HSS8120 Project Work 7









With this project, I wanted to explore the construction of an art history and express my own feelings, beliefs and experiences through the use of technology.
I created this amorphous mass of stuff; a collection of sources, of artworks, of sounds, of writings: this collage. This is a collage (screen). And also this is a collage (presentation).

Each iteration of the performance is a diagram, drawing dots between histories, bodies and research practices.
Each documentation of the performance is a diagram, drawing dots between sources including but not limited to; Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self portrait with cropped hair’, ’Crazy for Loving You’ by Patsy Cline, Daphne Oram cutting tape by hand, the folk song ‘Prince Heathen’, Susan McClary’s writing about Laurie Anderson, Linda Stupart’s writing about Ana Mendieta, my Dad’s broken Appalachian dulcimer, arguments with noise boys about not throwing people out of their ‘inclusive’ space for groping my friends, a salvation army postcard of two women musicians exclaiming ‘Hallelujah!’ and this presentation.
Collected and archived, these are available for presenting and representing in different circumstances, semi-improvised, ethnographic and historical research practice put into action, a library.

With the instrument I built and my own performing body at it’s centre, this collage is a living expressive thing, this specific video documenting an interaction with a new interface and a new piece of code. Each audio pathway takes the data from the instrument into the computer and uses it differently, falls in and out of synchronicity, creating a strange synthesised soundscape from materials that look, on the surface, to be wholly acoustic: thread, fabric, wood, words, giving sound to otherwise quiet actions.

What better metaphor is there, in fact, what else could I borrow to express the feeling of loving and making something as problematic as art.

HSS8120 Project Work 6

So, everything has progressed at 100 mph the past few days with the development of my CDP idea. TDLR: I’m scrapping the idea of a breath-controlled instrument. This is because I couldn’t get myself excited about the reality of what the instrument was doing, it was very subtle, which is what I wanted, but it was too subtle, super boring. There was nothing that caught me, which means it’s unlikely it would catch an audience watching a performance.

This is something I could have worked on in PD – to create a more complex sound from the sensor – but I didn’t get round to it – because when I was experimenting with a half-finished stretch sensor (plan C) I discovered how beautifully the conductive thread behaves when I play it with one crocodile clip. Initially I was going to make a waistband out of this that would respond to stretch – but just through improvising and experimenting over it I am way more excited about the potential for playing this as an instrument rather than a wearable. (stretching could still be an option as an instrument).

The construction of the circuit and PD patch are exactly the same as for the other sensors (see the last blog post for more info).


“Ha, ha, bonny maid, will you weep now?”
“You heathenish dog, nor yet for you.”

I want to make a performance that makes reference to contemporary and historical examples of music/art and music/art that is in some way problematic to love, as a woman. “Crazy for loving you” (a Willie Nelson via Patsy Cline song title) is stitched into the instrument and completes the circuit and it sums up this relationship neatly. I’ll use the resistance generated sounds as an accompaniment and sing several verses from Prince Heathen (Roud : 3336 / Child : 104), a beautiful song with brutal, cruel lyrics. As a woman it chills me to the bone that this song was written, but I find some strength in singing it, especially the chorus where she insists she will never cry because of this brutal man. I want to make noise, quiet noise that teeters on harshness – pausing at pitches (as in the experiment above) that ring uncomfortably in the ear, and sing a beautiful song that on a closer listen is as uncomfortable to hear. This piece comes from a place of anger and a place of love, and I’m really excited to make it.

The instrument (no longer a wearable) will be played like a zither/dulcimer – flat to a table or across my lap) or like a harp (propped on my knee). This will still achieve this strange stillness I was interested in creating with the initial performance idea.


After making the sketch above I was reminded of this lush song by the Magnetic Fields which uses a similar straightforward vocal over a really jarring midi backing.

HSS8120 Project Work 4


I’ve decided to attempt to build my initial idea for a breath-controlled instrument/costume and explore several options using different ways of sensing the stretching movement created by breathing. Each one uses a different kind of material to create a variation in resistance which would be measurable and translated into sound.

method 1 : conductive rubber cord

I want to experiment with the original idea of using conductive rubber chord, however I’m not sure this will be the perfect solution to the problem. If it isn’t I can imagine other projects that this would work for – ones that it wouldn’t be such an issue if the rubber doesn’t shrink back immediately.
In terms of what the instrument could do, it would produce very linear data which would be very simplistic unless I make it more complex in the coding stage.

method 2 : knitted elastic yarn and conductive yarn


Another solution is to use this tutorial I came across on instructables to construct a similar mechanism for measuring stretch which uses conductive yarn knitted with elastic yarn to give the belt the ability to stretch. This is more useful perhaps as a band around the chest (as the image on the blog shows) but would be less easy to integrate into the waistband of a skirt in the way I’d like. It could be hidden under a costume however, so the effect would be the same though it wouldn’t be the costume itself creating the sound.

method 3 : Conductive thread and regular elastic

This third solution is one which would produce more complex sounds just in the physical nature of the instrument, rather than relying on coding to make the sounds less linear. It involves sewing patterns into two pieces of regular elastic and the friction of the stitches passing over each other is the thing that would be measured and turned into sound.

Things to consider now :
  • Could the costume be made wireless using bluetooth?
  • How do I construct the rest of the circuit to get the best results?
  • Do I want a linear sound or for it to be more complex?
  • How will it interact with the voice?
  • How will the costume look?


marshall mcluhan : “the medium is the message”

No, it isn’t.

I understand the idea of the extreme provocation statement as a way to start meaningful debate, but in this case I just disagree totally with the concept that the communication method is more important than the content of the message. To claim that, in my opinion, is to silence the individual and dismiss their experiences and expression.

