A Modern Housewife

The Modern Housewife Performance

In 2007, Katherine Moriwaki came to Lima with conductive threat and textiles as part of a workshop she was imparting alongside Jonah Brucker-Cohen. I was lucky enough to attend it and get a taste of the materials used for developing weareable technologies (not very known and hard to get in Perú at the time) immediately being captivated by these, not as much for their relation to fashion or to ubiquitous computing (in the sense that one could “wear” computers now) but for its bond to fabric and fibers. Maybe my condition as a painter had unconsciously familiarized me with textiles by being confronted to the blank canvas every time I felt like painting with oil colors since I was eleven. Curiously, some leftovers of such a cloth from a painting that never came to be was the exact material I brought to the workshop.

Then I realized that, when confronted to all of these materials together, I could not help connecting textiles with the feminine, and that the bond had originated in the household. Turns out, there was an old iron laying somewhere in that workshop. I had a 1m x 1m white canvas cloth. I had thread, cables, and access to an Arduino.

I finally ended up embroidering some scattered flowers with conductive thread and applications of conductive fabric. Katherine helped me to set up the communication system to the computer, and we associated it to some keyboard sounds. This was the origin of the future “A Modern Housewife” performance and the start of a whole and characteristic branch of my work, one that has to do with the link in between textiles, sounds, symbols, codes, computers, and the feminine.

When I presented it to an interested audience at the end of the workshop I just explained how the system worked. There was no need for more: me, a female, was "ironing" a cloth with embroidered flowers in front of them in an action that was also a sound performance.

Some months after I decided to make a corset, so to be able to touch oneself and emit sounds. Faithful to my then lack of interest in wearing interactive devices, I ended up placing it next to the flower cloth, so to first “iron” the latter device, then emitting familiar yet dissonant piano tunes, and then touching the conductive applications of the former (some butterflies) that would emit extreme noise.

One thing became immediately clear: in order to be able to develop the interest I always had to explore sound and to present it to others, I would have to design my own sound instruments. Somewhat knowledgeable on Max MSP by then, and thanks to a small circuit lent by Leonardo Camacho, I came up with a very simple noise generating patch including a virtual MIDI keyboard, and a rhythmic beat/noise generator. Both the applications in the cloth and the corset were textile buttons, one activated by manually pressing the butterfly button patches, and the other when closing the circuit with the iron. Since then, I have been interested in questioning the approach to live sound concerts, what is expected from and by the performer, the type of equipment/instruments/electronics one is assumed to have on stage, and what the audience expects (movements, expressions, modes to interact with its sound devices) to see and listen when in a concert or gig, even if, personally, I never take my own presentations as such: these are always performances, in the more formal artistic sense.