YING GAO'S ROBOTIC DRESSES

Clothing that reacts to fingerprints, the human gaze and even to changes in environmental light... Ying Gao's world is full of clothes that are much more than just that: they are a direct expression of the wearer's personality.

In 2011, the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec hosted the Ying Gao: Art, Fashion and Technology exhibition. That was the exact moment when the name and surname of this Montreal designer became of public interest... Because of a dozen robotic dresses (which she prefers to call autonomous) whose origami-inspired constructions seemed to breathe, reacting to the presence of spectators. Then, in 2013, Gao went even further creating a pair of dresses covered with luminous filaments similar to those of jellyfish that, thanks to the use of micro cameras specialized in eye recognition, could reveal if someone was watching them, moving accordingly in a sinuous and hypnotic manner.

It seems that Ying Gao's imaginary was already established at that time: the interest of this Canadian artist and designer focuses on the use of technology to bring to the real world the idea that clothing, after all, doesn't consist only of pieces of fabric... But it is rather a direct expression of our personality and how we interact with the environment. A principle that had already been completely defined in 2017, when Gao presented The Possible Tomorrow, a series of clothes that writhed when someone touched them for the first time, but only for the first time. This was the trick: the clothes’ entire surface was covered in sensors that analyzed the fingerprints of anyone who touched them. The first time, they were detected as foreign footprints and the dresses reacted accordingly. But at the same time those fingerprints were saved on a memory, and if detected again, the dresses no longer reacted. In the same way that we drop our emotional barriers when we already know someone.

And here we are in the present. Year 2020. Ying Gao recently presented her new project: Flowing Water, Standing Time. A new collection of autonomous clothes that use sensors again, but this time, the idea is that the clothes react both to people and to the light and colors of the environment surrounding them. The human body is no longer the main focus of this artist, who now goes further and draws inspiration from the work of the neurologist Oliver Sacks and his patient Jimmy G, a former marine whose trauma caused him to recede intermittently to his nineteen-self. A metaphor for the extreme metamorphosis that human personality can reach... And the awareness that Gao's clothes are perhaps not designed to be worn on the street, but they say much more about us than those by the most contemporary designers.