BLESS N°45 Soundperfume
Technical development by POPKALAB
Initiated by Sabine Seymour
Commissioned by Sabine Seymour for the MAK Fashion Lab
June 2013 – October 2013
With its new exhibition series MAK FASHION Lab, the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) is initiating a comprehensive examination of intelligent fashion as its own field of applied arts. Future-oriented projects commissioned by the MAK are to examine interactions between fashion and new technologies, with the topic of smart textiles opening up an interdisciplinary discourse focused on that area where art, design, science, and research intersect and overlap. This series will begin with an experimental look at the topic of With the site-specific installation BLESS No45 Soundperfume, the studio BLESS (Berlin/Paris) will be joining forces with Popkalab (Rotterdam/Rio de Janeiro) to transform the MAK DESIGN SPACE into an interactive sonic landscape composed of articles of clothing and space accessories for the analog and digital production of sound.
Blog: MAK Fashion Lab
“With the MAK FASHION Lab, the MAK—home to one of the world’s most valuable and extensive museum collections of textiles and carpets—opens itself up to innovative, avant-garde worlds of fashion that are not only trendy and wearable, but also invested with the intention of presenting forward-looking design solutions,” explains MAK Director Christoph Thun-Hohenstein. Sabine Seymour, the author of publications including Fashionable Technology (2008), agreed to conceive this exhibition for the MAK FASHION Lab series, which she is developing and will be realizing together with Thomas Geisler, curator of the MAK Design Collection.
Sound is our constant companion in everyday life. Back in the mid-1970s, when the phenomenon of so-called “ghetto blasters”—preferably carried on one’s shoulder—went from subcultural to fashionable, society was served up a vivid experience of how individual sonic landscapes can arise in public. Though these boom boxes were not wearable like a piece of clothing, they did point to an urge to express one’s personality in “clouds of sound” while out and about. It was shortly thereafter, in 1979, that Sony laid the cornerstone for the boom of truly wearable music with the introduction of its Walkman to the market. And nowadays, every smartphone is capable of playing music in the digital MP3 format.
The experimental installation BLESS No45 Soundperfume takes on the following question: “How do you want to sound?” For this project, the fashion and design studio BLESS, founded by Ines Kaag (Berlin) and Desiree Heiss (Paris) in 1997, has for the first time devoted itself to technological intelligence that can be worn on the body, with the caveat that the technology employed should never be allowed to co-opt or have an aesthetically determining influence on the clothing itself. Together with the design studio Popkalab, which was founded by Ricardo O’Nascimento and specializes in interactive media, BLESS has developed three new works in which the body and space accessories from their existing collection are lent a sonic dimension.
These BLESS works, made from classic high-end materials, emit individual mixes of ambient sound that lend audible expression to their users’ personalities. What is exceptional about this project is the fact that BLESS’s textile accessories, in order to become instruments, require interplay with their wearers—be it via patterns of motion or the ways in which they are worn. The result is a personalized sonic ambience, an individualized sonic perfume. Visitors are invited to experiment on their own, creating individual sound mixes by wearing shoes that record and play back noises with a built-in delay. The “sonic confusion” thus created serves to break through well-practiced listening patterns, with wearers feeling as if they were walking while standing still. The “composing scarf,” on the other hand, allows its wearer to create a specific sonic work by manipulating its various closures.
BLESS will integrate these articles of clothing into a site-adapted curtain consisting of sound objects and collection pieces that can be played by visitors much like one would play a harp. And a hammock, repurposed to become the ultimate musical and performance tool, will emit sounds in response to the manipulation of its large pillows, thereby expanding the sonic experience by a spatial dimension. This unusual display piece, which is likewise to be “played” by the visitors, will see its first public demonstration at the opening of a MAK NITE Lab in the MAK Columned Main Hall.
A look into the artistic research behind SONIC FABRIC is to be provided by video collages from all manner of projects that explore the interaction between sound, textiles and bodies. These include this exhibition’s namesake Sonic Fabric (2007), developed by sound and conceptual artist Alyce Santoro; this was one of the very first projects to combine sound and textiles, and it featured old, recycled cassette tapes woven into polyester yarn to create a “playable” fabric. Also on display will be playful product developments for Nike and Adidas that allow the use of sneakers to create individual beats.
The works by BLESS, which will be shown for the first time and offer an entirely new wearing experience, underline the laboratory-like character of the MAK FASHION Lab, which is meant to provide impulses for visionary new approaches and developments in the technological and scientific fields. And despite its experimental character, this Lab’s impulses are also meant to benefit the fashion and design industries. For this reason, the cooperative program design> new strategies of the MAK and departure – The Creative Agency of the City of Vienna held a modular impulse workshop led by Sabine Seymour and involving the participating artists and technologists on 26 and 27 June 2013. This workshop is intended above all to encourage the domestic fashion, textile and technology industries’ adoption of innovative and interdisciplinary development and production processes.