The Telematic Dress project began in Nottingham-Trent University’s Design and Performance Lab as an exploration into the idea of sharing wearable textiles across distances. The concept of the Telematic Dress is garment that materializes or moves across spaces during a live performance, thereby addressing metaphorical ‘connective tissues’ between the performers and the garments, as well as between the audience and the performers. The study is ongoing and is conducted as cross-cultural communication with virtual performance partners in Europe, the US, Brazil and Japan. The Arizona State University team joined the project in the fall of 2004, and I designed ASU’s version of the Telematic Dress.
I created the Telematic Dress using bacrum, a very sturdy textile that retains its shape, for the bodice. This way, the performer was able to hang the dress somewhere in the performance space, and enter or exit the dress with ease as the choreography dictated. The bodice was covered in Chinese silk, which was the same textile used for the skirt. I selected this fabric because of its durability and beautiful drape. Furthermore, I chose white fabric in order for the costume stand out against a dark background.
The skirt was detachable from the bodice, so that one dancer at ASU was able to wear the telematic skirt, another dancer was able to wear a telematic top, and both dancers were able to perform at the same time but in different parts of the world. Then, computers were able to read sensors embedded in both wearable textiles and display both of the dancers’ movements on the same computer screen. When the dancers’ movements lined up, the display gave the impression that one person was performing the movement.