So along with designer Freyja Sewell, I arrived to Montreal in the freezing cold yesterday. Overnight snow covered the city and it has been snowing ever since! Kind of perfect for the project we are thinking about today…
Why do cities feel different? What are the invisible and unseen parts of the city and how do they affect us?
CitySkin is a reactive suit which gathers environmental and sensory information about the city and the wearer as they explore the urban landscape. There will be three CitySkins: London, Birmingham and Montreal which will be exhibited in a participatory installation created by BitterSuite.
Audiences will immerse themselves in the sounds and sensations of London, Birmingham and Montreal as we found hem; and experience the diversity of information and influence that our bodies are under inside different cities. We want audiences to understand that they are not separate from their city environment and CitySkin acts as a call to action to encourage us all to take better care of the world around us.
Commissioned by The Future Arts Commission and delivered in collaboration with Midlands Art Centre, Rich Mix London, Milleux (Concordia University), Open Cell UK and The Air Quality Lab UK this is a major and SUPER exciting project that pushes our sensorial expertise to a whole new level.
So what have we been working on today?
So this is day one, and we have exactly 10 days until we will be embarking on a (very cold and snowy) prototype walk around the city with the first prototype CitySkin.
The walk itself will take around 5-8 hours and within that time we will get to experience and play with the city landscape.
When we do the actual walks with the finished suits in Spring 2019 it will be two people doing the whole thing. Me, who acts as the guide, and a composer, who is the active wearer of the suit. We have 10 contact points with the city including: most polluted area, natural body of water, No. 1 Tourist destination from TimeOut, Drinking water fountain, most populated area.
Personally the thing I am working hardest on this week is designing the walks which in some cases may take up to 8 hours.
What I want to do is design exercises which prepare us and games which we can play during the walks that get us experiencing the city in new, playful, sensorial and EMOTIONAL ways.
How are we measuring the emotional response?
The answer is in music.
The wearers of the suits include Auclair (LONDON) and Justin Wiggan (BIRMINGHAM). After the walk is done we will collaborate to turn our emotional responses to the walks, the sound and sensorial information gathered from the CitySkin into short pieces of music.
Some thoughts for your next moment outside in your city…
Your skin, your eyes, your nose, your ears, your hair, your fingertips, your gut. You and your body are the most powerful sensor. Notice your senses. Embrace and experience the information the city gives you and you give the city. What is the inherent interconnectedness between you and the city?
The city can be felt in all kinds of ways whether that’s in embracing the walking pace of passers by; noticing the loudness, frequencies and melodies of the transport; the presence, health and pace of city dwelling animals; the tallness of the buildings; the proximity between you and other passers-by…
What are some other ways the city is felt? What felt measurements of the city matter to you? How can we measure them?