Azra Aksamija, Associate Professor, Program in Art, Culture and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Akšamija’s multi-disciplinary practice includes “wearable mosques” that explore the representation of Islam in the West, spatial mediation of identity politics and cultural transfers through art and architecture.
In 1995, MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte predicted that “being digital” would have us entering a realm increasingly unconstrained by the materiality of the world. Two decades later, our everyday lives are indeed ever more suffused by computation and calculation. But unwieldy materiality persists and even reasserts itself. Programmable matter, self-assembling structures, 3D/4D printing, wearable technologies and bio-inspired design today capture the attention of engineers, scientists and artists. “BEING MATERIAL” showcased recent developments in materials systems and design, placing this work in dialogue with kindred and contrasting philosophy, art practice and critique. Panels on the PROGRAMMABLE, WEARABLE, LIVABLE and INVISIBLE—along with a concert, AUDIBLE—explored new and unexpected meetings of the digital and material worlds.
The integration of the human body and clothing with technology has propelled art, computationally enhanced fashion design, and materials science far beyond visions of the cyborg proposed in the 1960s. This session explores the multiplicity of these developments, from the emergence of conceptual fashion design and wearable computing in the 1990s to current experiments with electronic and reactive textiles and portable sensing systems that provide data feedback to monitor health or enhance physical performance. It asks what it means today to be “human, not so human.”