Together with KOBAKANT Collective, we are working on a paper for the upcoming North American Textile Conservation Conference ‘Conserving Modernity: the Articulation of Innovation’. Preprints will be published.
Conductive Threads of Postmodernity: Materiality and Engineered Agency of ‘The Crying Dress’
Luba Dovgan Nurse and KOBAKANT: Hannah Perner-Wilson and Mika Satomi
This paper focuseson ‘The Crying Dress’ designed and handmade by KOBAKANT for the Technosensual exhibition in Vienna, Austria in July 2012. ‘The Crying Dress’ is described by its makers as ‘an imagined commission’ for an Exquisite Electronic funeral gown, set in the year 2028. The commission is understood to come from a husband who requests a funeral gown for his wife to comfort her in mourning. The mourning function of the dress is inspired by widespread practices of weeping as a response to death. ‘The Crying Dress’ has a headpiece containing water, which drips onto the dress. As the water cascades over the hand-embroidered circuitry, the electrical resistance of the water is translated into audible frequencies played through embroidered fabric speakers. The dress cries. Additional electrical components are soldered to the conductive embroidery.
This paper explores the relationship between the artists’ intent, materiality, and the engineered agency (its story and its function of interaction) of the dress, by way of dialogue between the artists (Perner-Wilson & Satomi) and the conservator (Dovgan Nurse). This case study illustrates the complexity and tensions of the material and conceptual properties of these electronic textiles, and the potential challenges of their preservation.