Potential of electronics in costume design
In this short presentation I will show, with examples, how to classify wearables in relation to the body-garment-action-context and their possible applications in performance. I analyzed the scenographic and dramaturgical potential of most innovative wearables from the fields of fashion, performance and contemporary art, and I divided them in different groups according to garment’s principal technological idea or function. Wearables have a strong performative connotation as they move, change shape, emit light, sound or scents and great potential to explore clothing as social interaction, emotional sensing, biomimetics and virtual environment. Electronics give costume new functionalities and blur the frontiers between body, costume, scenography, prop and puppet. They raise the very question of the costume’s physical materiality and change the perceptions of the performer’s bodily, experiential and conceptual limits. The notion of embodied interaction engages and re-conceptualizes technology through the experience of the body and its senses. Costumes embedded with electronics provide both the wearer and the spectator with an enhanced visual, aural, haptic, kinaesthetic, proxemic, even synesthetic experience. Electronics make costumes go from passive to responsive, active or interactive. Costumes can be activated and act from the inside or externally, instantly or delayed, physically or wirelessly. The performer’s bodily inputs can cause external reactions on a costume that the spectator can see, hear, feel from far away, and environmental inputs like light, sound or a spectator’s reaction can trigger something within a costume to change its color or shape or even make the performer change the text or choreography. Costumes can be independent performers that manipulate scenography and the spectator on behalf of the wearer, with no need for external technicians. Smart costumes of the future will be not just visual spectacle, but a haptic textile experience or immaterial and interactive multisensorial virtual garments for both performer and spectator. As part of the presentation, I will wear some smart garments myself.
Iztok Hrga was born in 1971 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is a freelance costume designer. Iztok has created and made costumes for more than 150 shows in Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Spain; for big and small productions, from classical works to musicals, from alternative or street theatre to dance theatre and puppets. Recently Iztok started to experiment with wearable electronics. Arga earned a BA in Textile and clothing design in Ljubljana and an MA in Theatrical studies in Barcelona. Currently, Iztok is studying for a PhD at University of Ljubljana, titled “The scenographic and dramaturgical potential of wearable technology in costume design”.