Playtime Interactive Dresses by Ying Gao
by Harry / July 5, 2011

Designer Ying Gao is showing three series of "intelligent" garments which move and change in response to sound, motion or light in Quebec City this summer.

Playtime 1 & 2

Inspired by Jacques Tati's film Playtime (1967), the Playtime garment series illustrates the ability to metamorphose when one tries to take their picture. Playtime 1 reacts to a camera flash by contracting and becoming blurred as the fabric, activated by light-sensitive sensors, begins to undulate. For Ying gao, "this blurriness is a space of freedom which defies the supremacy of the image, that capital element of the fashion milieu."

Playtime 2 also reacts to its environment by means of light-sensitive light pads hidden in the fabric, the dress emits a fairly strong light when struck by a camera flash. Says Gao, "There is thus a quite playful element to this piece, which thumbs its nose at fashion shows where photography is king."

Walking City 2

The Walking City series were developed as a tribute to the British architectural collective Archigram. In the 1960s, Archigram conceived mobile, ephemeral and inflatable structure-dwellings.

This interactive garment uses air as one of its materials. When the visitor breathes into a microphone hanging nearby, the dress inflates, as if being worn by a body, causing the wide pleat on the front to "breathe".

According to the Musée national des beaux-arts, "With this work, the artist has given aesthetic form to the immaterial--air--while at the same time experimenting with incorporating pneumatic technologies into dressmaking."

Living Pod

The primary idea at work in the Walking City series is to incorporate the intangible. Living Pod thus detects the approach of a light source using light-sensitive electronic sensors connected to small motors hidden in the folds of the fabric. When struck by the beam of a flashlight in the visitor's hand, the garments are transformed by the movement of the leather and the stirring of the organza. Here the garments' role is one of mediating between people and their environment.

For Gao, apparel art serves as a means to investigate the various ways people relate to their environment as well as contemporary complex social and technological issues.

Says the Musée, "These garments represent state-of-the-art research on textiles with integrated technologies but still have an amazingly poetic dimension. They draw the viewer's eye, inflating, unfolding, transforming while protecting the virtual body they cover. A couture experience like no other!"

The exhibition, titled Ying Gao: Art, Fashion and Technology presents a dozen pieces that include the interactive series at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec from June 9 to August 28, 2011.

Ying Gao is a fashion designer and professor of design at UQAM. She is also the recipient of the 2009 Phyllis-Lambert Design Montréal Grant, awarded annually by Ville de Montréal. Her creations have been exhibited in North American, European and Asian museums and featured in books and magazines devoted to art and design (D+A,Wallpaper, Interview Magazine, Vision, etc.).

Photo: Marcio Lana-Lopez.


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