Wearable Technology in the Arts

Details of an emerging collaboration with the University of Arts London

Wearable Technology in the Arts:


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Wearable technology to record and document practice may relate to several themes:

·       To help develop practice – used to help reflect on practice (self-surveillance)

·       To form practice – technology becomes artwork/part of artwork

·       To communicate practice – for assessment/presentation/dialogue

Drawn Together: A conversation with the collection

My proposal was accepted by the Hunterian Museum for their Hunterian Associates Programme http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/learning/hunterianassociates/

Recognised as a Collection of National Significance to Scotland, The Hunterian provides an inventive platform for postgraduate researchers to share their expert knowledge and to develop their skills through meaningful public engagement and knowledge exchange activities

The project ‘Drawn Together: A conversation with the collection’ is one of nine selected for the programme this year and follows on from the ‘Making the Invisible Visible project’. This time I will be working with the visitors to the museum, using their drawings and reflections, as well as my own to create a piece of work. The work will unfold through a weeklong residency and be documented here: http://drawnconversation.wordpress.com/

Additional narrative will be recorded here as an ‘outside’ space for my own reflections on the project research.



The smudgy background around the head area bothered me so I fixed it. I added materials and worked into it until I felt happier with it. Sometimes it is not about thinking and planning it is about trying to fix something by working into it until it looks better. This can create a tension and be a stressful part of the process, feeling like you are trying to rescue something from impending disaster. The work I go through this struggle with always seems better for it this angst seems to sometimes be an important part of making and not very enjoyable.
‘Using the dissolvable but perhaps with the stitches left on a fabric and the water being a permanent aspect of the work could be worth exploring. This would show process but also makes a relationship between the imagery and the process.’ I like things to have a reason but I have been considering how this might be more about just being able to see the connections that are already there, perhaps having been subconsciously evolving in a particular way – not very scientific, but a hunch that things that appear serendipitous may in fact have been subconsciously designed and evidence of an ongoing iterative process.
I became interested in how repeat tracings or free-machine stitching of the same image is a form of mimicry but that through the process each one turns out differently and evolves. The sampling and experimenting of the image on different translucent materials allows for these differences to be seen. When learning we often mimic the actions of those we are learning from but also thinking about ‘mimesis’ as copying/imitating/replicating in terms of drawing is interesting when through this process it changes into something else and no longer replicates the original source in the same way. By contrast ‘diegesis’ an ongoing narrative – telling rather than showing describes the process by which I am exploring and sharing the making and evolving of the work.
From the experiments I decided to record the repetition of making the image on one length of silk, it became a fairly arbitrary length with a piece being added when it looked the right length. Making the length with repeated imagery became a rhythm, the free machine technique allowed me to focus on the lines but also respond to the sewing in the same way I would with a pencil on paper. Each image would be different and look slightly different but overall they look assertive in their attempt to look the same. The water – contained in a goldfish bowl shaped vase (reminded me of deep sea diving helmets) would allow the process of dissolving the material to become a permanent part of the final piece of work or ‘installation’. With the embroidery in the bowl it became changed through the distortion of the water as well as the shape of the bowl and the diver looks at home.
The final piece of experimentation was with projecting parts of the documented process, the films of the making, over the work. My original ideas, which I spent some time procrastinating on, to embed the process using conductive threads and miniature screens and speakers, could still be developed. At this stage I want to conclude in some way and consider the integration of technology afterwards. The projections enable further overlays of imagery and emphasise the mimesis and diegesis that have emerged from it – the final recording is a version of the installation as a pause rather than a full stop to the ‘Making the invisible visible’ project.

Making some work: Part 2

Drawing with stitch through the dissolvable onto a selection of different fabrics. I like this process because the drawing on the dissolvable provides a structure to work within but through the nature of using free machine sewing* each drawing is different. The experimentation is about trying variables, playing and seeing what works. The tracing process allows the original drawing to be replicated but changed through the proceeding processes. At this stage I do not know what will work and what will not work… *the sewing machine has a special machine foot you have freedom to move the needle in a free motion in any direction

Visible_Invisible - 01Visible_Invisible - 05Visible_Invisible - 08Visible_Invisible - 09Visible_Invisible - 10Visible_Invisible - 11Visible_Invisible - 18Visible_Invisible - 22Visible_Invisible- 03Visible_Invisible- 04

Making some work: Part 1

Observing myself making an observational drawing gave me insight into how long I spent looking at the image I was using for the drawing, compared to how long I spent looking at the drawing itself. The rapid movement between ‘artifact’ and created image, and how this changed over the fifteen minutes creating it, enabled me to think about my own relationship to the act of drawing and recording, in a more intimate way. Observing the self in an act of making a drawing allowed me to consider how I approach markmaking, where I focus, make corrections, adjustments as well as pace and ongoing thought process.

