Psymbiote Project and SIGGRAPH Cyberfashion Show

performance persona, cyborg apparatus, large-scale wearable technology show

Functional costume elements and wearable technology allow performance artist Isa Gordon to become Psymbiote, placing herself in a conceptual terrain at the collision of bodies and machines, exploring the mutation of her own identity through transformation of the body. The project seeks to transfigure the artist into a seductive human/machine hybrid with functional systems. Psymbiote’s costume incorporates autonomous sensing and display as expressive medium: one custom LED display reveals her heart beat and another visually amplifies her voice. The costume has also been occasionally augmented with a full wearable computing system and head-mounted optical display developed by Thad Starner, allowing the artist to transparently read her extensive performance texts during live events.

Psymbiote discusses issues raised by the ongoing redefinition of our bodies, highlighting some of the contemporary critical discourse surrounding cyborgs and all forms of human/technology integration. In 2002, Isa was invited to produce a fashion-technology event at the annual SIGGRAPH Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. From 2002 through 2005 the SIGGRAPH Cyberfashion Show became the premier showcase for international innovation in wearable technology. Psymbiote performed as Master of Ceremonies, and through her narration helped to contextualize the many projects and products exhibited on the runway. The Cyberfashion Show became the vehicle by which the artist could use Psymbiote to stimulate public dialogue regarding the technological enhancements that are being woven so intimately into our lives.

Funded in Part by a Creative Research Fellowship from Arizona State University’s Institute for Studies in the Arts

Psymbiote website
Cyberfashion website

Isa Gordon: Concept, research, texts, technology development, performance; event production and curation
Jesse Jarrell: jewelry sculpting and titanium casting, laser-cut latex costume
DEvan Brown: Voice collar and hardware fabrication
Thad Starner: wearable computer and head-mounted display
SIGGRAPH Studio & Cyberfashion Crew: A/V and production support

Top: Psymbiote v4 (2005, photo by Greg Passmore); Bottom: Psymbiote beta, with pedipalp (2001, photo by beki b)
Psymbiote hosts the 2005 SIGGRAPH CyberFashion Show, photo by Karl Lang
Psymbiote at London Rubberball 2003, photo by Marc Bennett
Psymbiote performs at London Rubberball 2004, photo courtesy Getty Images
Evolution at SIGGRAPH, clockwise from top left: 2002, 2003, 2004 (photos by Tiger Lee), 2005 (photo by Brandon Porter)
Psymbiote hosts the 2004 SIGGRAPH CyberFashion Show, photo by Tiger Lee
Psymbiote hosts the 2004 SIGGRAPH CyberFashion Show, photo by Tiger Lee
detail of titanium data glove, design by Jesse Jarrell, photo by Lukas Zpira

Below: Psymbiote: Exploring a Cyborg Body, documentary short by Marjorie Kaye and Isa Gordon (2008, 6 min 44 sec)

Below: Psymbiote Speaks, short by Isa Gordon (2002, 4 min 44 sec)