Get smart

A new show at Edinburgh’s recently reopened Fruitmarket Gallery has convinced Gill Roth that by 2010 she’ll be decked out in smart clothes, glad rags that will actually think for themselves. Move over Barbarella and pass the smart bra.

Never mind ‘l'm too sexy for my shirt’ ‘am I brainy enough for my bra?‘ is more to the point. Try getting your mind around the idea of a bra that is ‘smart’ enough to remember your breast size, a roofing system that measures your pulse rate and decides whether it should adopt soothing, lively or aggressive mannerisms according to your mood and a carpet that can identify you. These are not sci-fr fantasies but the cutting edge of recent developments in the field of textiles.

Marie O’Mahony and Sarah Braddock are the exhibition curators of 2010-textiles and believe the work highlights the dramatic effects of investigations into synthetic/natural components and computer- aided design and manufacture, along with an understanding of the broader nature of textiles. ‘Textiles are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. It‘s very different from how we are used to thinking about clothes and upholstery,‘ says Marie. The consequences of new technology upon the industry has meant the traditional boundaries of textile use and design are becoming redundant. ‘There’s a very experimental approach in how to

Marvel Comic’s Iron Man had a suit of flexible iron alloy and Superman had his suit with inbuilt powers of strength. Today we have the technology to provide cloth as strong as steel and metallised tabrlcs as soft as silk.

build textiles now and it's proof that traditional methods like weaving and printing can coexist happily with new technology,’ says Marie.

A good example of the leap of imagination taking place in the textile industry is Reiko Sudo's work, some of which was inspired by processes used in the Japanese car industry. Her stainless steel embossed fabric conjures up images of heavy metal material but the result is a delicate polyester taffeta finely sprayed with stainless steel and then embossed with a pattern.

New technology has allowed many properties in textiles to be improved. Elements such as fibres, chemicals, ceramics and metals which have limited use on their own become very useful when combined. Fabrics are being deveIOped with specific functions. ranging from light-sensitive and anti-static to anti-bacterial and thermo-chromic. Marvel Comic’s Iron Man had a suit of flexible iron alloy ar 1 Superman had his suit with inbuilt powers of

Work by Maria Blaisse, who leads the new movement in textile design using laminates. synthetic foams and here. silver spheres

strength. Today we have the technology to provide cloth as strong as steel and metallised fabrics as soft as silk. Du Pont’s ‘Thermo Man‘ sports a suit of Nornex Delta T which although makes him look a complete geek, protects him against temperatures of over 350 degrees centigrade.

2010 covers art. craft. design. architecture. fashion, science and engineering worldwide. There‘s stainless steel woven into a flexible herringbone. suitable for furniture. Children‘s tables and chairs made of a soft. pliable urethane that allows the designs to be used as toys as well as furniture. Textile roofs that are naturally lit and incorporate warm air snow-melt systems. They are made with material of very low combustibility and used for covering sports stadiums, airports and retail stores. These modern membrane structures are a world away from traditional tent designs associated with desert nomads and uncomfortable camping holidays but, according to Chris McCarthy. a consultant engineer. the future is fabric. ‘lt’s the plastic layer behind the concrete that makes a building waterproof. the granite is just a covering that inspires confidence because of its solid appearance. The sooner the public becomes used to the idea of flexible buildings made of a material that is much more durable. less brittle. and better equipped to deal with temperature changes the better.‘ Chris believes that the exhibition is important because technology desperately needs the input of artists. ‘lt's their imagination that will help change ideas about how we live and communicate the potential of materials and the ways they can be used.‘

Increased consumer awareness as well as strict new EC and international regulations about chemical washing and how fabrics are produced has forced the textile industry to help provide solutions to some of the problems caused by chemical pollution. Luisa Cevesa's cotton and silk bag is made entirely from industrial waste and came about through ajoint venture with Mantero Seta. one of Italy's main silk producers. A research centre was set up to look at ways of recycling the vast quantities of selvage. the

= edge'ofthe cloth which is wasted during production

in their silk factories. However. although the industry is willing. the processes ofcreating ‘green‘ materials from worthless refuse like plastics. old rags. and discarded paper still remains the tool of a few individual designers.

Reclaimed and recycled fabrics are also featured in the work of Maria Blaise. a Netherlands textile designer. Her famous ‘Flexicaps'. originally made from the inner tube of a truck tyre look like rubber fruit bowls. But this concept in futuristic hats. created from a one-cut basic concave and convex rubber forms led Maria to design a hat collection for lssey

‘The sooner the public becomes used to the idea of flexible buildings made of a material that is much more durable, less brittle, and better equipped to deal with temperature changes the better.’

Miyake and suggested a whole new departure for moulded. one-piece clothing. Maria‘s main interest is how textiles relate to the human body and her work crosses easily between fashion and costume design for dance companies and opera productions. ‘Dancers often don‘t know about design and designers don't know about dance. I wanted to bring the two together.‘ Maria’s exploration into the effects of heat on thermoplastics and non-woven fabrics has resulted in some bizarre creations that are a collaboration with textile students in Germany. ‘If you explore the properties of a fabric it all goes back to nature.‘ she says. ‘Reduce a material to its bare components to find out how it's put together and you‘ll discover it's based on natural laws which are connected to growth and movement.‘

20/ 0: Barri/es and New Technology is at The Fruirmurkel Gallery Sul 15 Apr—Sal IO Jun.

‘64 The List 7-20 Apr 1995