Makers Guild Presentation on project Hacking the Body


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This is an overview of the Performance Media Art research project Hacking the Body conducted by media artist and academic, Camille Baker and choreographer/media artist, Kate. Presented by Camille Baker at the Maker's Guild event in London, July 17th, 2013

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  • Hello, I am Camille Baker, a media artist, researcher, lecturer at Brunel University, in West London, in the School of Engineering and Design and I ’ m collaborating with dance artist, choreographer and Senior Lecturer, Kate Sicchio in the Lincoln School of Performing Arts at University of Lincoln. I will briefly talk about our in-progress project Hacking the Body, show some examples of other soft circuits projects and then move into the performance and making section of the workshop. Our work and how it explores emerging technological tools and devices and used in choreography and performance practice, and how we will incorporate the ethos of “ hacking ” and how we hope that our choreography and participatory performance practices will be shaped by its ethos, methods and approaches. In the process we hope to develop new techniques to devise engaging performances, and create immersive experiences for audiences and participants.
  • I am media artist-performer/researcher/curator working within various art forms: mobile media, participatory performance, soft circuits & tech-fashion, interactive & video installation, responsive interfaces and environments, experience and web design, and new media curating.
  • Kate Sicchio is a choreographer, media artist and performer whose work explores the interface between choreographic practice and digital technology through live performance, computer vision and live-coding. She focuses on how the movement of the body may be detected or tracked by computer vision techniques to create visuals for live dance performance and installations. She has not only practically explored this through international performances and residencies, she has also developed a conceptual framework for considering the choreography of such work, called choreotopology that explores topology as a way to describe movement in both physical and digital spaces
  • Hacking is a much-misused term, typically connected to controversial computing practices (Levy, 1984; Jordan, 2008; Thomas, 2001). However, traditionally the ‘ hacker ’ sub-culture also referred to a technical elite whose prowess was displayed through the imaginative re-purposing of consumer electrical equipment. Within this context, a 'Hack' is defined to be “ a material practice that produces differences in computer, network and communications technologies ” (Jordan, 2008:12), but must also display some degree of domain specific technical excellence. While hacking may be seen as re-purposing or subverting data, code or other information, it can also be seen as a re-understanding of what is possible and “ ... open up a vital window into possibilities, sensibilities and ethics of twenty-first century cultures and societies ” (Jordan, 2008:15). Specifically, hacker ethics are concerned primarily with sharing, openness, collaboration, and engaging in the hands-on imperative.
  • Hacking itself is the collaborative mind-set that will guide our work practice. The metaphor of ‘ Hacking the Body ’ aims to provide a new vision and expand the use of technology to allow for greater public engagement in such works. The project will also seek to combine the distinct practices of performing and experiential art with that of communication technologies, to provide practical ‘ hacking ’ tools for performers and artists working with mobile and sensing technologies, increasing the general understanding of how ‘ the body ’ as a rich source of experiential knowledge to translate as code, to be harnessed for publicly shared performance installations, choreography and interactive visual works.
  • For Hacking the Body ’ , the open, solution-driven, hands-on ethos is the main principle of hacking employed and could be seen as the main principle of creating art and performance works. It explores using the ethos of ‘ hacking ’ to re-purpose and re-imagine internal signals from the body. The project investigates: (1) How to expose and harness various forms of physiological data, to be used to create new types of interactive interfaces and interactions; and (2) How to develop new working methods from hacking practices for devising bio-data performances for site-specific spaces, mobile installation, participatory performance and choreography.
  • We term our proposed artistic outcomes as 'hacks' partly because we will be deliberately repurposing existing technologies (i.e. biofeedback sensors, wearable and skin-based electronics combined with mobile computing devices), but also because we understand the human body as an essential in the global media network, and its physiological states with its own network can be meaningfully exposed and repurposed, thereby 'hacking the body'. Mark Deuze states throughout his book “ Media Life ” (2012) that we are media and our bodies are always already mediatised, he quotes Eugene Thacker who says “‘ ... that there exists some fundamental equivalency between genetic ‘ codes ’ and computer ‘ codes ’ ... ”’ (Thacker, 2004:5 in Deuze, 2012:95), we want to explore and critique this notion in this project and its performance outcomes.
