Skin that wears: body-site as a context for designing wearable artefacts

Handcock, T 2014, Skin that wears: body-site as a context for designing wearable artefacts, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Fashion and Textiles, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Skin that wears: body-site as a context for designing wearable artefacts
Author(s) Handcock, T
Year 2014
Abstract This research investigates ‘body-sites’ as a situational context for designing and encountering wearable artefacts in relation to the phenomenological body. As a body-site, skin is a probable location for experiences and practices of dress, including adornment with wearable artefacts such as clothing, jewellery, and cosmetics. This research builds a deeper understanding of the potential for wearable artefacts to engage with corporeal and conceptual qualities of skin as a body-site, thereby opening up avenues to create alternative modes of dress.

The body-site is studied through projects that investigate the transformative qualities of skin as it shifts between lived (Leib), object (Körper), and speculative states of being. This gives rise to the conceptual framework of a skin that wears. Produced out of the relationships between skin and dress, a skin that wears is revealed through the projects to be a complex network of intermingling functions: skin is a sensitive and perceptive integument, a physical organ that envelops the human form, and a structure invested with personal and social meaning that can be enhanced through relationships with dress. Over the course of the research, embodied processes including writing, drawing, and making develop as ways to identify and describe qualities of the body-site and a skin that wears.

Through embodied processes, projects reveal that temporal forms of dress can emphasise small details of the body-site by drawing attention to subtle and ephemeral states of skin. It is shown that wearable artefacts can become integrated into body image, act as a medium for imagining alternative states of being, and can visually symbolise social ideas and values. This suggests that dressing skin holds the potential to transform embodied and culturally constituted experiences and understandings of the body. Furthermore, design processes refined through the projects are shown to amplify subjective awareness of the body-site. This reveals opportunities for developing wearable artefacts that could be experienced, attached, and imbued with meaning by interacting with particular qualities of skin.

This PhD forms a precedent ‘skin-based’ model for design practice. It situates the body-site as the locus of an investigation conceptualised through the layered anatomical structure of human skin. In the research this is illustrated through projects that integrate a research topology, which draws together ideas and processes from across different disciplines (such as literature and art), as well as an overlaid research topography that generates knowledge through iterative making and cumulative action. The research projects constitute a critically reflective design practice; ‘skin-based’ inquiry becomes a way to analyse and speculate on alternative ways that skin and wearable artefacts can interact and be given meaning.

Through the PhD my practice and thinking have expanded beyond jewellery and object-based interests by engaging with the potential of a complex and dynamic body-site. This has repositioned my practice within a growing community of theorists and practitioners with skin-based interests that spans across disciplines, contributing toward growing discourse and knowledge around skin as a context for design.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Fashion and Textiles
Keyword(s) design
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Created: Wed, 20 May 2015, 09:28:05 EST by Denise Paciocco
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