ITP Spring Show 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2-6pm & Monday, May 11, 5-9 pm

Diana Costa

Blossom Jacket

Blossom Jacket is a garment meant to create awareness of openness between strangers in a subtle way. Through visual and symbolic stimulation it creates enchantment, interest and possible interaction.

Wearables Studio,When Strangers Meet

My prototype will be a black jacket made with a soft fabric in order to be embroidered. The needlework will be several lines representing flowers branches, that alone would seem very cold and austere, like a tree that loses all it's leaves during the winter. Still, the image of the branches to be aesthetically beautiful even by it self.
Besides the branches, there will be several thermal ink blossom flowers embroidered by the end of each branch. They would be invisible while the heat is not activated; the petals that are closer to branch will be colored specifically to be appear first than the petals that are further away from the center of flower. What i want by that is to make the flowers blossom slowly and gradually, and in the most realistic way possible. That means that the flowers would blossom from inside out, as it should be. I want also to have several mini surface. Thats what it is, at the end, the seed must be planted, cultivated and influenced by the right conditions to grow beautiful and strong flowers, it's a bless from nature!
There will be one PIR sensors embroidered at the back of the jacket, by the hight and place of the shoulders that will be trigged when another person gets near it. When the sensor is triggered it will heat the peltier junctions that will change the colors of the petals, they will become neon orange visible, for the viewer pays attention to the transformation.
I was very concept influenced by the Cosmopolis and ideas of Georg Simmel, that talks a lot about the interactions between strangers, how they should be in the same spatial boundaries to be considered as such and thus creating involvement with each other. But still, it is very rare for people nowadays to really get to know an unknown person, because of our modern, stressful and distrustful way of life, we pass by each other with complete indifference. Simmel defines sociability as, "the play-form of association" driven by, "amicability, breeding, cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds." Therefore, thats my goal with the Blossom Jacket, to make people interact, or at least make they think about in a very pretty and delicate way, what a person can bring to one another, the possibilities of something to flourish when two people get to know each other, what could come out of that seed. The possiblities are infinite! By visually realizing that it is YOU that is making the person's in front of you jacket to change, to give life to flowers, you will at least find it interesting. That interest could lead to admiration and hopefully to interaction unprovided of any bad or selfish intentions; as Simmel would say "bring about among themselves a pure interaction free of any disturbing material accent" and "a symbolic play, in whose aesthetic charm all the finest and most highly sublimated dynamics of social existence and its riches are gathered.
Aesthetically i was influenced by Mouna Andraos's Friends, Hosts and Parasites project, that i find really interesting and beautiful. And i should also say that the beauty and mistery of nature is my deepest inspiration.
One could wear the jacket in a social environment, walking through the city or in closed places. There are no much objections around that. Where there are another people, unknown people, it will be good to wear the jacket. Otherwise, you could wear it among people you already know just for the sake of its beauty...

