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exercice de style #2

I am fascinated by the process behind the creation of clothing and I enjoy revealing these making operations in garments. Draping on a mannequin, pattern making and sewing are part of a beautiful atmosphere found in clothing design but often hidden. I understand clothing as memory maps of their own stories; where they have been made, with which tools, by who, when. Each action taken to achieve a garment is imprinted in it. For Exercice de Style #2, I decided to explore the memory of a dress being constructed.

Here are some sound captures that have been made with Marjolaine Bourdua in my workshop while I was working on the first prototype for Exercice de style #2. You can hear different sewing machines, fabric being cut, ironing seam, pattern making tools, etc. Those interesting sounds are my daily environment, they are my routine and I enjoy each time I am listening to them. You can listen to them one by one or all together, creating a different atmosphere.

Listening to them afterwards, and reading about the science of sound, I liked the idea that a sound atmosphere is composed of different sound layers; we can illustrate that by talking about a sound texture. Even if material, these data are invisible to human eye. With the software Bitmaps & Waves, we can visualize those; it converts sounds to image. I presented some of those images in a previous post. It gives an idea of how they "look like". It is a long rectangular stripe of black and white dots, squares and stains. Looking at them, we feel a rhythm and progression.

visual data collected in the Bitmaps & Waves software

Having those concepts in mind, I though about communicating the memory of the dress by illustrating the different layers of sound it has been accumulating since the beginning of its creation. By a similar process than the ground is accumulating a story through sedimentation, the sound story of the dress is composed of layers of sound and textures. In the bottom of a pleat could be hidden a memory map of the sound adventure the dress has been through. This piece would be a poetic rendering of an object memory. Instead of presenting objects as continuity of memory and continuity of self (as seen in Csikszentmihalyi's Why We Need Things), this project reveals workmanship as property of the object, it reveals craft and labor as continuity of design.

terrestrial sediments records
source: Natural Resources Canada

To illustrate those layers of sound, I decided to create a three-dimensional structure with layers of fabric, inspired by the generated images from bitmaps and waves as well as from sediments images. I cut stripes of felted wool and between each of them I inserted some layers of plasticized gauze and silk. Those materials together have a sound feeling that is really interesting. It feels like if it is subtly creaking. The contrast with the wool, known for its isolating property creates an interesting opposition.

black plasticized gauze, white silk, black felted wool

When the dress prototype will be finalized and this textile memory map included, the idea is to integrate the circuit presented in the previous post in the making of the final dress. The memory map would create a sound wave activated by the silence of the environment. The silence would then be filled by the dress memories. How it will be integrated in the dress is the next challenge of the project: the circuit should be soft and be really part of the garment.

Canada Science and Technology Museum. What is Sound?
Dunne, Anthony and Raby, Fiona. Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objets. Birkhäuser Basel, 2001.
Entrée des fournisseurs, Éditions Assouline, Maeght Éditeur, Paris, 1990.
Maison Martin Margiela
Marjolaine Bourdua
Johnson, Donald Clay and Foster, Helen Bradley. Dress Sense, Emotional and Sensory Experiences of the Body and Clothes, Berg Publishers, New York, 2007.
Xàrene. Tentative Architecture.

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