perceive the body's reactions to clothing, and the qualities of movement the garments inspire, and then we use this data to shape the characteristics of a chorus of singing voices, that radiate out from the garment. Haptic, vibrational response to the changing singing voices animate the garment, too. We immerse the participant in their fashioned voice, and 'touch' them with it.
Our objectives are organised into intertwining strands. They are:
Strand 1: Prototyping (version one prototype has achieved much of this, version two will be more robust and allow audience testing)
(A) To create a prototype of an immersive, singing outfit, that captures the wearer's own voice, 'fashions' it, and then stages the wearer's fashioned self, including on the haptic register.
(B) To apply the garments' qualities as items of fashion, such as their cut, their silhouette, and their drape, in combination with the conscious and unconscious choices of the user, emanating from the user's own body, movements, and voice qualities, to the sculpting and styling of the resulting sound, touch and lighting experience.
(C) To test the prototype with audience.
Strand 2: Audience Experience
(D) To collect a wide range of types of qualitative data about the nature of the participants' engagement with the work, and to use that data to analyse and understand what might be happening for the participant, from a number of complementary, yet differing perspectives.
(E) To use our analysis to both (i) better understand the meanings audience make from the experience, in particular, the narratives and somatic dramaturgies that emerge, and to (ii) continually refine and enhance the quality of the audience's participatory adventure.
Strand 3: Toward a full production template
(F) With SME partners, to imagine, strategize for, and develop curatorial and producing frameworks that support the art experience to become a building-wide, immersive, ambulatory environment with multiple garments in distributed spaces, where audience stage, fashion and style themselves in voice, garments, touch and light, for each other. We call this a 'full production template'.
Strand 4: Synthesis and crystallizing our outcomes
(G) To collect, organise, inter-relate, and curate fragments of our creative, critical, professional and curatorial writing, audio, still image and video documentation, mini-essays, etc, into a cohesive data set, organised as a 'research exhibition' in the Research Catalogue of the Society for Artistic Research.
(H) To create peer reviewed publication in 'exposition' format, from further refined, intertwining, content from the dataset, that operates as intertextual writing, and that invites the reader to intuitively navigate meaningful aspects of our process, product, analysis, and outcomes.
Strand 5: Further impact (I) To explore the applicability of this work to the fashion sector, where individualised experience, and increased personal agency, are reconfiguring the consumption of fashion, especially in the luxury fashion domain; we are advised by sector experts.
(J) To explore future collaborations with distributed network experts and materials science.
Prior to Audiece testing we worked with an expert panel to explore the possibilities from their expert perspectives
AUDIENCE TESTING October 2019 - March 2020
Between October 2019 and March 2020 we held four days of audience testing.
2 days at the Solent gallery with a general audience who were mainly from the University population: Art, Design and Fashion academic and students were the main proportion of this audience.
1 day in a foyer space at Southampton City Art Gallery on a Saturday: Families, teen- twenty-somethings were the focus of this testing.
1 day with a small group of visually impaired over 60s.
The documents here provide the framework for the enquiry undertaken through the testing. We worked with Arts Evaluator Mary Patterson to develop a rigorous research methodology and a set of research questions to address through these testing sessions. Participants, with consent and following ethics approval, were video recorded and interviewed. We have extensive footage of these sessions that have informed the next stages of designing the experience as well as the next prototype coat.
Qualitative feedback comments from Participant Testing Sessions
"It evoked memories of Paris"
"I like the idea. It’s interesting to try and figure out how it works. It was really fun and cool to hear the sounds distorted."
"I felt as if the coat had agency"
"It is like wearing your own mirror"
"I deliberately left my hair down today as I wanted to see how it engaged with the coat and it’s sensors"
"It’s about fashion,
It’s a coat,
Then the voice happens and it is time to play"
"Trying on a French Voice makes me feel chic"
"I prefer wearing someone else’s voice"
"The coat made me notice the nuances of my accent"
"The jacket had a calming effect on me and it made me more mindful about my movements. I love the way the experience made me concentrate on my body, thoughts and feelings rather than what the coat looks like from the outside. I think that it’s important to remind people that how you are and what you do is more important than what you look like."
