Fashion Tech Designer and Bionic Pop Artist Team Up to Make Musical Wearable

Viktoria Modesta wearing Sonifica
by Ken Kaplan
Executive Editor
, iQ by Intel

How a bionic pop artist, a fashion tech designer, an architect duo and a prosthetics company teamed up to reshape the future of performing arts.

After years of bringing sci-fi wearable technologies to runways and industry events, designer and Dutch tech-head Anouk Wipprecht decided it was time to create a wearable bustier that turned the body into an instrument. With the help of multi-media performance artist Viktoria Modesta, Sonifica was born.

The name is short for “sonification,” which Wipprecht said is the use of non-speech audio to convey information or “perceptualize” data.

Through the Sonifica project, Modesta and Wipprecht merged art, technology and architecture to create 3D printed interactive sonic wearables, including a sonic bustier and sonified prosthetic leg.

Working with architects Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg from Miami-based Monad Studio and prosthetics innovator LIM Innovations, the team created a new kind of connectivity between sound and the body.

The 3D-printed sonic bustier has long, protruding tusks equipped with sensors and actuators that allow Modesta to modulate the sound of her live performances. Both pieces use open-source hardware and software, embedded with a compute module that recognizes gestures, and a six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope to track movement.

“It allows her to become the instrument and interact spatially and sonically with her environment,” said Wipprecht.

Wipprecht and Monad Studio’s Goldemberg worked on the tusk bodice over several months, using feedback from Modesta’s experience wearing the uniquely shaped art.

“With this project, we bring out a raw primitivism, a fundamental energy that has the capacity to move people, and heal and nurture new possible forms of art where sound, vision, touch, space, fashion, architecture, couture and sculpture are fused,” said Goldemberg.

Viktoria Modesta demonstrates Sonifica
The wearable Sonifica bustier turns Viktoria Modesta’s body into an instrument.

Although Sonifica marks the first time Wipprecht has created something that uses sound, it clearly reflects her signature provocative-playful allure. She called the Sonifica bodice a “statemental” object that is primal and instinctive.

“I am known for programming and design, but I haven’t experimented with music too much. The collaboration with Viktoria was a weird hybrid for me of prototyping design and learning on the way about how to engage sound,” said Wipprecht. “It opened up ideas on how you can compose and influence these vibrations.”

Bionic Pop Artist

Modesta, born in Latvia, is both a performer and a futurist with a passion for science and technology. She’s better known as the self-proclaimed “bionic pop artist” who uses her prosthetic leg as a functioning form of art.

When an accident after birth left her in pain throughout her childhood, at age 20 Modesta got a voluntary amputation of her left leg below the knee. Yet, none of that stopped her from fearlessly pursuing her passion for performing arts.

In fact, she’s learned to leverage the prosthetic as a statement-making, transformative appendage.

Anouk Wipprecht works on wearable bodice
Anouk Wipprecht designed the Sonifica bustier to merge technology, art and music.

“Instead of looking at an augmented prosthetic as a medical device, I could experiment how to adorn the body through functional technology and fashion as an art form, and how these objects not only can be worn as a second skin, but the systematic role they would play in pop culture,” she told On The Inside magazine.

She said the bustier has transformational powers.

“The tusks create a different silhouette,” Modesta said. “It gives you a more animalistic skeleton but also has almost a sexual addition to the body.”

Technical, Emotional Design

Wipprecht is prolific, blending art and science by leveraging a wide range of skills, including robotics, coding, body signal processing, 3D printing and machine learning.

This mother of invention blends maker movement fervor with a playful sense for high-tech fashion. She creates computer-powered outfits that react to the wearer’s personal space, mood, emotions, movements and perspectives on the world.

Viktoria Modesta performs on stage
The Sonifica bustier allows Modesta (right) to modulate the sound of her live performances.

Her spider dress, designed with a collar of mechanical legs that attack anyone who steps too close, changes the notion of a killer cocktail dress. Her neuroscience unicorn wearable senses brainwaves to turn on a tiny camera to help kids dealing with ADHD remember important moments.

Wipprecht’s compelling designs invite the viewer to interact with the outfits. Sonifica is no different.

“The shape of the tusks that we created compels you to touch or grab them. It’s very physical,” said Wipprecht. “Translating physical touch from there in an even more primal way through the extension of sound in space mutates the performance in an interesting hybrid between analog and digital.”

Wipprecht said Sonifica is an ongoing experiment that will evolve over time as it adapts to Modesta’s physical body. In upcoming performances, the creative team hopes to open-source the code and design, inviting the audience to engage in the project.

Four people work on the Sonifica design
Hand drawing on design for Sonifica
Two people work on CAD
CAD drawings of Sonifica
Anouk Wipprecht works on Sonifica
Viktoria Modesta on center stage

“Instead of creating a show to be consumed, we are creating a show collaboratively, creating a new sense of intimacy and participation with an audience,” said Wipprecht.

Modesta said the future of musical instruments will encourage non-traditional performance that can incorporate meaningful movement.

“Fusing with an artificial extension to my body has given me a different kind of power to my performance art,” said Modesta.


Images courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht.

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