I was very inspired by the notion of Cosmopolitanism, the idea that all humanity belongs to a single community, possibly based on a shared morality. This idea of individuals from varying locations, strangers to each other, enter relationships of mutual respect despite their differing beliefs can be traced back to Ancient Greece, where the Stoics typically stressed that each human being “dwells […] in two communities – the local community of our birth, and the community of human argument and aspiration”. The task of world citizens becomes then to “make all human beings more like our fellow city dwellers, and so forth”; identifying ourselves as concentric circles, the first one around the self, next immediate family, extended family, local group, citizens, countrymen, humanity. Meaning, a citizen of the world that does not think about himself isolated from the community.
Besides the Greeks, a few other thinkers of our generation have also thought about the idea of living among strangers in big cities, how does urban dwellers relate to one another nowadays, what are the conditions that makes us act in certain egoistic ways towards each other, the importance of the streets in this scenario, the public space, and eventually, how could we achieve the idealistic Cosmopolis.
City dwellers, or visitors of the city are in everyday contact with a diversity of faces, languages, smell, ads, shops arrays, races, ethnicities, class locations, ages and sexualities. As sociologist Sophie Watson would say, difference is what a city life is all about. This idea sounds very appealing and promising but still, our egoistic, stressful, hurried way of living brings in fact a segregation, division, exclusion, threat and boundaries. We, actual city dwellers, are not so prompt to mixing, even though we have all the condition for it, we walk by each other every day with complete indifference; instead, we create antagonism, fear and exclusion.
Sociologist Richard Sennet says that each person, withdraw into himself, behave as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all others. His children and his good friends constitute for him the whole of the human species. As for his transactions with his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but he sees them not, he touches them, but does not feel them, he exists only in himself and for himself alone. And if one of these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society. It seems to me that things have gone out of track somewhere along the way.
The goal with my project is to take one step closer to the Cosmopolis, bringing security and comfort amidst strangers. The project is a jacket (The Blossom Jacket) that will bring visual stimulation by the presence of others, but no identification with them.
As Benhabib puts it:
“Human identities can be formed only through webs of interlocution…. The individual can be seen to have a “right” – that is, a morally justifiable claim of some sort – to the recognition by others of structures of interlocution within which he or she articulates an identity, only if it is also accepted that each individual is equally worthy of equal treatment and respect. Cultures are not fixed and given, but fluid, shifting and contested. So too are identities.”
By this idea of fluidity I though about creating a wearable piece with a “fluid” message on the back, that would be triggered by a third party, supposedly a stranger, so the piece becomes also a structure of interlocution, reinforcing the idea of community. In a deeper sense, I make an analogy of the visual stimulation that the jacket will bring, with the very possibilities an individual can bring to one another. In the back of the garment will be embroidered green branch flowers, that looks more like a leafless trees in the winter; for the person that is looking at it will get an austere sense of solitude and coldness, relating to the person who is walking alone. This first impression is crucial for the transformation that comes ahead. When someone is walking behind the person that’s wearing the jacket, as he gets closer there will become to blossom flowers out of the branches, with bright colors so the stranger would really notice the difference. The flexible shape of the flower that becomes visible when someone is around, symbolizes the differences that should be encouraged to flourish in the Cosmopolis.
The flower is a metaphor of what unacquainted people can bring to one another. The seeds need the rights elements with the right conditions to come together in order for it to grow. Just like the weather and physical boundaries, that also affects each and every human being at the same way. If the conditions are proper, than two people could meet, and out of this interaction beautiful and unexpected things can happen, like a flower in bloom. Each element, person, has it’s own purpose in life, and every element or person altogether means a higher unity, the community.
The Public space is all about openness and porosity: “a blurring of the boundaries, a permeability where differences can collide and rub up against each other, even while the other is recognized as different” . As Jane Jacobs says, streets and their sidewalks, the main public spaces of a city, are its most vital organs. Therefore, I assume that the jacket will be more effective if the people who wear it, walk on the streets. And that’s where I aim it to be wore because If a city’s street look interesting, the city looks interesting; if they look dull, the city looks dull. If someone says a city is dangerous what they primarily mean is that they do not feel safe on the sidewalks. And as they fear them, they use them less, which makes the streets still more unsafe. Sidewalks, their bordering uses, and their users, are active participants in the drama of civilization versus barbarism in cities. By people wearing the jacket will be a warm welcoming for people to use the streets!
A lively street always has both its users and pure watchers. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant secession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance. The exact message the Blossom Jacket brings, it does not change, flourish, happen by its individual part but assembles distinctive parts, someone else, which miracously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole; the flower to bloom, like an intricate ballet.
Kahn (1987: 12) – “Cities are to be judge by their welcome.”
As the responses to the jacket will probably be very different, it brings new improvisations every time to the user. It is possible that it will not cause physical interaction between the user and the viewer, but the most important is that it creates awareness. It’s an subtle invitation, a stimulation to perceive others as a part of the same community you belong to. Thus creating enchantment and possible acts or thoughts of transformation. Serendipity based on the rules of nature. It is important to say that the the Blossom Jacket is by any means intrusive, if the viewer does like to be bothered, that’s his own choice because the essence of good city planning is to balance people’s desire for privacy with their desire for differing degrees of contact to one another.
