The Holy Dress

Melissa Coleman + Leonie Smelt
May 2012

The Holy Dress is a garment that punishes its wearer through an electric shock when a lie is told. The dress is a speculative design imagining what it would be like to wear electronically enhanced clothing to help you stick to your morals. Because it is too easy to lie to yourself, the dress will check on your lies for you. Although the dress punishes, wearing it is not a punishment, but rather a radical new way to train yourself to become a better person. In the Holy Dress technology takes over the function that religion used to have of helping us to live the right way.

The Holy Dress has a speech recognition system that constantly checks for lies. It guesses if you're lying through voice stress analysis, since vocal stress can be an indicator of untruthfulness. While you are talking the dress will light up, growing with intensity as the likelihood of a lie increases. Once the dress has determined it's heard a lie it will fully light up and flicker while it punishes you through an electric shock. The shock has two functions. On the one hand the punishment psychologically cleanses you of your sin, and helps you to forgive yourself, an action that is thought to be key to self-regulation. On the other hand it will train you to be truthful by making it unappealing to tell further lies.

By Melissa Coleman + Leonie Smelt

Photography Sanja Marusic

Hair+makeup Darien Touma

Model Bibiche at Dune Agency

Metalwork Joachim Rotteveel

Thanks to Lex van der Broek, Daniel Schatzmayr

Made with the support of Quartier21 / MQ Vienna

Media Vintage

Melissa Coleman + V2_Lab
August 2009

Media Vintage is a series of interactive electronic textiles that contain memories. Alpha is a suitcase in which you can weave temporary secret messages in Morse code. Bravo is a tapestry that sings a song from long ago when your fingers read the embroidered Braille. Charlie is a trench-coat that reads fabric punchcards and tells you stories from an old man's life.

The project is inspired by an article by Bruce Sterling in The Book of Imaginary Media, in which he points out that new media become obsolete faster than old ones. Media Vintage is critical of the storage of digital data in black boxes, which become inaccessible shortly after another storage medium becomes the norm. It remembers a time when technology was built to last and tries to imagine how digital data storage could be visual, physical and meaningful. In Media Vintage, digital information is physically stored in textiles and read through interaction. The textiles make digital data, which is so abstract and fleeting, readable by both man and machine.

Media Vintage was made during an artist-in-residency at V2_. The project was presented at a Test_Lab Event at the Ars Electronica 2009 and at the Summer Sessions Test_Lab at V2_ in Rotterdam.

Video of the event at V2_

Video of the presentation at CrossLab

Video of the installations at CrossLab

Project page of Media Vintage at V2_

Made with the support of V2_Lab

Special thanks Piem Wirtz, Stan Wannet, Simon de Bakker, Meg Grant, Joachim Rotteveel and George Spindler