“LIKE LIVING ORGANISMS” by Local Androids is literally a second skin. Both having the colour, texture, and feel—as well as movement—of skin, this synthetic dress/garment/appendage—which in fact keeps uncovered many of the essential parts of the body such as the buttocks and breasts—has the capacity to inflate and change shape when touched. Much like our own bodies in times of distress or intense emotion, the garment shape-changes to suit the wearer’s mood or state. In its disturbing similitude to real skin, “LIKE LIVING ORGANISMS” seemingly extends the wearer’s physiognomy to unexpected results, playing on our willingness to accept the garment as an a physical extension of our skin.
Q: What is your background?
We, Cor and Leonie Baauw both studied illustration at the HKU art academy.
Cor: We didn’t limit ourselves to the 2D platform, or pencils within illustration. Leonie graduated in interactive installation, and I in concept video animation with augmented reality.
Q: What led you to your being involved in fashion and technology?
Cor: For us it was less about fashion but more about the body, and technology I suppose. In our work the body is a returning subject, creating something that adds to the body through technology was a natural step for us. When Anouk asked me [to develop this] I felt challenged and excited.
Q: What kinds of materials and technologies are used and integrated into your designs? Could you describe the process / challenges / advantages of using these particular materials in fashion and garments?
Leonie: Skin is an important subject in our work. Also realism, so dragon skin (silicone) and psychopaint is a fitting material for its realism and flexibility. The technology we use depends entirely on the concept, so we are not bound to a specific technology. I think it is challenging to make skin people want to touch. Making it look like skin without making people grossed out.
Q: What does technology add to fashion?
Cor: Difficult question. It depends, sometimes only a spectacle or aesthetic, sometimes it’s functional, for us I hope it helps to illustrate our concept.
Leonie: We’re still in the beginning state of fashion-tech. Now it’s mainly exploring the possibilities and also researching what technology CAN add. From my vision it’s not commercial enough for real purposes yet, but I am curious as to what it will add in the future.
Q: If you could have anyone alive or dead wearing your fashion-tech design, whom would you pick, and where would they be?
Leonie: Eve! (from Adam and Eve). Anyone who dares to wear it.
Cor: The people from the future. Then again, it is not really meant to be worn as a fashion item.
Q: How do you envision the everyday fashion-tech of the future?
Leonie: From my vision it will be more practical instead of a spectacular lights shows, if it matches with the commercial world. However, we live right now in a consumption-throw-away-society and technology is too expensive for that. But if it becomes commercial it’s more likely to be solving comfort problems in regards to clothing. For instance sweat spots, the white skin under the bikini after sunbathing, or cold feet/hands in the winter. So heating-shoes, cooling shirts, bikini’s that let UV through. Also I, and perhaps a lot of other women, would enjoy buying printed shoe models on the internet, which you can 3D-print at home. No more drama with package services, and it will always fit!
Q: Tell us about the piece you developed at Quartier21 during your Artist-in-Residency.
“LIKE LIVING ORGANISMS” is an interactive organic skin suit that expresses emotions like between two people when they first meet. It’s all about the first impression. Our work responds to the visitor by showing a pulse through the veins when being approached. Tension builds up, the closer the viewer get’s to the work, the faster it pulses. The neck, a sensual part of the body, is hidden until someone dares to make contact, then the suit will relax and show it’s vulnerable side.
Cor: Most challenging for me was finding a solution in making the garment seem alive, and giving the impression that the work presented a new way for people to express themselves through their clothing. A more emotional way perhaps. We chose to use air. This was particularly challenging to control, but perfect for our concept because of it is difficult to control yet organic in behavior.
Leonie: I think the most challenging part was how can you work with a stretchable material without blowing it up or overheating it over long period of time. Or not making it too loud, while being able to inflate it within a short time.
To built it we used: Dragonskin (silicone); Psychopaint (silicone paint); 2 pumps; A lot of wires; A proximity sensor to measure the distance between the piece and the visitor; And a touch sensor; Home made valves.
Credits: Photographer: Viktor Krammer; Design: Local Androids; Engineers: Ralf Jacobs, Daniel Schatzmayr & Berend-Jan van Dijk.
Vienna, August 2012