VANCOUVER 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS | THE CULTURAL OLYMPIAD :: FASHION ::: «SKORPIONS + CAPTAIN ELECTRIC (ITCHY, STIFF)» by JOANNA BERZOWSKA

In previous posts here and here, I lamented the lack of “future vision” in fashion today. I also admitted that, whilst I’m into all aspects of design, fashion is not my regular bag.

Thus, I must confess my ignorance: the future is alive and well in the world of fashion. What’s more, it’s right here in my own neighbourhood.

I was at the 2010 Cultural Olympiad on Granville Island when I spotted this fantastic(al) exhibition at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

The dress above, in particular, intrigued me. Designed by Joanna Berzowska, Associate Professor, Design and Computation Art and Research Director, XS Labs (Extra Soft), at Concordia University in Montréal, this is a stunning vision of what may be in store for the citizens of tomorrow.

I particularly like the ensemble’s helmet; it seems to me that a lot of ’60s Space Age Fashion included a helmet to complete “the look”:

Pucci Bubble Helmet Braniff Airlines introduced brightly colored aircraft as well as imaginative new uniforms created by famed fashion designer Emilio Pucci. The plastic bubble helmet, to protect hairdos on windy tarmacs, was an integral part of the Pucci-designed uniforms. Credit: Braniff Collection, The University of Texas at Dallas.

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Here is the description of Berzowska’s work from the exhibit’s electronic catalogue:




Skorpions and Captain Electric: Joanna Berzowska, XS Labs (Canada)

Skorpions and Captain Electric (Itchy, Stiff) are two series of electronic garments created by Joanna Berzowska that are set in motion by internal programming which directly relates to the wearer.

In Skorpions, the garments act like parasites with their own desires, their own fears and their own personalities, unpredictably inhabiting the material of the clothes. Skorpions integrates electronic fabrics; the shape-memory nickel-titanium alloy Nitinol and mechanical activators like magnets, soft electronic circuits, as well as traditional textile characteristic like folds and drapes across the body. In this way the garments also reference the history of clothing as an instrument of pain and desire, like corsets or foot binding.

In Captain Electric, the garments both passively harness energy from the body and actively allow for power generation by the user. The dresses restrict and reshape the body in order to produce sufficient energy to fuel themselves and actuate light and sound events on the body.

Itchy’s tailored leather silhouette is decorated with large reconfigurable wool necklaces, while Stiff mimics the postures of muscular rigidity. Like clothes, and like technology, these garments teach us the limits of our control and the relationship between our bodies, movement and the world around us.

It all sounds terribly complex to me. But I like these visions of the future and wanted to share them with you.

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Berzowska was selected for the Macleans 2006 Honour Roll as one of “thirty nine Canadians who make the world a better place to live in.”

JOANNA BERZOWSKA

CLOTHES THAT CHANGE SPOTS AND RATE GROPES

This summer, Joanna Berzowska is going to create ‘kinetic’ dresses, complete with hemlines that rise and fall on their own and fabrics that can electronically tighten, like a corset, and loosen.

The Concordia University professor ­— who started her math degree at McGill when she was 16 and combined it with a fine arts degree at Concordia a year later — calls herself a ‘geeky nerd,’ but the age-old dream of inventing magical fabrics are coming true in her Montreal lab where she integrates electronics into textiles.

Berzowska weaves conductive threads into cloth that change colour when touched or heated, and made an animal-print dress that loses its spots when another body presses against it. Beaded onto a “grope” skirt, another of her inventions, are electronic components and light-emitting diodes that measure the intensity of a fondle; the harder the grope, the longer it takes for the illumination to fade. While the commercial possibilities of her work seem infinite, the technological challenges are daunting. ‘If it was easy,’ says Berzowska, ‘it would be at the Gap already.’

Macleans, “Honour Roll 2006: Discovers and Thinkers,” 01 July 2006

2010 VANCOUVER WINTER OLYMPICS | THE CULTURAL OLYMPIAD :: «SKORPIONS AND CAPTAIN ELECTRIC (ITCHY, STIFF)» by JOANNA BERZOWSKA A

above: (from left to right) Skorpions, and Captain Electric (Itchy and Stiff)

2010 VANCOUVER WINTER OLYMPICS | THE CULTURAL OLYMPIAD :: «SKORPIONS AND CAPTAIN ELECTRIC (ITCHY, STIFF)» by JOANNA BERZOWSKA B

funky fashion 2

SKORPIONS are a set of kinetic electronic garments that move and change on the body in slow, organic motions. They have anthropomorphic qualities and can be imagined as parasites that inhabit the skin of the host. They breathe and pulse, controlled by their own internal programming. They are not “interactive” artifacts insofar as their programming does not respond to simplistic sensor data. They have intentionality; they are programmed to live, to exist, to subsist. They are living behavioral kinetic sculptures that exploit characteristics such as control, anticipation, and unpredictability. They have their own personalities, their own fears and desires.

XS Labs

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I’m so happy to see that the future is alive and well in the world of fashion and that Canada is assuming a leading role in its development.

designKULTUR | THE VANCOUVER 2010 WINTER OLYMPIC SUITE

designKULTUR | FASHION | Joanna Berzowska + Di Mainstone :: »Skorpions« Redux ::: The Globe and Mail’s Feature


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