The wearers of dresses made of feathers of Stymphalian Birds are divided between seduction and hypersensitivity. They experience sensing beyond their human abilities and learn from non-humans. The biomimicry of these specific feathers which fulfill the role of sensory receptors in birds permits the creation of these hybrids with superhuman capabilities. I am making the myth come true and giving life to these dangerous and mysterious birds which use their feathers as arrows to express my kind of woman. In western society, applying birds’ panache to women expresses seduction, but I want to go beyond. They also incarnate my approach to emerging technologies, always considering them with skepticism and warily even if they are very appealing.
When do you think your creation will become common among the masses?
Never ! I don’t expect this and I don’t think something based on silk and feathers have its place in mass consumerism. Moreover, my work and these dresses are unique creations and they are not destined for mass consumerism. They are the incarnation of my ongoing research in which I explore the potential of non verbal communication through the ubiquitous nature of textiles. I consider textiles as a memory and transmission medium. I believe that If we seize and share textile production tools and knowledge everybody can produce their own textiles. I want to hit out against the obsessive consumption and fashion trends. Instead of using the meaningless textiles they impose on us as desirable and arranging them to communicate our opinions. I maintain if we can craft our own textiles, we can transmit our intentions by taking over the form of communication used by them. Stymphalian Birds invites us to reconsider our textiles as communication mediums and think profoundly upon it.
Can you tell us more about the installation? Could these chemically treated feathers in your opinion be used in anything else besides fashion?
The installation I made before these dresses is offering a rich multi-sensory experience: complex haptic interactions with feathers are sonified in acoustic soundscapes. While I was developing the dresses the COVID-19 pandemic first appeared and grew. I saw the installation being rejected from scheduled exhibitions because touching the piece was becoming an issue in itself. We can see all of us being inhibited and deprived of touch and caresses. One of our senses is denounced and haptic feedback is becoming a stressful feedback. This pandemic is reshaping our everyday relations. Seeing how proximity between people and touch are appearing as even more sensitive issues has consolidated the development of these sensitive garments where social distancing guidelines must be followed. In former days, fashion was playing a massive role in social distancing. The work has been published in scientific conferences specialized in interaction between humans and computers such as CHI. These newly created sensors are a way to enhance our nervous system, I am convinced they can offer an interesting experience to those who cannot feel touch anymore. In that direction, I am actually considering them as implants in my ongoing developments. In the same way as the textiles were the support for the circuit, our skin can be the medium. Non-verbal communication is carried by body language and I am convinced that make-up has a huge potential to enhance. Being inspired by non-humans can help us to improve human skills and the freedom to express ourselves.
Will textile innovations make fashion appear less superficial in our society?
In my opinion superficiality should not be reprimanded, it’s a way to express ourselves showing what we love and which community we stand for. Textiles are the medium of our outer appearance and protection in the way the feathers are for the birds. It’s important for me to give attention to the way we are building our external envelope, that’s our way to communicate messages. Of course innovations can bring more, especially to overcome disabilities. The sad thing for me is that covering the body immediately refers to fashion and by extensions, in most cases, to mass consumerism. The interesting thing is the way we build the non verbale communication, making a patchwork of clothes to express ourselves and identify with our community. Our body language has been perverted by the consumer society but we will keep speaking out ! Innovations might be a way to re-invent our body and speculate about what we can do but we cannot deal with the future without considering the past in order to reinvent and preserve our patrimony.
Why did you choose music to detect the contact with other people on these clothes?
When I initially started with Stymphalian Birds, my intention was to create an acoustic soundscape controlled by the feathers. The sound was incarnating the Stymphalian Birds which were replying to touch. Sound can depict a large range of feelings: it can create a deep and meaningful atmosphere by introducing sensations from another sense.
Do you feel more stimulated by fashion or technology?
Neither one of them ! I am more stimulated by textiles ! They are the result of technologies and the foundation of fashion. Textile technologies are behind the molecules, the fibers, the techniques to transform fibers into yarns and then into textiles. These technologies are not from the last century but date back to the beginning of life on earth; we can even found textile technologies in nature, in nest building for example. This strong heritage animates me in my lust for preserving and revisiting textile craftsmanship. Textiles represent and incarnate fashion and technology and they are everywhere. Textiles are connected to our body, from birth to death, from nappies to burial sheets. However, similar to feathers, textiles first and foremost also act as an adornment, rather than modesty and protection. While some human cultures might not use clothing, humans will never be without adornment. As technology becomes ever more closely integrated in our lives, electronics are starting to permeate the textiles which accompany our lives as well, both those worn on the body and in the environment around us.
Is there something in your work that you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve never got the chance to?
There are so many things I want to do, time is short for me, 24 hours is not enough ! Following my experiments to sense and communicate beyond human abilities. I’ve always wanted to use my body as a medium and I tend to do this more and more through art performances, for example connecting it with earth satellites in my other collaborative project Listening Space. I have been taught to cover my body with textiles and by extension to communicate with them. Going beyond this, our body, our skin and their ornements are our choices to communicate. I envisage to use my own body and skin as a substrate for circuitry. I am attracted by the sky above us and what’s beyond. In the continuity of my interest in body language and connecting with the invisible environment that surrounds us, I would like to experience what it’s like being in zero gravity and what’s being outside of Mother earth. We are, we think and we create with regards to Earth’s gravity and I believe in zero gravity, and especially in Space, things might have been different.