Coming from a scientific, some might even say nerdy, background I always enjoy seeing an artist who can bridge the art, science, technology divide. This is not only because the divide is entirely artificial, but also because it brings together a mix of approaches and techniques, which often leads to new and exciting outcomes. I’ve heard of some that use both art and science in one can make some impressive bits of tech. I had a friend who used websites similar to Octopart to source parts to create an LED art display. But I digress. Few people typify this type of cross-disciplinary artist more than the Dutch fashion-tech designer Anouk Wipprecht does. From an original interest in fashion design, Anouk has incorporated technology and engineering, such as 3D printing and microprocessors, into both her processes and products.
Her pieces tend to fall into one of three rough categories, passive, active and reactive. Passive pieces use digital manufacturing techniques and frequently high tech materials but contain no animate parts. A good example would be the Faraday cage dress, produced during Anouk’s time as artist in residence with Autodesk, the producers of various design and development software who are heavily involved in the maker movement. The Faraday dress cage was constructed of metal plates over a mail bodysuit, which Anouk wore in a show with the performance art group Arc Attack, where she stood between two Tesla coils and was safely struck with half a million volt arcs. Active pieces incorporate micro-controllers to add some specific functionality to the garment, such as the pseudomorph dress. This piece is composed of a white felt dress and a series of hydraulic systems that bleed dyes into the material. The patterns that the dyes make in the dress vary depending on what the wearer is doing and on the environment. The combination of generative art and fashion design produces pieces, which are initially identical but become unique while worn.
Perhaps the most interesting of all are the reactive pieces, which incorporate sensors that monitor either the wearer or environment and produce some response to an input. Possibly the most well known, maybe even notorious after the tabloids got their hands on it, piece is Intimacy 2.0. The Intimacy 2.0 dress was developed in collaboration with Studio Roosegaarde and is composed of e-foils that become strategically transparent in response to the wearers arousal cues. Pieces that respond to external events frequently involve themes of personal space, such as the smoke or spider dresses. The smoke dress is a 3D printed garment incorporating small generators that release a veil of smoke when someone enters the wearer’s personal space. The spider dress has a set of animated robotic spider like limbs mounted on each shoulder. Their response to people entering the wearer’s personal space depends on the speed of approach. Approach slowly and the arms will open and welcome you, approach quickly and the arms will rear up in a spider like defensive posture. These is only a sample of Anouk’s work and much more can be found on her highly recommended website.