Making some work as a response to the original drawing and my observations of this process I want to continue to use forms of drawing to see where I can push the drawing process. A broad interpretation of ‘drawing’ as an act where an image is created using lines or marks on a surface allows me to consider most aspects of my creative practice as drawing. Rather than observing more imagery from the book I want to replicate the imagery I had already created, experiment with repetition and variables. Perhaps this is partly in response to the experience of several hours of watching the recording of making the original drawing – the motion of observing the image and recording the image, how the image emerges and is corrected.

I want to work with this newly constructed drawing in some way but not sure how…

The work I produce is situated in a wider context, my previous working habits and experiences and preferred materials and techniques. I want the piece of work as it develops and emerges to contain all of its process so I think about the potential to let the drawing grow, have other pieces attached to it or add to the original image. In my imagination this seems clumsy and ill-considered. Not something that would usually bother me but I am sharing this process, I want it to be authentic but I am afraid it will be too ugly and messy (the process and the work). Can auto-ethnographic processes be authentic? I am constantly feeling disrupted by the interference of my heightened self-awareness. This is an authentic process but I might not know what it is an authentic process of until the end.

I feel ok about experimenting with different forms of replicating imagery either through observing or tracing and am interested in where this might take me. I make a tracing in white pen and don’t find this gives me anything to develop further but it does help me think about transparencies and layers of imagery. For previous work I have often used dissolvable fabric, often when taking imagery from an original form (often paper) onto a fabric (canvas, linen or felt). Dissolvable fabric is a plastic fabric a gelatine type material that is stable enough to stitch onto, but when water is added to it, it disappears. It is a necessary part of the process for forming stitches without a permanent fabric but it is temporary. This feels like a better way to go, partly revisiting favoured techniques but also an interesting process, which allows me to replicate the imagery but also change it with a different medium. The video is showing a tracing being made from the original drawing using dissolvable fabric. The permanent ink on the dissolvable fabric becomes a template to free machine stitch over.

The first free machine drawing was made just onto the dissolvable without any additional fabric. In the past I have dissolved stitched fabric just leaving the stitches behind and allowed them to dry over a non-stitchable material like slate. For this experiment I dissolved the fabric to leave a fragile stitched image but let parts of it break and distort. I pushed it too far and was left with a gelatinous mass of threads, it failed, I made it fail, it wasn’t right for this at this point but could be revisited. The water as a change agent – turning the solid fabric into a sticky liquid gave me some visual ideas – the imagery of the diver with water. Using the dissolvable but perhaps with the stitches left on a fabric and the water being a permanent aspect of the work could be worth exploring. This would show process but also makes a relationship between the imagery and the process.

The final artwork is the parts of the process the artist has chosen to remain visible.


Extracting data…

Analysing recording of drawing multiple markers

Analysing recording of drawing with markers



Image Visualising/Drawing
0.066 1.9 visualising paper
0.466 4.0
0.033 3.2
2.3 1.933
11.63 1.0
0.9 2.733
0.566 1.7 Drawing
0.233 1.733
0.5 2.0
0.9 1.266
1.133 0.866
0.633 1.23
1.066 0.833
1.2 0.866
1.133 1.0
0.366 1.233
2.433 0.7
1.6 1.033
0.966 0.6
0.933 2.9
1.3 0.7
0.633 1.966
0.166 1.833
0.633 7.366
1.5 1.6
0.766 0.9
1.0 3.9
1.6 0.8
0.833 1.4
1.0 1.833
0.566 2.00
0.566 1.833
0.8 1.2
0.9 2.933

00:00:00:00 – 00:01:45:22 out of 00:15:12:20 (Hours: Min: Sec: Frames per second (30FPS)

= 105.733 seconds (1.7 minutes) of footage out of 912.666 seconds (15.2 minutes) of footage analysed

8.6% of the film analysed

Time spent looking at image: 44.754 seconds (0.7 minutes)

Time spent looking at paper (visualising): 14.766 seconds (0.2 minutes)

Time spent looking/making actual drawing: 48.224 seconds (0.8 minutes)

Time spent looking at paper (visualising) & drawing: 62.99 seconds (1 minute)

41% of the first 8.6% of time spent making the drawing was spent looking at the image

59% of the first 8.6% of time spent making the drawing was spent visualising and drawing on the paper (45% drawing and 14% visualising)

A mean of 1.27 seconds spent looking at the image between visualising & drawing with a range of 2.397 seconds and a mode of 0.566 seconds