I changed the way I moved depending on the way it responded to the sound.
You can be whoever you want to be
The coat of empowerment
I felt a bit uncomfortable wearing the coat. I felt like I couldn’t hear myself think with my voice going high and low
I liked it when the voice change was more noticeable
Interesting idea! It was like my clothes were talking to me.
Too many noises at once. Very intense.
Fashioning the Voice – notes on research questions for the Solent Gallery test sessions
"The project stakeholders’ research questions are rigorous and detailed and necessarily draw on individual areas of expertise. In order to gather thoughts from the experts who will come together for the first Fashioning the Voice research day, I have attempted to identify some common themes from amongst these approaches and write them into simple questions that may inspire unexpected responses.
Once gathered, I recommend each stakeholder considers these responses in relation to their original questions. How do the theories, disciplines and models of audience engagement which you bring, act on the ways that people articulate their experiences of the coat? " Mary Paterson, May 2019
Overarching Research Questions
What are the relationships between styling the body and styling the voice and how are they explored through the ways that users and spectators interact with the coat?
How does this change when considered in the realms of fashion, live art/ visual art, or participatory practice?
When encountering the coat, what are the effects of
- the body as a process (as opposed to an object)?
- the body and the voice?
- the discourses of luxury and bespoke fashion?
And, how can this feedback impact on:
- The physical design of the coat?
- The instructions and invitations given to users and participants?
- The context in which the coat appears?
Questions for experimenting with the coat
As a user:
What feels immersive? How is this encouraged?
(What is not immersive? How is this reinforced?)
What feels playful? How is this encouraged?
(What is not playful? How is this reinforced?)
What feels luxurious? How is this encouraged?
(What is not luxurious? How is this reinforced?)
What kinds of gestures yield the most immersive/ playful/ luxurious results?
As a participant/ spectator:
What feels immersive? How is this encouraged?
(What is not immersive? How is this reinforced?)
What feels playful? How is this encouraged?
(What is not playful? How is this reinforced?)
What feels luxurious? How is this encouraged?
(What is not luxurious? How is this reinforced?)
What kinds of gestures yield the most immersive/ playful/ luxurious results?
Participant Kirstie Banks reflects upon how she "reacted to" the different voices she tried on through her body language. This clip supports our proposition that through conjoining the experience of styling the body with styling the voice we can produce an experience that provides a new experience of 'voice-body' for the wearer.
To follow, video and feedback from working with a group of visually impaired people, who engaged deeply with the experience.
Fashioning the Voice – Visually Impaired workshop 28-01-20
Field notes - observing participants testing the version 2 prototype.
Gordon took long strides in the coat like a long march. He chose to record his own deep voice ‘yo ho he ho!’ He chose to make big swinging scythe-like movements. He jumped higher and higher to try and get a quicker sound response. He put his hands in his pockets and swayed from side to side. At this point, more definition of his ‘yo ho he ho’ was heard.
There were no sensors on the length of the sleeves but Gordon liked trying to disrupt the sound by rubbing the sleeves, trying to make a rustling sound and afterwards explaining that he wanted to create a higher pitch.
As he is Scottish, Gordon tried out highland music! He later wondered if a single tone would be more interesting to explore as it would achieve a greater variation of sound with movement.
In a later discussion, Gordon mentioned that he moved the sleeve to move the cuff. He preferred the sound output of the Showcase Gallery. He said he assumed he could make the sound go faster or slower depending on how he moved or higher or lower a pitch but this was not evident.
He then tried a monotone which he found more predictive by swishing and twirling around in the coat. He mentioned that when it is a series of different sounds (rather than a continuous one) it is harder to manipulate but it is more transformative. He loved putting his hands in the pockets. He mentioned that he loved the feel of the weights around the wrist but he was very conscious of trying to achieve a sound effect. He mentioned the feeling of confidence he felt when having different fabrics on his skin.
Gordon mentioned that he feels ‘like I’m making sound effects in the background which aren’t affecting the recorded voice.’
He mentioned that he realised he did not touch the collar once.
Gordon suggested that we could have fur in different places (such as under the collar or pocket lining) to texture it a bit. He said you could Velcro on different fabrics to give a tactile experience (which may be more important to this group?) You could possibly Velcro on different materials for different voice effects?
