[ISEA2020] Paper: Jocelyn Ho, Margaret Schedel & Matthew Blessing — Revaluing Women’s Labor through Material Engagement with Musical Instruments Built from Domestic Tools

Abstract (short paper)

Keywords: Music, interaction, embodied cognition, interface, mapping, tools, performance

The Women’s Labor project uses embedded technologies to transform domestic tools into new musical instruments. Traditionally relegated to the private sphere, domesticity is recast in a new light through public engagement and performative spectacle in installations, workshops and performances. Women’s Labor is a multi-stage, ongoing conversation between the public and artists to interrogate issues surrounding feminism and domesticity. In this social activist artistic project, we revalue traditionally unpaid labour of women by placing it in public spotlight and interactivity. These stages are: 1) instrument creation; 2) public installations; 3) community workshops; 4) commissioned compositions by female-identifying composers on the instruments with “female-friendly” historical instruments (clavichord and fortepiano); and 5) public performance of the new compositions with past female composers’ works. The instruments created for Women’s Labor include the Embedded Iron (See Figure) , the Umbrella Rotary Dryer , and the Embroidery Hoop that are in various stages of completion.

This paper focuses on the first completed instrument, the Embedded Iron, a sensor-filled 3D printed clothes iron modeled on an old fashioned coal iron, paired with a wooden ironing board with built-in speakers. The team for Women’s Labor consists of artistic director and project creator, Jocelyn Ho, UX designer and composer, Margaret Schedel, and technical director, Matthew Blessing. With its first sound installation and performance at the UCLA Art-Sci Gallery this year, this paper will discuss the Embedded Iron’s conception and task of bringing light to domesticity through material engagement theory, expanding sentience through tools.

  • Jocelyn Ho’s artistic practice involves the exploration of the relationship between sound, bodily gesture, and culture, as well as the rethinking of the classical music genre through multimedia technologies, inter-disciplinarity, and audience interactivity. She directs inter-disciplinary performance projects involving collaborators from vastly different fields. She is the artistic director and performer of the sold-out music-art-tech concert project Synaesthesia Playground, in which she leads fifteen composers, visual artists, technologists, and fashion designers from all around the world to create an interactive, multimedia experience. Her project Women’s Labor that interrogates domesticity through sound installations and performance has won the Hellman Fellowship, and has been featured at the UCLA Art|Sci Gallery, the 2020 New Interfaces for Music Expression Conference, the 2019 Alliance of Women in Media Arts and Technology Conference, and CCRMA at Stanford. She is an Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at UCLA. schoolofmusic.ucla.edu/people/jocelyn-ho
  • Margaret Anne Schedel is a composer and cellist specializing in the creation and performance of ferociously interactive media. As an Associate Professor of Music at Stony Brook University (USA), she serves as Co-Director of Computer Music and is the Director of cDACT, the consortium for digital art, culture and technology.
  • Matthew Blessing is a composer, guitarist, and music technologist. Due to graduate this summer with a Doctorate in Experimental Music and Digital Media from Louisiana State University (USA), Blessing’s research explores new human-computer interfaces focusing on musical expression.