Accueil SÉMINAIRES Séminaire 2006 "Sensing Bodies: Documentation, Preservation and Wearable Computer Art" Tai van Toorn

"Sensing Bodies: Documentation, Preservation and Wearable Computer Art" Tai van Toorn

Borrowing from biomedical research, contemporary artists are exploring new understandings of the body through the creation of garments integrating small wearable computers and biofeedback sensors which measure and transmit vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, breath, touch and even affect. These multimedia works fuse science with costume and craft, thereby challenging traditional practices of art conservation. Wearable computers consist of delicate, tiny electronic components intended for extensive physical manipulation by participants and use forms of an experimental technology, which has yet to infiltrate the mass market. I adopt a historical and theoretical approach to argue that the preservation and documentation of wearable new media art affirm the social nature of participants’ bodies. Potential strategies for conserving, recording, describing and displaying these works emphasize interactions among users that form networked communities united by shared flows of somatic data. This paper unfolds through a discussion of informatic conceptions of the body, the documentation of performance, exhibition spaces and the preservation of clothing and technology.


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Tai van Toorn is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History and Communications Studies of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and researches contemporary art with an emphasis on sculpture produced in natural and urban spaces, conceptual art and landscape architecture. van Toorn’s dissertation addresses issues of space and politics in relation to Canadian land art during the 1970s.