The 19th Annual Subtle Technologies Festival Speaker Series

Co-presented with Textile Museum of Canada

Saturday May 14th, 2016 10am – 5pm

Textile Museum of Canada
55 Centre Avenue, 2nd floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2H5

Textiles are one of humankind’s oldest inventions, dating back to ancient, even primordial times. Yet they continue to be integral to how we conceive and develop future technologies. The urge that they fulfill—to protect and augment our bodies—is arguably engrained in our nature. And this instinctual relationship to textiles makes it that much harder to recognize the vital role that play in our evolution as a society and a species. This full day of presentations and guided discussion explored this relationship in-depth and teased out the sociopolitical dimensions of textiles and wearable technologies as they connect to contemporary practice in art, science and design.



Schedule of Events:

09:30–10:00 | Registration/Continental Breakfast

10:15–11:00 | Quantified Threads: future fashion in the cloud


JOANNA BERZOWSKA, Associate Professor, Department of Design and Computation Arts, Concordia University and Founder and Director, XS Labs

XS Labs, founded in 2002, is a design research studio that develops innovative work in the area of electronic textiles and reactive garments. Our work is informed by the technologies and techniques of craft-based practices – weaving, stitching, embroidery, knitting, beading, or quilting – and by the exciting possibilities afforded by modern materials with various electro-mechanical properties. In the last three years, we have been working to develop a new generation of composite fibers that have computational functionality. The core technical innovation involves shifting this functionality entirely within the fiber itself. The goal of this project, entitled “Karma Chameleon,” is to develop a prototype for an all-fiber-based textile garment that can harness, sense, and display energy. When a material integrates computational behavior, how do we “program” such a garment? In addition, how will these garments fit into the big-data ecology of the “quantified self”?

11:00–11:45 | Oil Futures/Petrotextiles

KIRSTY ROBERTSON, Associate Professor, Visual Arts, Western University In this talk, I move through a series of scenarios to get at the relationship between textiles and oil, or what I’m calling in shorthand, petrotextiles. Moving from the tar sands in Alberta to the backalleys of Bangladesh, via the boardrooms and golf courses of a wealthy (and well-clothed) elite, this paper investigates how a market for new petrotextiles, and specifically “frackwear,” was created by oil companies in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. My goal here is partially to simply reveal the relationship between oil and textiles, which remains for the most part obscured, but also to think through what it means for contemporary textiles to be found on multiple sides of current conflicts circulating around fossil fuels and the future of the planet.

11:45–12:30 | Second Skins, Wearable Technology, and Digital Life


DR. ISABEL PEDERSEN, Canada Research Chair in Digital Life, Media and Culture and Founder and Director, Decimal Lab

Wearable technology is increasingly colonizing the body. We adapt to a world of interwoven digital devices that will be stretched over us like thin second skins. Future trends suggest that we will sheathe ourselves with technology as a protective mantle that passively and benevolently attends to our inner workings. Like a virtual caretaker, wearables will read our biological signs, our brains, our hearts. Or, are we provoked by fear? Do feelings of vulnerability goad us to become digital? Epidermal electronics (‘digital skin’), bionic contacts, neurosignaling ‘strips,’ exoskeletons and exosuits are promoted as plausible and utilitarian technologies to be celebrated and anticipated as the future unfolds. This presentation explores these ideas through examples of inventor’s videos and writing, art, film, and philosophical works. It draws on the Fabric of Digital Life, a growing digital archive hosted by Decimal lab that catalogues how humans adapt within the context of personal technologies that seem to be significantly altering how we live.

12:30-01:00 | Guided Discussion 1
01:00-02:00 | Lunch Break

02:00–2:45 | Title TBA


ERIKA ISERHOFF, Co-Founder, Setsune Indigenous Fashion Incubator

This talk discussed “traditional” material culture and how it has influenced “contemporary” art and design both for Indigenous artists and non-Indigenous artists with a focus on the reclamation and appropriation of Indigenous cultures.

2:45–3:30 | Critical Narratives in Wearable Technology


LISA KORI CHUNG, Researcher and Interdisciplinary Artist

How do we conceive of things we wear? Do they serve to attract others, or do they help us repel, conceal or distract? Do they enhance perception, bringing unseen elements to light, or do they help us shut the world out? From these initial questions, this talk will examine how wearable projects can cover complex narratives, bringing in approaches from critical art, speculative design, and activist practices. Due to their tactile nature, visual impact, and natural connection with pervasive computing advances, wearables offer a unique opportunity to illuminate issues specific to the world of technology as well as larger social concerns. This includes wearables that track your emotional life, propose new forms of counter surveillance, or take a stand against police injustice.

3:30–4:15 | Form Follows Body/ Le forme suite le corps


CAROLINA REIS, Independent Media Artist

Our bodies are influenced by daily activities and responsibilities, but also by our clothes; the designs of which are mediated by complex sets of social conventions and cultural beliefs. If clothes were shaped differently—to conform to our posture and our actions—would that affect the positions we adopt and even the way we think?

04:15-04:45 | Guided Discussion 2
04:45-05:00 | Wrap-Up and Thank You’s

Photography by: Natalie Logan