August 20, 2014 AT 3:00 am

Map Dress Illuminates a Cemetery #WearableWednesday

Tara Webb is an artist in residence at The Hacktory in Philadelphia, currently exploring wearables and performance art. For her first project, she decided to start with something simple to explore hardware and lights. She was inspired by a nearby cemetery.

My idea was to explore the concept of wearable ‘space’ and ‘place’ or ‘wearing’ where you live.

Tara has a strong costuming background and decided to work with a vintage dress. She created a mini-map of the cemetery on the dress and then picked out some landmarks, such as stables and a mansion, to highlight with LEDs. A Lily Tiny microcontroller allows the LEDs to blink on the bodice. If you know anything about Philadelphia, you know the Schuylkill River is an important waterway. Tara decided to include it on her dress with a nice curve of blue EL wire placed near the waist.

Map Dress

Although the dress looks amazing now, Tara has even bigger plans for it.

This very basic prototype wasn’t completely interactive (yet), but in discussing it with Hacktory fellow, Robert Spahr, I began to see some ways I could harken back to the Fluxus projects of the ’60s to create an imagined installation synthesizing a ‘performance’ and my ideas.  So I imagined a text which could be projected on the dress or in the room that would explain the piece or instruct an interaction in some way between performer and audience.  The phrases would scroll on the screen as follows in a continuous loop:  “Turn off the lights.  This is an address.  This is processing.  This is a map.  This is a performance.  This is a dress.  This is not a dress.  Turn on the lights.”

This is a great first project and I’m so excited to see Tara’s next work. She is also interested in GPS and moss as a possible switch. So much to learn and working with natural materials can be fun! Time for you to get inspired. You can work on a similar project using a GEMMA microcontroller and LED sequins following our learning guide. With just a few blinkies, you will be the point of interest. Get mapping!


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