A mean of 1.72 seconds spent drawing between looking at the image and

‘visualising’ with a range of 6.533 seconds and a mode of 1.833 seconds

What is visible? Recall – transcript from audio created in response to watching the making a drawing documentation

Recall – transcript from audio created in response to watching the making a drawing documentation:

So before I start I spend a long time staring at the image and look back and forwards quite a bit and then start and then it is literally like a couple of seconds observing and a couple of seconds looking back at the paper. But then something I wasn’t particularly aware of, sometimes I pause and don’t make marks when I am looking at the image I am copying but sometimes I’m looking away and continuing to make marks and record. So in a way drawing blind in a way. It is not possible to look at the image in the book and the image on the paper at the same time so either there is a memory of what I am looking at I’m recording or actually I am looking at what I am observing but recording without looking at the same time. And as part of as different parts of the drawing emerge it starts to change the relationships between other things that are already there so more confident in putting things in place or finding where to put something. And each new part requires looking and I am surprised at just the sheer amount of movement that is obviously magnified by having something on top of your head rather than the quick glance that you feel is happening when you are actually drawing. I mean it is not a measured drawing it is not critical that there is an exact replica of what’s being observed, it’s about capturing something of that image that is being translated and yet there is a lot of checking and observing. I think one thing I like doing is working quite quickly I would rather have rather have the pen making marks and moving and allowing something to kind of emerge and grow and I remember when I was drawing it how there were some awkward bits, there were some bits that, just were difficult to get right but when watching it back, it doesn’t seem that way. It just seems like that by working into it things kind of get resolved, when you are making a piece of work you are never sure whether those things will get resolved and so it’s a well its just slightly more problematic in the actual making.

I am looking back now at the still image and the drawing emerging at the same time and I can see the inaccuracies that I was not able to see immediately when I was drawing it perhaps the angles or length of the arms the overall shape of the figure and objects. And what does this watching back tell me what insight does it give me? Well I think maybe I see parts of things rather than things as a whole and I guess rather that be able to give in-depth insight into that particular drawing I think in terms of how I might approach drawings in the future might be affected by how I do develop a drawing and think about some over all parts and shapes and get a feel for those so its is a fleshing out rather than a building on process that’s how I have approached drawing from an image from a book rather than how I would observe from life. I guess it has given me insights it is just not into that as a piece of work but perhaps insights that might help with subsequent pieces.

Disruptive process

The process has had a long pause while other things, work, life and additional strands to my research have taken over. Documenting the drawing process and the early stages of making a piece of work were easy (easier) and a relief almost to capture those starting points and early stages of reflective activity that feel inspiring and slightly chaotic. This is what it feels like to me anyway. I have continued to think about what I have done, talked to people about it and put things in place so that I can have a final goal to aim for in terms of exhibiting something at the end or talking about what I have done. These have been distraction activities and disrupted what might otherwise have been a continuous flow of process, making and documenting.

Rather than feel stuck by this I am embracing it as part of the process and necessary to my process, for this particular piece of work anyway. The process is a mixture of hunches and anticipating what is next with the results either surprising me or confirming to my pre-action reflection. Because aspects of the work now include videos there are challenges of how to incorporate these without the work becoming about the technology. It is important for me to make the process visible but to keep the mechanics of the technology as invisible as possible – the work is not about the technology but about what is revealed through the media used, rather than how it is revealed. The technology used is an enabler, not the content or focus, however, the technology does change how the message is seen in the same way a drawing medium will alter an image or the way an image is communicated. There are also implications for how reflections are captured, different forms of technology will enable different ways to reflect and each will impact on what is reflected.

Reengaging and disengaging are perhaps important parts of my process where there may at times be little happening both internally or externally. The work is quiescent, waiting for reengagement, future rediscovery or reinterpretation. The amount of reflection that has been enabled by this documentation process has illustrated to me how iterative my ideas, processes and interests are. For much of my degree work I was preoccupied with how objects end up in collections, what is collected, how it is collected and how it is displayed. An interest in cataloguing and documenting as well as museums as repositories of knowledge have been revisited in the form of the ‘book of knowledge’ as a portable museum of image and text. As a fine artist primarily concerned with painting and drawing it was my need to use materials that were appropriate to my ideas that led me into photography and textiles, occasionally making sculptural work if necessary. For students does this become difficult when they are only just starting to consider what their interests and ‘ways in’ are, do they have enough perspective to see what patterns are emerging?

I am going to make further responses to my drawing using different ways in to explore and experiment with the recorded form. Each drawing and exploration will bring something different to the imagery and the materials used will contribute some of their own message. In parallel to this I need to explore how my recordings as visuals and audio will become the physical piece as well.