Author: Carey Jewitt
The last in a series of four MIDAS agenda setting workshops explored the body in digital fashion, organised and facilitated by Douglas Atkinson (MIDAS Partner) at the London College of Fashion (LCF). It was a packed day attended by nearly 100 people from fashion, art and design, performance and the social sciences within academia and beyond.
Professor Jane Harris, LCF Associate Dean of Research, opened the event with an excellent presentation looking across past and present practice in digital imaging design and creative computing disciplines – focusing in on digital visions of digital skin drawing inspiration from her own body of work, fashion, art and film.
Bruna Petreca, based at the Royal College of Art, explored the significance of the sensory and tactile in digital fashion with specific attention to touch and embodied cognition in textile selection, asking how such experiences and the skills of identifying fabric hand (the qualities of a fabric assessed by handling) can be emulated in digital realms. Ideas that were later explored in a hands-on session with the Shoogle-it app.
Expanding to explore the whole body and finding ways to disrupt both ideas of fashion and the digital Zowie Broach of Boudicca talked us through a wide and wild portfolio that re-imagined the potential of the body scanner as fashion performance space.
Dr Thomas Makryniotis challenged us to rethink the body, dress and identity by immersing us in digital environments – where the characters of Final Fantasy model Prada’s latest collection merging the fully digital and the sometimes physical into new retail spaces that present new possibilities for the body.
These presentations posed many questions about the materiality and physicality of the body, the role of touch and the sensory, the ways the arts and the social sciences conceptualise and work with the body, fragment it, imagine it, and engage with it. These themes were picked up and explored via a hands on session where the workshop participants were able to engage with a range of artefacts, footwear, garments, digital environments, and video – with a focus on the different questions, methods and concepts that each of us brings to understanding and researching the digital body.
This exploratory session was extended through experimental works in progress by LCF Fashion Futures MA students – including a live fashion performance by Kat Thiel that plays with body scanner technologies to re-interpret the practices of fashion and notions of the body; and presentation of work by Caroline (Yan) Zheng’s that explores how big data and discourses of the quantified self can be used as a starting point for re-thinking how emotions (e.g. levels of happiness) can be made visible via garments and physical representations of the body.
Lynne Murray, newly appointed Director of Fashion Digital Studio, presented on the body in Augmented Reality drawing on work she has conducted within fashion retail. She explored how digital virtual technologies (online, as well as physical-digital mirrors that can emulate garment try-on) can be used to augment or ease the embodied experience of trying on jewellery or garments in home or in store.
The day closed with a discussion of cross cutting themes evolving throughout the day, and the work of MIDAS more generally, that impinge on how the arts and social sciences think of the digital body and possibilities for collaborative working.