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Weavesound: interactive woven textiles that emit the sounds of being touched

Haire, Victoria Jane (2020) Weavesound: interactive woven textiles that emit the sounds of being touched. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This research employs a practice-based approach to examining the multi-sensory relationship between textiles and the body. Eczema, the highly sensitive skin condition, is used as a conceptual prism to scrutinise this relationship. Its rough three-dimensional surface is the basis for a range of electronic woven textiles that have been made into garments. The textiles are constructed from materials also used in the treatment of eczema, although the fabrics are not intended to be therapeutic. When the textiles are touched, their amplified sounds of being touched in real time is emitted through speakers. The sounds evidence the materiality of cloth and refer to the materiality of the body, whilst also highlighting the sounds of textiles themselves. The project also highlights the importance of touch in relation to textiles and the embodied nature of clothing. The research contests the historical western hierarchy of the senses, in which sight is privileged above all others, and challenges the dominance of sight in the appreciation of artworks. It is informed by recent developments in neuroscience, experimental psychology and sensory anthropology, as well as the sensory and material turns in the arts and humanities. The approach to the research has been cross-disciplinary and straddles craft, textile technology, electronics and computing, sound recording, and medical science. The enquiry has employed a process-led methodology of learning through making, combining traditional hand craft skills with digital technology. The research uncovered findings in three areas. The first concerns the delicate reciprocal relationship between textiles and eczematous skin, the second concerns the sounds of textiles being touched, and the third concerns public engagement with eczema research. These areas are generally investigated through scientific outputs, but in this research they are scrutinised through an interactive artistic output that reveals the multi-sensory experience of wearing textiles and the materiality of the body and cloth.

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