The act of sending a letter, or the decision to choose to send a letter over other forms of communication is interesting, the idea of telephone communication as a concept is more impactful on the world than what you actually say on the phone to your mate, yes, okay. But to say it is more important (which is what he claims in an Australian TV interview) and that those words don’t matter is to exclude a whole area of human interaction and experience, which I don’t think makes sense when we’re thinking about the concept of information sharing and HCI.

I haven’t read his texts, which may be more nuanced (and I intend to read some of his writing) but that statement in itself is not inspiring to me. It is easy to say that the medium is the message when the world is already telling your story because you are part of the white male academic elite, but for someone who is, for example, a woman or non-binary individual, LGBT+, not able bodied, not white or western, the individual experience and expression becomes incredibly important. The use of social media for activism is more important than the fact that people are communicating via social media. What the tool is used for matters a great deal.

expanded cinema/structural film : medium as message in art

That being said, I love many works of art that fit into the catagory of “medium as message”, however I don’t think that they are beautiful because they explore the medium, they’re beautiful to me for their minimalist, meditative quality. The ones that don’t achieve this meditative beauty are less interesting, a “hm” reaction, or “oh, that’s clever”. Works that merely demonstrate technical quality aren’t inspiring to me, I want to be moved by art. I find “Shutter Interface” by Paul Sharits to be moving. For me it isn’t about the qualities of the projector, it is a beautiful use of colour and sound and atmosphere that gives an intellectually stimulating and (I imagine, though I haven’t seen it in person) a bodily experience. Even if the medium is the message, it’s not the one I take from it; Sharits is communicating something more than that.

HSS8120 Project Work 3

From a similar idea as the previous post but potentially with more scope to use different kinds of sensors in different ways is this second idea – to make a bow which is played as a music instrument. Again, the sensors would be connected to an arduino and feed them data which can be used to alter pitch, volume, speed etc. This will potentially be a good alternative if it turns out that the conductive chord takes too long to revert back to its original size to be usable for the breathing instrument.

HSS8120 Project Work 2

A thought I had early on in the creative digital practice project was to make a costume/instrument which is in some way responsive to a stretch force.

With the brief providing the opportunity to respond freely to a theme of our choosing, I am excited to be able to try to develop this idea further by creating a wearable instrument that interacts with breathing (as I mentioned in an earlier post) and also by a pulling motion. The development of the idea since the last thought was that I could produce a costume with two separate sensors that put out two sets of data. These could corrospond to different sounds (each assigned a drone or sound file to manipulate in one specific way) or alter the same sound (e.g. waist alters volume, collar alters pitch of same audio file). I could then improvise vocally in response to these.

My initial idea in terms of visuals is a play on the painting trope of the stern seated woman, speficically I have in mind the way that Frida Kahlo subverts this in her self portraits, being the self reflective gaze rather than that of an -often male-painter. I want to activate this position by performing with the costume, for it to be very calm and controlled (perhaps eerily so). I want to explore the voice and the body as activist tools, control and power.

Frida Kahlo : The Two Fridas (1939)

Frida Kahlo : Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)

Similarly I have in mind already a piece of performance work by Ruth Barker that has inspired previous works I’ve made in which she performs (in costume) a very slow spoken word piece.

Ruth Barker : A Love Song for Gilgamesh (2013)

The piece itself I see as a performance, rather than the costume being the work. The costume will be a performance tool used to convey a concept, though the performance would not exist without the costume.

From here I need to look into wearable technology and performance art and look into if this idea is even possible as I concieve it, and how it will work practically.

As a start, a piece by Maziar Ghaderi :

Initially I’m concerned about the practicality : costumes involving wires and technology might be messy looking and also difficult to use.

And about the possibilities of the technology, for example the description of the conductive rubber cord I’m looking at using it says “Once the force is released, the rubber will shrink back, although its not very ‘fast’ and it takes a minute or two to revert to its original length.” This could be a problem in terms of having a responsive work that has to wait for the rubber to revert to its original size (by that point I may have taken several breaths and none will be registered in the output data).

HSS8120 Project Work 1

reflections from 10.10.18 : creative digital practice – research through art and design

In introducing the idea of research through art and design we were given examples of works that used sensors. Thought this wasn’t necessarily the aim of the lecture – it made me really excited about the possibilities of different kinds of sensors and their application in my practice, which thus far hasn’t involved any kind of interactive design or technology beyond the use of pedals, sequencers and samplers (preexisting technology, basically). I’ve never dreamed of what could be possible in terms of the creation of instruments from scratch for myself, especially not ones that serve as both conceptual and aesthetic objects. I feel like I’ve suddenly been given new materials to play with.

I started researching what kind of sensors would respond to a streching motion and came across the concept of “Soft Robotics” (wiki says: Soft Robotics is the specific subfield of robotics dealing with constructing robots from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms). I intend to look further into this – but at the moment I’m mostly excited about the idea of producing an arduino-based instrument using a flexible rubber sensor (measures stretch, displacement and force – changing resistance when stretched). I had two initial concepts for instruments that would allow a stretch to be translated into a change in pitch/tone/volume etc of a note. In both cases I imagine the production of a drone that may be improvised over using the voice or alongside other instruments :


A stretch sensor is attached to a piece of fabric, each end wound and tied around each hand. The performer “plays” the instrument by making performative archer like gestures.

Breathing skirt

A stretch sensor is sewn into the waistband of a skirt. The performer “plays” the instrument by breathing in and out (speficically by filling the diaphragm with air rather than breathing into the chest). This would give the illusion of singing but without sound coming from the mouth (performer could then duet vocally with the breath-controlled instrument, as this would also be controlling the voice at the same rate).