Nov 18, 2009
Lynn Bennett-Carpenter is a fiber artist based in Detroit. Her work is often interactive, often site-specific, and a number of pieces are wearable, neither proper clothing nor purely functional tools. I asked her specifically about pieces from her "Fittings" series, and from her "Elastic Experiment" works.
"At first I made these pieces to see if I could create an artistic experience based solely on the sense of touch," she said. I'm fascinated by the way the works are so tied to the body, but in unexpected ways—turning off the more dominant senses and engaging the skin and proprioception.
When I first saw Lynn's work, I immediately thought of TheraSuits, a new technology in use for children with developmental/motor challenges. Originally designed by Russian astronautics researchers, intended to counter the effects of weightlessness in space, the suits are a universal, wearable system:
Lynn wasn't working with adaptive tech in mind, but you can see here the crossover between practicality and play.
Lynn's works have such great ambiguity—they're elastic, so they constrain and confine the wearer one moment, just as they stretch and enhance the body's movement the next. And it's almost like they make the physics of movement suddenly visible—all those relationships among limbs, all the body's weights and counterweights.
As the "fittings" evolved, Lynn says they became "more interactive with the body itself, shaping movement. The sense of touch informs the way the body moves within the fittings—as the body pushes against the elastic limit, and its subsequent release."
Lynn worked with the Kingswood Dance Studio, under the direction of Kay Rediers, to create pieces as part of a collaboration and performance this past May.
The intricacy of the pieces made the very process of donning them itself part of the work, Lynn told me. "I know when the dancers were working with my pieces, it was not always easy for them—even just to figure out how to get in and out of them, or what way was the 'right' or 'wrong' way to wear them. But as I watched them or helped them, I found these moments just as meaningful as the final piece."
All images this post, except where noted, copyright Marcelyn Bennett-Carpenter.