In medical history, electricity was believed to be connected to lots of body functions, such as brain activities or muscle stimulation with less evidence.
Today, we have developed treatments through electricity on electro-chemical processes inside our body using rehabilitation devices, pacemakers or treatment for Epilepsia. But how much of electricity is around and inside of us? How does it feel like? And how do we create an awareness of it?
In general, electricity evokes fear by its uncertain non-perceivable qualities for us. I have started my investigations using toner pigments, sensitive enough reacting to electrostatic charges of my body. Tiny figures like branches of trees, called Lichtenberg figures were formed through the pigments, abstractly showing me my interactions throughout the day.
In a second experiment, I have hacked a muscle stimulation device. My computer would give me a tickling feeling in my eyebrows, reminding me of being overstimulated, electrified and not well balanced when working too long on too many things at the same time. This body hacking was also inspired by investigations of the physician Duchenne de Boulogne 1862 and artists such as Daito Manabe or Stelarc, who created different facial expressions by electric shocks. It was a vague feeling tickling, prickly and strained.
Besides other circuits amplifying subtle amounts of electricity around our human bodies, I wanted to create a material device, which has much more in common with the "body electric" than circuitry. This textile has been designed as an antenna, that responds in an abstract way to our electrically charged surroundings and which creates this tingling feeling by little electric discharges to the body.
I have created a loose textile by lace-making, that functions as an antenna or capacitor sandwiching conductive and non-conductive structures as well as generating a visual and tactile expression. Electricity gets perceivable by moving the textile hair and tiny electric shocks over time. The hair stands on end like in the hysteria of history or today´s news about the so-called electric smog.
My aim was here to translate the electronic logics into material logics, meaning using step-up converters, diodes, and capacitors such as in camera flash lights and turned their qualities into material qualities (back) itself. I wanted to find a material specific native character. Furthermore, the textile could maybe be used one day to indicate electronic information through the air. It can sensorily envelope human environments, like kitchens, living rooms or public transport.
Winkler, C. Unter Strom - über den Zusammenhang von menschlichem
Verhalten und elektrischen Ladungen (2010) VDM Publishing
Winkler, C. Unter Strom/ Tensed up in Devices That Alter Perception 2010
Winkler, C. Unter Strom/ Tensed Up - A piece of material demonstrates our field of activity in ACM Interaction Journal (2011)
Winkler, C. Unter Strom/ Tensed up in output awards 2011
project blog http://clemenswinkler.com/dipl
Becker, R. O. (1998) "The Body Electric"