simply soft. simply cyborg. (updated)

The mask is an empty shell for a soft creature to hide in. (James Ensor

I have [finally] refined my idea to the point where this project once again makes sense to me and stays true to my intention of using technology to bring us back into our bodies. And also to the point where I feel ready to start making the physical elements of the piece. I am going to look at touch and how touch can be healing/therapeutic in that through touch a hybrid body (i.e the soft cyborg) can find recognition and through that recognition can begin to feel whole. I delve deeper into the reasoning behind my ideas on my Concept Development blog.  What I will discuss here are the more technical elements of the piece.

Technical Breakdown

The mask for this soft cyborg will remain simple, just blinking eyes and a large nose. The nose will be made out of conductive felt. Inside the mask will be a Arduino Pro Mini connected to a Bluetooth Mate Gold. When a certain amount of pressure is applied to the nose (i.e. when the cyborg experiences a genuine physical connection with another body) that information will be sent the softcyborg Twitter feed to record the number of times the soft cyborg has been touched over the course of the day.

Performance Breakdown

Because process has become such a large part of this project, I was given the suggestion last week in my Presence and Telepresence class that my performances also be process based. Which means I will be doing a durational performance in various spaces around OCAD on Thursday, April 7th from 9am to 5pm. I will distribute cards to each of the people that I interact with providing the URL of the softcyborg Twitter feed. Through the materiality of the soft cyborg and its movements, I will try to initiate physical connections with people. It will be interesting to see, through the data collected, if certain spaces make people more or less comfortable to reach out and touch the soft cyborg.

Explorations

Working off a Instructable’s tutorial I attempted to make conductive felt. The tutorial recommends bronze metallic wool (such as those sold by Lustersheen and Soft Expressions), but for times sake I thought I’d just experiment with steel wool. Not the best idea. Steel wool rusts so the longevity of working with the material, especially on a sweaty body, would be considerably shortened. Not only that, but having steel wool on the body is going to do a bit of damage. I roughed up one of my hands just prepping the steel wool to be carded. Finally, I was using superfine steel wool which is ideal because its fineness will make it less obvious when I blend it with sheep’s wool. The problem here being that the staple (the length of the fibre) of the wool and the staple of the steel wool did not match up. The more I carded the two fibres together, the more the steel wool clumped up. As a last resort I tried unraveling a coarse bronze scrub pad but it was too bulky and wouldn’t catch onto the teeth of the combs.

For a successful attempt at making conductive felt, check out my more recent blog post.

Materials/tools for making conductive felt

Putting the fibres on the carders (i.e. cat brushes)

Clumps!

Bronze wool (too thick)

Schedule:

Thursday – Bluetooth lab with Kate. Also, explore OCAD for potential performance spaces.

Friday – Purchase any remaining components (Lawrence said he should have more Bluetooth Mate Gold in stock by Friday.)

Saturday – Make the remainder of the mask; the base is complete, the nose and the eyes need to be made. I’m going to keep the soft cyborg’s guts on a tiny solderless breadboard for next week in case I need to tweek anything.

Sunday – Post progress to blog.

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¹ Jones, Phil. Drama as therapy: theatre as living. New York: Routledge, 1996. 145.

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