Radical political decisions and technological advances have been affecting people around the globe on a massive scale over the past decade. Security, both national and individual, is often deployed as a key argument to justify the use of evermore dense control systems, promising to protect citizens from crime. Frequently, these systems target the citizens themselves by tracking and analysing their actions for future reference, incentivising good behaviour. Knowing when one’s privacy is infringed is becoming more difficult as the lines blur between private companies, banks, health care providers, global players, the police and governments all having an interest in our data. This is particularly pertinent in the case of London, where there is approximately one CCTV camera for every 13 people, making it the most surveilled city in the world.
In light of this climate, we see a number of creative practitioners that use garments to highlight the problematic nature of these tendencies. Deeply politically and socially minded, their projects, collections and artefacts are responding to technology mixed with executive power, to marginalisation and decreased citizens rights. Their aim is to educate as much as to provoke.
Wearable Resistance put clothes into this critical context: as the interface between the individual’s safety and third party interest allowing for a different perspective on how we usually see fashion enacted.
The programme began with a provocation by artist and musician Gaika based around his chilling fictional essay titled ‘The Spectacular Empire’ describing a series of political events starting with civil unrest in 2018 that eventually lead to mass redistribution of power in a new London run by a secretive motorcycle gang. They are dressed in highly engineered protective garments entitled Armour in Heaven that exist to maintain the power of the wearer under a shroud of darkness and make clear their allegiance to the new order.
Following the provocation, a panel discussion addressed issues around how clothes can function in an age of pervasive surveillance, strategies to protect future urban identities and sartorial responses that tread the fine line between safety and trust. GAIKA was joined by Adam Thorpe of Vexed Generation, an artist collective founded in the 1990s and known for creating socially responsive clothing, which aimed to address the individual’s experience of the urban environment and Alexa Pollmann of Peut-Porter, a design platform investigating the boundaries of what garments can be.
The evening culminated in Peut-Porter’s performance and interactive experience Wear & Seek. Based on the Hide & Seek game, Wear & Seek is a mixed reality experience that uses the various garments and patterns as triggers which reveals their complete aesthetic spectrum only when perceived with the help of machine-vision. The aim of the project was to enable the visitors to understand the process of ‘being watched’ and ‘being the one watching’ in a world where our bodies are constantly quantified with the help of machine vision.