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The Telepresence Garment by Edwardo Kac

By Rhizome

Telepresence Garment

The Telepresence Garment (pictured above with the telerobot Ornitorrinco) by Edwardo Kac has strong connections with previous posts on wearable technologies such as Insense, MoPres, Flame 5, MoBeeLine, the Hug Shirt, Volume over Lumen , Porta2030, the LoveJacket and HugJackets, Prototype Schmarotzer (Parasite) and the Seven Mile Boots and I have posted about old work by Edwardo Kac over the last few days so I thought I would finish off with this last one (for the moment) on his quite early take (1995/96) on the idea of wearable technology.

The Telepresence Garment was conceived to:

investigate the notion of the mediascape as an expanded cloth; i.e., to consider wireless networking as a new fabric that envelops the body.

What’s interesting about this particular piece above the works mentioned previously is that while it functions as a device to assist / augment / improve the body, the primary purpose of the majority of the works above as they are conceived from more of a design perspective, it also importantly explores

ways in which technology envelops the body and transforms identity, suppressing self-control and direct sensorial experience of the environment. Far from utopian or escapist portrayals of the potential of these technologies, the Telepresence Garment is a sign of their dangers.

In this respect it is similar to many of Stelarc’s investigations of the body coupled with technology even though he has rarely investigated clothing as he perceives it as an unnecessary layer (a technology in itself) between the body and the technology he wants to explore, whether that be mechanical, electronic or genetic.

The wearer of the Telepresence Garment becomes a:

roboticized human body…converted into a host. The Garment was designed as an interactive piece to be worn by any local participant willing to allow his or her body to be engaged by others remotely…The Telepresence Garment creates a situation in which the person wearing it is not in control of what is seen, because he or she cannot see anything through the completely opaque hood. The person wearing the Garment can make sounds, but can’t produce intelligible speech because the hood is tied very tightly against the wearer’s face. An elastic and synthetic dark material covers the nose, the only portion of flesh that otherwise would be exposed. Breathing is not easy. Walking is impossible, since a knot at the bottom of the Garment forces the wearer to be on all fours and to move sluggishly.

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