If the stranger is the product of an arrival which has both spatial and temporal dimensions, the arrival of a stranger is perceived as a threat to an existing ‘socio-spatial and socio-temporal sense of place and identity’.
Than, the goal of the Blossom Jaquet is to break that threat by making borders and boundaries more porous, insisting on some right to hospitality and sharing. In order to create a more open environment, city dwellers need a “the play-form of association” driven by, “amicability, breeding, cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds.” - “the vitality of real individuals, in their sensitivities and attractions, in the fullness of their impulses and but a symbol of life, as it shows itself in the flow of a lightly amusing play,” (Georg Simmel).
Dillon(1999:95) “Strangement is… an object whose essence may be captured in a concept.
(Sibley 1995: 15) “the self and the world are split into good and bad objects, and the bad self, the self associated with fear and anxiety over the loss of control, is projected onto bad objects. Fear precedes the construction of the bad objects, the negative stereotype, but the sterotype – simplified, distorted and at a distance – perpetuates that fear.”
By wearing the jacket, the user could be no longer acknowledged as a stranger, since the concept captured by those who experience the blooming flower is one of openness and amicability, and that would be the stereotype the user will be judged of, a friendly, creative being.
It is known that human beings are strongly influenced by each other, given the human brain’s amazing capacity for imitation learning and mind reading using mirror neurons. Perhaps any major “innovation” happens because of fortuitous coincidence of environmental circumstances – usually at a single place and time. By that concept I aim to influence people to be more open and caring about others when they see the Blossom Jacket, recognize themselves as being the actor in that situation and be inspired by the courage of the user to be in such a vulnerable position of openness. The acceptance of the user is very important also, as this person may be willing to be in a position of porosity and judgment.
What openness involve? Being open to surprise, change and indeterminacy in relations with ourselves and others, thereby refusing to fix one’s own identity, or identities of others, in advance of encounters with them.
Differences should be encouraged to flourish in the Cosmopolis. Those who will not acknowledge their togetherness are not only seeking to scape the urban, they are also threatening its very existence. Common ground as a community of strangers. The dream of Cosmopolis is the dream of a city where the actions of planers and citizens are informed by cosmopolitan ethic of hospitality and/or openness.
The user has also to be willing to be an adventurer, since he would be put in situations out of his routine. Georg Simmel describes an adventure: the most general form of adventure is its dropping out of the continuity of life. He will also need to have investment to what he is doing, for it is the line of connection between performer and their task. Investment draws the others in. To be at risk in it to be exposed by it. Investment happens when we’re hitting new ground, where we don’t quite know, where we cant quite say, where we feel compromised, complicit, bound up, with out recourse to an easy position. The user has to contain himself and the strangers in some strange and perhaps unspeakable way; be engaged by the unknown. Otherwise, no one will get it.
Finally, I could say that the the Blossom Jacket will stimulate people to be more open to one another, will create awareness to the fact that we are all part of the same unity, and yes, each one of us matters. By this work of art I want to enhance the acceptance of, connection with, and respect and space for the ‘the stranger’, the possibility of working together on matter of common destiny and forging new hybrid cultures and urban projects and ways of living. (Kurt Iveson). That’s the dream os Cosmopolis. The city dwellers will be perceived as interfering in the other, and what comes out of it is a beautiful image, maybe one of the most beautiful creatures nature provided us, the flower. That will construct a site of mind, a kind of social imaginary designed to offer both grounds for critique and inspirations for alternatives. The Blossom Jacket might give to the Cities way to more radically uncertain and explicitly humanitarian identifications.
Weber places disenchantment as the at the center of modernity in his description of the modern, rational, routinished, bureaucratized, and secularized society where life is increasingly impersonal and mystery and magic have no place. So, the Jacket comes to give a little excitement, color, and mystery to the lives of urban people.
I will get the wanted result by essence of association - “through which a unity is made,” which Simmel also refers to as, “the free-playing, interacting interdependence of individuals.” The stranger will read the message, “the flowers blooming in another person’s clothing because of me” and associate it with sympathy and invitation, through a free playing by no means intrusive form. It will be up to the viewer if he wants to act upon it or not, but I can assure that at least he is going to think about it even a little bit because there is a reciprocal influence of individuals upon one another’s actions when in one another’s immediate physical presence.
If the public realm can be characterized by an idea of the richer types of relationship that are possible amongst strangers and complexity and richness of impartial relations in public is lost, the realm of politics becomes that of assumed intimacy and the cult of personality. Similarly if the open and unpredictable spaces of the city are lost, the potential for sociality in the city is also lost.
The Blossom Jacket contributes for the complexity, surprise and disorder in creating spaces conductive to spontaneous co-mingling of strangers. The more multifunctional spaces of the city offer opportunities for role playing and perfomativity, a theater of public life- a teatro mundi- which by design is more attuned to the question of difference and make(s) the question of difference concrete.
Richness of information flow and facilitation of feedback. These features have enough structuring significance to provide one analytical rationale for the separate treatment this report gives to the social norms regulating behavior of persons immediately present to one another. When persons are present to one another they can function not merely as physical instruments but also as communicative ones. What could one bring to one another?
A final basis of exposure (openness) may be mentioned. An individual’s action can create a need in others that exposes them to engagement. Information about the individual helps to define the situation, enabling other to know in advance what he will expect of them and what they may expect of him. So, the Blossom Jacket will offer that openness that will expose the viewers to engagement in a situation defined as friendly and welcoming.

Open city dwellers

User Scenario
Metro station, walking on the streets, waiting in line