Having an effect on the voice with toggles and zips was discussed. Gordon mentioned the fact that buttons have an empowering effect on him giving him strength. Different buttons felt more substantial and ‘powerful’ than others.
Janet explained that she was self-conscious, mentioning that it was hard to think up different moves. She mentioned that it took her back to her teenage years when she was singing into a hairbrush. She asked how she could distinguish whether there is a difference between people if they are trying on similar voices / sounds? Janet also mentioned that the voice seemed to take a while to build up and then built layers over itself in repeat.
Jo said it was, ‘like a country coat which likes going out on adventures.’ She said the voice echoed and was distorted and that it was interesting how the music was manipulated.
Jo said it would be great to see a group of people each wearing a coat to see how the coats talked to each other!
Keith moved in a very dramatic and expressive way which was a great performance to witness! He mentioned it was like a surveyor, crossing his arms above his head to signal to where he could be seen. He crawled down on the floor to see how low the voice could go, hiding under the coat.
Keith’s voice seemed to be able to be manipulated the best.
Keith mentioned that he could not feel the coat so when Gordon next tried it on, he tried it on topless. Gordon then mentioned that he couldn’t identify the difference of being topless.
A video showing three participants with visual impairments using the second prototype trenchcoat. The response from this group has been very positive and they have requested further involvement in developing the work, particularly towards a multi-sensory experience that is aimed at creating sensations that visually impaired people can enjoy.
Working towards a full production template we collaborated with architectural company Design Engine, they are beginning to help us explore possibilities for taking the artwork to broader audiences through having a mobile dressing room that provides a changing space, a catwalk space and a control room for the technician.
We are now in the process of feeding back to Design Engine so that they can produce a set of drawings that depicts our vision for the installation space. This will be part of the package we take to funders for the next stage. Click on each image to see the full design proposal.
Conference presentations that support the project through contextualising the research and articulating the contribution to knowledge that has been produced through working with the prototype coats.
The three conferences that we have presented the project are to date are:
The Fashion and Visual Cultures Network conference, Zagreb, July 2018
The China Academy of Arts International Postgraduate Critical Forum for Design, November 2018
The Society of Artistic Research 10th Annual Conference, March 2019 (Peer-reviewed).
Conference Contribution by Jennifer Anyan:
PRODUCTIVE GAPS - SAR 10th Annual Conference, University of Zurich, March 2019
Abstract starts >> Fashioning the Voice is an interdisciplinary research project that brings together the expertise of Yvon Bonenfant an artist-academic who extends voice across media to explore innovative ways of creating (University College, Cork); Dr. Tychonas Michailidis, who’s work focuses on sensor technology and interactions (Research Fellow at Solent University) and myself.
Fashioning the Voice emerged from a starting point of exploring the connections between fashioning the body and fashioning the voice. The body is a site of construction and communication, both dressing and speaking are situated bodily practices that allow the individual to stylise themselves, to make them selves distinct and to respond to their environment. Using a range of sensors that gather data from the wearer Fashioning the Voice seeks to mix and entwine styling the body and styling the voice through (at this stage a prototype) trench coat that literally sings in response to the wearer. The live art project outcome articulates a vision for an immersive, participatory experience, that entices individuals into exploring the relationship between how we fashion ourselves, stage ourselves, and glory in the dramatic amplification of the fashioned self across sensory registers.
My research interests in this project are concerned with the sensory experience of wearing the trench coat drawing upon the field of affect studies by focusing upon the “practical experience of the clothed body in space” (Ruggerone, 577:2016). I am investigating how this coat affects the wearer, how in the experience of being clothed in this singing coat their focus might shift from what the body is, to what the body does and the feelings that engenders. Our stylistic and physical interactions with the coat such as popping the collar, pushing up the sleeves, tightening the belt can connect to vocal styling through the technology embedded in the coat. I would like to use this session to share the coat, and to contemplate with my peers the gap between visual and vocal styling; the gap between sensation and affect. Can we construct a meaningful connection through this tech enabled trench coat to connect styling the body with styling the voice, or is the gap too large? What is the value in doing this for a live art setting? <<