Recent activities (August 2014) – Hacking the Body 2.0

Camille recently did a presentation on here work and particularly Hacking the Body 2.0.

She discussed how the online project examines the practice of computing hacking and how choreography and participatory performance can be shaped by its ethos, methods and approaches. The project examines current rhetoric on personal code and data collection in the modern world to extend and question a variety of parameters of the states of the human body. It explores emerging technological tools and devices to find new ways to devise engaging performances as artists, and as a means to make immersive experiences for audiences and participants.

Camille discussed how she and Kate recently refined the conceptual framework, so that now ‘Hacking the Body 2.0’ is the next stage of this performance investigation, whereby data collected from medical and other physiological sensing devices, in consultation with the biotech experts and Brunel University, such as new blood glucose measuring devices, and mobile CT scanning, will be utilised as choreographic and/or participatory performance devising material.

With exponentially increased corporate interest wearable technology for fitness and health, this artistic exploration investigates from a different perspective, the aspects of states of the body, re-imagine them, re-code, repurpose or “hack” them into new interactive, participatory and choreographed performances, visual artefacts, and mobile applications for direct audience experience and engagement.
These performances will engage the public with theirs and others’ bodies from inside of their organs, blood and nervous system in these performance sculptures, movement and pervasive games.

Through this investigation we hope to explore issues of personal data and privacy issues topical recently, as well as on how self-monitoring one’s own body data may lead new forms of narcissism and corporate spying, but also how understanding the inner workings of the body processes may or may not lead people to greater overall health and better physical habits. This project will critique concepts of electronic code versus body and extend into new parameters of exposing the body as part of the greater social, political and technological networks.

Our conceptual perspective, thus, also examines current rhetoric on code, hacking, networks, the quantified self, and data to extend into the parameters of inner and outer states of the human body. Therefore, we seek to address such questions such as:

1) Since only 10% of the body is known, how can we expose something about the body that is new and allow the public to see new dimensions of it to do something new with that knowledge?

2) The quantified self movement and fitness industry capitalises on the individual’s desire to know and keep track of their own physiological data – how can we challenge and reposition this desire into different discussions around what is this data, who owns it, and the ethics of this data collection?

3) Why are these issues compelling and beneficial for use in digital performance and how can we explore them more deeply through our work?

Participants will engage with their own body code during three ‘hacks’ or performative experiments, constructed to develop different approaches to using technology within performance contexts, in order to engage audience/participants in their own biological states. By repurposing emerging medical technologies, we will devise new types of choreographed and participatory performances, about and with participants’ body data. With the input and advice from the Brunel Centre for Electronic Systems Research CESR Research Fellow and expert, Dr Ruth Mackay.

New insights into body response and behaviour, as well as how human body data can be represented in novel ways within performance and reused in performance, will emerge. By allowing the public to engage with these body-data based performances and installations, they will engage with their physical existence differently. This hacking method of repurposing in collaborative settings can also be seen in previous work of the collaborators including Dr. Kate Sicchio’s work “Hacking Choreography”, which explored how dancers and live coding may be used to create dance performance.

Make.Hack.Do Festival @ Museum of Science London


We did 5 days of workshops at the Museum of Science London sewing a soft circuit quilt

Bluetooth Stretch (Breath) Sensor

For quite a long while I have been working on making the stretch sensor wireless. During my residency period in New York I was able to complete this task.

Some of the issues throughout this project were around what technology to use. I started with a Flora and then switched over to Lilypad because there are more supported options for being wireless (however when I briefly met Becky Stern she said bluetooth support for the Flora would be out this year as Adafruit was able to get radio permissions or something like that had been holding them back). Then I tried Xbee but through hours of attempts could never get them to pair properly. This is probably because of trying to set them up on a single Mac, rather than two PCs which seems to be the way forward. Then I fried a bluetooth module. Then I had real problems finding a battery that would power the Lilypad and bluetooth module  (AAA worked in the end). And then it worked. Like really well and really consistently! And here it is in all its glory!

IMG_3206 IMG_3207 IMG_3208 IMG_3209

The idea is that the sensor is worn around the ribs so it stretches when you breath. This actually works quite well as a way to stretch the sensor but is not an accurate way to measure breath.

Energy on the Body @ Eyebeam

**This post is from Kate’s blog – **

On December 11th Eyebeam had an other panel in their Computational Fashion series. This one focused on ‘Energy on the Body’ and featured three speakers: Dan Steingart, John Kymissis and Amanda Parkes. This panel was much more focused on technology than the previous one which was ‘high fashion’ and was much more thought-provoking in that it shared researched rather than people’s opinions on commercial endeavours.

One of the themes that was throughout the three presentations was the idea of energy harvesting. The success of this was somewhat debated. While Steingart was adamant that harvesting is too difficult to implement in meaningful ways, Kymissis and Parkes were more open to the idea and both had projects that successfully used energy harvesting, particularly in the forms of photovoltaics and people powered devices (i.e. wind-up flashlight). Kymissis has worked on a show power project and Parkes worked with choreographer Prue Lang to create a completely sustainable dance piece, Un réseau translucide. Another project of Prue Lang also features energy harvesting shoes (1 hours of dancing = 1 minute of light).

Other highlights of the panel included discussions around batteries and other materials that are becoming flexible and printable. Steingart’s research lab has been creating flexible batteries that can be produced in any shape or size, using similar principles to that of spandex materials and mesh reinforcements (like concrete). This battery can also be used as a flex sensor. It won’t blow up and won’t catch fire. Kymissis’s lab CLUE has been printed electronics with DIY techniques such as screen printing to produce thin film electronics and even printing electronics onto fabric.

Overall this panel was informative on what others are doing with energy and what seems to be working in energy harvesting.

More interesting resources/links

First tests – Fabrics and Servo

Today I started working on using fabric in conjunction with a servo motor and arduino uno to create interesting actuation that may be placed on the body. I am totally inspired by Meg Grant and her experiments in this area. This is something I am hoping will inform hack #2 of our research, bringing the outside to the inside and embodying sensations.

I started with five different types of fabric to see how they would move and possibly feel went set in motion by a servo. I used silk chiffon, silk charmeuse, lycra, wool blend and denim and cut them into 12 inch squares. To attach them to the servo I used no stretch nylon bead string to two corners of the squares. The last two were very hard to use and one string broke each time I tried to move them with the servo. The first three fabrics however were light, flexible and moved constantly in swirling motions one way and then the other.



The silk charmeuse was interesting because it was not quite as floppy as the chiffon. I decided to continue to work with this and added two more strings. The dance that resulted reminded me of so many things: waves in the ocean, puppets being manipulated, and definitely choreography. The other exciting observation was when I put my hand on the fabric and could feel the movement. There was definite pulling and releasing from various angles that could be sensed by the body. This is very promising as a start to Hack Two.