The New York Times has featured Di Mainstone as one of the “new generation visionaries” in the international digital-arts scene. Di collaborates with researchers from Queen Mary University of London where she is artist in residence to create new musical instruments that are inspired by the body – transforming physical movement into sound.
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Imagined on the Brooklyn Bridge by Di Mainstone and launched in partnership with Queen Mary University of London, Human Harp is a clip-on instrument that transforms suspension bridges into giant harps. Now an international collaboration, the Human Harp team are exploring ways to record, process and release the frequencies of suspension cables, enabling pedestrians to literally “play the bridge”.
A woman’s internal thoughts extrude through the surface of her skin in the form of words and numbers. As she sleeps her tear ducts weep numbers. These abstract equations spell out a story, whilst playfully growing and moulding themselves around her body until sinking back into her skin.
Hydrocordion was installed in Dublin Science Gallery in September 2011 for 3 months as pert of the Surface Tension Exhibition, where it was seen by over 75,000 visitors. The piece has since been installed in New York at Eyebeam Centre for Art and Technology as part of the World Science Fair. The piece received an incredible amount of media attention.
Shuttleflock is a collaboration between Di Mainstone and Hollie Miller. The ideas was to create a sound sculpture out of a shuttlecock! Di found a job-lot of 1970s shuttlecocks in a local shop close to her studio. She decided that they would make an interesting interactive sound instrument. She and Hollie embedded spherical magnets into each shuttlecock and made a metal helmet for them to stick to which they embedded inside of a 1950s swimming hat. The idea was that the contact of each shuttlecock to Hollie’s head would trigger an unexpected sound. Tim Murray Brown provided the sounds and they made a short film in collaboration with Toby Summerskill and Sam Edwards.
Concept Holipopheads is a collaboration between Di Mainstone and Hollie Miller. The concept is of a wearable portrait. A girl appears in a space with a suitcase. She opens it to reveal a collection of intriguing paraphernalia. She pulls each piece out and they release a sound. She pulls out a mirror which has a negative cutout of a profile. The girl slides it on her head and we realise that this is a portrait of her profile. She moves through the space triggering sounds and creating unusual reflections of her own profile – sometimes her face looks thin and sometimes wide. Some times she looks cross eyed. Once the mirror is on her head, we hear inside her brain. Her thoughts are jumbled and complex. Ideas laid on top of thoughts.
Di Mainstone and Tim Murray Browne were commissioned to create Serendiptichord for 2009 Creativity & Cognition, Berkeley Art Museum, California. .The piece was funded by Queen Mary University of London. The result of a cross-disciplinary investigation spanning fashion, technology, music and dance, the Serendiptichord is a wearable musical instrument that entices the user to explore a soundscape through touch and movement. This curious device is housed in a bespoke box and viewed as part of a performance. Unpacked and explored on and around the body, the Serendiptichord only reveals its full potential through the intrepid curiosity of its wearer. Adhering to the body like an extended limb, this device is best described as choreophonic prosthetic. Referencing the architectural silhouette of a musical instrument and the soft fabrication of fashion and upholstery, it is designed to entice the wearer to explore its surface through touch, physical manipulation and expressive movement. Although this acoustic device can be mastered alone, it also holds subtle openings for group interaction.
Di Mainstone and Adam Stark were commissioned to create this performance for an event at The National Portrait Gallery. This wearable interactive electro‐mechanical instrument titled ‘Atmospheric Railway’ was inspired by a portrait of 19th Century civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was famed for constructing engineering icons such as Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Great Western Railway. Whilst investigating his portfolio of work, the duo were mesmerized by the mysterious and unresolved Atmospheric Railway. This novel mode of travel involved carriages propelled by air pressure in pneumatic tubes. Brunel’s visionary design was blighted with problems and was eventually closed after rats nibbled away at the seals that kept the carriage‐cylinder airtight. Sadly, this was the end for Brunel’s ‘atmospheric caper’ a project that many felt was too costly and outlandish.
Combining graffiti, fashion, technology and performance, Vi-Regalia was created as part of Di’s residency at Eyebeam Centre for art and technology in New York City. An exploration of the body through architectural space; Vi-Regalia discovers the hidden narratives that lurk within the everyday. This series of fragmented 2-dimensional structures are left in public spaces, for serendipitous encounters, enticing the inquisitive to touch and play. Transformable, they merge with the urban landscape, growing up the wall or spilling onto the pavement, scaring the land like acid coloured lichen.
Peggy-Sue is a tessellated 2 dimensional structure that can be applied to the neck, waist and head. The piece can be stored on the wall and applied to the body to create inspiring 3D shapes that transform, morph and redefine the human form. A playful structure Peggy-Sue encourages interaction and play.
An exploration of the body within architectural space; Vi-Rigami is a soft tessellated 2 dimensional structure. Found on the wall and applied to the body, Vi-Rigami can be folded and transformed to morph and redefine the human form. Inspired by the art of origami, this playful structure entices the inquisitive to interact; it can be explored alone or with friends.
Like a tortoise we carry our worldly possessions on our back, never lost because we are always at home. Sharewear, a set of modular dresses, explore this concept, investigating the need for homely connectivity in an increasingly hard-edged world. Citing familiar homely furniture, Sharewear creates a playful in-between place amid private and shared space. Worn by identical twins as part of a performance, the dresses are housed in crates, unpacked and assembled on and around the body. They link, divulge and peel apart to offer glimpses of hidden interiors. Sharewear invites both wearers and audience to, get close, interact, morph space, manipulate light and cast shadows.
Skorpions are a set of kinetic electronic garments that move and change on the body in slow, organic motions. They breathe and pulse, controlled by their own internal programming. They are not “interactive” artifacts insofar as their programming does not respond to simplistic sensor data. They have intentionality; they are programmed to live, to exist, to subsist. They are living behavioral kinetic sculptures that exploit characteristics such as control, anticipation and unpredictability. They have their own personalities, their own fears and desires.
This sonic installation comprises of wearable-sculptures that connect to the body, playfully transforming physical movement into music. The WHIMSICHORD is a wearable interactive musical installation that will react to the movement and touch of users (or Movicians) responding with sound. We have coined the term ‘Movician’ to describe this hybrid act of composition and choreography. WHIMSICHORD comprises of striking spring-like modules that are connect to a series of fixed landing-pads via retractable chords. Each component can be plucked from its landing-pad and attached to the Movician in a myriad of ways. Our soft sculptures are specially designed around the body to seamlessly grip to the Movician as they traverse space and interact with the piece to produce music. As Movicians connect to the modules they will draw elegant lines from the surrounding architecture onto to the body. These strings can be twanged to produce sound, and each participant will become a human string instrument.