  • We are developing three ‘ hacks ’ , each which explore and apply different aspects of revealing, capturing, and interpreting the inward unseen states under the skin, in the blood, and into our nerves then hacking or repurposing the body code as way to expose, translate, subvert or change this code in the participatory performance and choreography. Each Hack will engage participants to use their own body through their breath or gestural actions, their own shapes, and their emotional responses to them.
  • We will develop ‘ hacking ’ software applications so that participants will be able to interact with others with them and t he sequence of ‘ hacks ’ from our performance experiments, will result mobile applications for performance and in participatory installations and events, as well as new methods for working and devising practices for performers.
  • Sensor devices and electronic technologies have also become increasingly more mobile, more powerful, and there has been rapid and development in electronic materials, conductive inks and threads, as well as smart textiles. We are using mainly handmade and soft sensors rather than wired ones and explore embedding them into bio-fabrics (made from fungus, milk or other materials and processes) for more natural interfaces easier for performers to work with and not focus on the sensing mechanisms – so using conductive fabrics, inks and threads.
  • We are also exploring less used sensors such as medical techniques like MRI, blood sugar analysis in combination with DYI electronics, smart textiles, smartphones, video and other gaming sensory interfaces (e.g., Wii, Xbox, and Kinect), and augmented(AR) and mixed reality tools (multi-user phone-based activities mixing real and video game actions).
  • These combined technologies will generatively or interactively use algorithmic rules to code a new performance sequence in response to a performer using and interacting with these devices and custom interfaces. Or a mobile AR application may be scan the skin to show the blood flow underneath in code, allowing the user to interact and play with that interface reading their blood flow.
  • The smartphone has given rise to the appearance of a new audience, readily equipped with tools to experience innovative interactive formats, so we feel this is right moment for deeper explorations of the body through interactive art and performance.
  • Each of the three ‘ hacks ’ describe and apply aspects of capturing, exploring, and interpreting the inward unseen states of the body, further feeding them outward through their mobile devices into public artworks. We encourage participants to connect to others, so participants across the globe can connect, share and actively control the collective experience, creating a unique dynamic between the audience and the artists/performers and designers freed from the bounds of geography.
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  • Donna Franklin, Fibre Reactive 2004-2008, orange bracket fungi (Pyconporus coccineus) silk, organza, perspex, wood. Curated by ANAT Executive Director, Melinda Rackham, Coded Cloth and Symbiotica lab in Perth Pia Interlandi
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  • Makers Guild Presentation on project Hacking the Body

    1. 1. Camille Baker, PhD Digital Media Media artist/researcher/lecturer Digital Media/Broadcast Brunel University, London, UK Dublin, Ireland April 27, 2012 Tech Garments & Mobile Media Performance  Hacking the Body Maker’s Guild July 17, 2013 Westminster University, London Camille Baker and Kate Sicchio
    2. 2. background/ interests online portfolio
    3. 3. previous work – wearable devices in garments the whisper project - a research project lead by Prof. Thecla Schiphorst and Dr. Susan Kozel in Vancouver Canada, that explored wearable devices and biofeedback embedded in fashion. 2003-2006; “…technology and communication metaphors that enable networked wearable devices to communicate affective states in a continuous manner” Thecla Schiphorst whisper at Siggraph 2005
    4. 4. Kate Sicchio performance works 2008-2012 See for more of her work
    5. 5. Graphic by Dave Palmer 2012
    6. 6. Hacking the Body A media performance research project that explores ways to ‘Hack’ the data from the body and create new visual and performance feedback mechanisms for users to engage and play with their mobile devices ImageS from Kate Sicchio 2011
    7. 7. Hacking the Body Images © 2007 C. Baker - working with wired biosensors with participants & custom mobile software In PhD project MINDtouch
    8. 8. sensors, soft circuits + DIY electronics Images from Codasign workshop April 2012
