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Smart textiles promote mindfulness

Marie O’Mahony

Celebrating neurodiversity at the London Design Biennale 2023.

6th June 2023

Marie O'Mahony
 |  London


At the London Design Biennale, Amelia Peng’s ‘Music-Mind-Textile’ offers visitors an immersive experience that promotes mindfulness and inner peace.  Peng is a Textiles MA student at the Royal College of Art (RCA), where individual and collaborative practice are both encouraged.

To realise the work, Peng sought expertise across a wide range of disciplines, from her professors and textile technicians at the RCA to neuroscientists, art therapists, medical doctors and experts in data science. The work is a collaboration with music composers and musicians from the Royal College of Music, the Specialist Modelling Group at architects Foster + Partners, and specialist weavers Dreamlux in Milan, making this a truly collaborative endeavour.

‘Music-Mind-Textile’ is inspired by the theoretical physicist, Michio Kaku’s book ‘The Future of the Mind’ (2014) as Peng looks to guide her audience on an emotional journey to rediscover peace within humanity. 

She also points to the United Nations Social Development Goals (SDG) for 2030, with her project mission to bring social awareness through art, music and design for a sustainable future.

Amelia Peng’s ‘Music-Mind-Textile’ installed at Somerset House with musicians from the Royal College of Music playing live on the opening night of the London Design Biennale. Aaron Hargreaves / Foster + Partners

Visitors to the installation at the Nelson Stair in Somerset House first catch a glimpse of the work on the approach down the long corridors as the undulating-coloured lights offer a hint of what is to come. 

The five-storey stair was originally built in the late 18th century to a design by Sir William Chambers, it was destroyed during the Blitz in World War II, then reconstructed in the 1950s under the supervision of Sir Alfred Richardson following the original plans that had fortuitously been kept at Sir John Soane’s House (now museum) walking distance away in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Visitors entering the stairwell area are presented with the smart textile measuring an impressive 10m in length and 3m wide, as it stretches up through the floors framed by the historic stairwell and architecture features as they spiral around it.

The textile combines two fabrics sandwiched together, that have been jacquard woven at Dreamlux. Both layers use fibre optics woven in the weft of a fine organza allowing the colour changes to show through, both in the front and the reverse that is visible walking up the stairs.

Different patterns appear on both with a single rather than repeat pattern is used through the full length of the fabric. This allows for a seamless undulation of the light as it changes, ripple-like as it moves both up and down the length of material. This creates a waterfall effect, evoking the calming effect of water.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to wear a MUSE headset that is used to record their brain waves as they listen to live or pre-recorded music. The MUSE headband from uses electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to detect brain activity and provide the wearer with real-time audio feedback to reduce stress and improve mediation and sleep.

At the installation the headband wearer’s brain waves are visually expressed through light changes appearing on the back layer of the textile as they listen to music. The front textile layer is programmed to respond to the music that has been specially composed for the work by composers at the Royal College of Music. Live performances are being scheduled during the biennale and it has also been pre-recorded to allow the music to be streamed at all other times.

The London Design Biennale is being held at Somerset House, London from 1-25th June 2023 - The biennale talk ‘Threads of Mindful Innovation’ exploring many of the issues highlighted by ‘Music-Mind-Textile’ is being held on Thursday 8th June from 1-2pm.

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