When architects Gisue and Mojgan Hariri needed digital material embedded into bodysuits—to be displayed on mannequins of themselves at the January 2005 Milan Triennial exhibition Dressing Ourselves—they turned to James Clar, a New York-based lighting designer whom Gisue describes as a “twenty-first-century artisan.” His solution, Flexgrid, is a bendable low-resolution panel that displays patterns and emoticons.
The Hariris wanted Flexgrid to be a communication channel, so Clar programmed it to display data obtained through microphones and movement sensors. “Patterns become more hectic as the user’s heartbeat accelerates, or if someone yells,” he says. Though noise levels at the exhibition meant it had to be preprogrammed, Clar imagines making Flexgrid more self-ruling by programming animated characters to react to external stimuli. “Then the suit becomes a creature of its own, like a Tamagotchi.”