    9. 9. Hacking the Body Image by Camille Baker 2012
    10. 10. Image by Camille Baker 2013 Hacking the Body
    11. 11. Handmade sensor experiments and in the dark
    12. 12. Image by Kate Sicchio 2012 Hacking the Body
    13. 13. Hacking the Body Image by Kate Sicchio 2013
    14. 14. Images by Kasia Molga 2012 and Camille Baker 2010 Hacking the Body
    15. 15. Hacking the Body ! Image from Sander Veenhof 2011
    16. 16. Images C.Baker 2009-2010 - from live events for MINDtouch participatory events and installation
    17. 17. For Hacking the Body we are: 1) working with open-source coding, creating custom interfaces and emerging devices in multi- sensory participatory performances and choreography, 2) focusing on revealing hidden, intimate and sensuous ‘code’ of the body for interaction and play; 3) working with inexpensive electronics kits with easy to learn open-source programming environments, soft circuits and other technologies for wearable crafting; 4) exploring playful, expressive, gestural movement, as well as using the Hacker/Maker ethos to access body data;
    18. 18. For Hacking the Body we are: 6) creating generative visual and sensual pieces with custom software and mobile media ‘apps’ and sensors (GPS, Accelerometers, QR readers, AR apps etc.) and gaming interfaces (Wii, Kinect, OmniTouch); 7) developing visual methods for tagging & categorising network media to create new tools for performance interaction and choreographic development, incorporated into custom haptic bio-interfaces; 8) learning from dancers, live and theatre artists, video artists and others in the DIY ‘Maker’ movement, to create new wearable electronics and mobile applications to share with other
    19. 19. SKIN, which examines the future integration of sensitive materials in the area of emotional sensing – the shift from ‘ intelligent’ to ‘sensitive’ products and technologies. As part of SKIN, we have developed two ‘Soft Technology’ outfits to identify the future for high tech materials and Electronic Textile Development in the area’s of skin and emotional sensing. The dresses show emotive technology and how the body and the near environment can use pattern and color change to interact and predict the emotional state. -Philips website Philips Skin Probes 2008 earlier research – biosensing + wearables Sadly, Philips Design Probes research group was closed down
    20. 20. recent activity – “DIY” Fashion & Tech crafting explosion
    21. 21. current developments – skin-like electronics Electronic Fingertip / smart surgical gloves and stick on ”tattoo” electronics Images from and
    22. 22. Suzanne Lee BioCouture current developments – bio-fabric/skin-like textiles Ande Domaske - German microbiologist - Milk Fabric Images from and See also
    23. 23. Emily Crane Micro-Nutrient Couture current developments – bio-fabric textiles Images from and
    24. 24. Donna Franklin, Fibre Reactive, Coded Cloth Exhibition current developments – bio-fabric textiles Pia Interlandi Symbiotica Lab, Australia Fibre Reactive 2004-2008, orange bracket fungi (Pyconporus coccineus) silk, organza, perspex, wood. Curated by ANAT Executive Director, Melinda Rackham Symbiotica lab in Perth Pia Interlandi
    25. 25. current developments – conductive inks and paints Bare Conductive Ink
    26. 26. commercial work – functional wearables Voltaic – solar powered bag Heated gloves iPod jacket Solar panel bikini, TISCH, NYU ChanelRodarteHussein Chalayan
    27. 27. inspiring work – emotional scent-sory fashion Scent video ‘Scentsory Design’, Director/ Producer: Dr. Jenny Tillotson 2010 UK
    28. 28. INTIMACY is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology. Its high- tech garments entitled 'Intimacy White' and 'Intimacy Black' are made out of opaque smart e-foils that become increasingly transparent based on close and personal encounters with people - developed by Daan Roosegaarde’s Studio Roosegaarde and at V2_ Lab in Rotterdam inspiring work – smart e-foils
    29. 29. recent HTB workshops – collaborative DIY Ethos: ISEA 2013, Workshop, Sydney Australia – June 9th , 2013
    30. 30. Tek* 2013, Workshop, Byron Bay, Australia – June 15th , 2013 recent HTB workshops – collaborative DIY Ethos:
    31. 31. Creativity and Cognition 2013, Workshop, Sydney Australia – June 17th , 2013 recent HTB workshops – collaborative DIY Ethos:
    32. 32. contact details: Camille, Baker, PhD Digital Media Media Artist / Curator / Lecturer Brunel University Kate Sicchio, PhD Dance Technology Choreographer / Media Artist University of Lincoln Kate Sicchio and Camille Baker August 2010
    33. 33. Our blog: