Despina Papadopoulos

Part II: Embodied Companion & Hybrid Materialities, Rhythm & Pauses

embodied companion is a project developed in collaboration with Umbrellium and funded by the HDI Network,

Embodied Companionship explores markers of aliveness and the potential for affective relationships with algorithmically driven technological artifacts. We are developing a handwoven hybrid material, using conductive yarns that can be selectively heated while the metal in the conductive yarns gives a sculptural form to the fabric, making it moldable and pliable, serving as a metaphor for the sculpturality and plasticity of the body and mind alike. Here, the material becomes the metaphor, which in turn opens up new possibilities of thought as experienced in the body.

The same conductive yarns connect the overall surface to a micro-controller (Arduino) that runs a machine learning gesture recognition model, where different gestures activate varying degrees of heat on the fabric, producing a pleasant murmur of heat on the skin, or at other times an almost burning sensation. What we hope to create here is a sort of exquisite corpse conversation between the algorithmic reading of gesture and the responsive heated surface, and with the variations of the heat create a fabric that feels unexpectedly capricious and complex in its responsiveness, holding an aliveness of sorts in it – the question here is if a kind of adaptive relationship between machine and human can take place, inspired by cybernetics, and now explored on the body. Starting with beat and vibration, pauses and rhythm, we propose new types of bodily experiences and a future way of sharing and connecting both to our own bodies and with technology.

In both cases, the fabric on its own as a surface pregnant with new material potentialities, and in the more multilayered experimentation with machine learning, gesturality and the possibility of an affective relationship with a technological artifact, the main hypothesis is that material configurations that crossover practices, aesthetics and modalities and which behave in unexpected ways, can usher new paradigms of being in the world, and hopefully ones that are more elastic in their view of technology, the human body and the relationship between the two.