Wearable Urban Routine (2011)

Xiaowen Zhu
Sponsor: V2_Lab Host: V2_Lab

Wearable Urban Routine is a series of performances facilitated by an electronic wearable device in urban environment. It is designed by Xiaowen Zhu to explore the transformation of daily routine in urban life into a meditative process of self-discovering. The idea is inspired by the Marathon Monks in Mt. Hiei in Japan who perform an ascetic training called Kaihōgyō that requires extreme physical endurance in running for seven consecutive years. The Marathon Monks typically run 40-60 km for 17 hours every day following the exact same path with minimum supplies of food, water, and rest. The point of Kaihōgyō is to attain enlightenment by facing death in current life. The repetitive path of their practice reflects on an interesting parallel to people’s passive participation in the mechanical urban routine.

The shape of the device is inspired by higasa, an elongated rain hat worn by the Marathon Monks during their training. An action camera is attached to the back of the hat, capturing videos from the back of the user. A portable pocket projector is attached to the front of the hat, projecting onto the ground in front of the user. The artist wears the device for a 2-week performance in various public spaces in Rotterdam, following the same path every day. The performance is recorded by the camera and the projector always projects the video from the day before, so that the artist can examine her path and try to follow the exact same routine. The point of this project is not to imitate Kaihōgyō as a religious practice, but to adapt the form of a routine-based training, and to reverse the passive urban routine into an experiment of self-positioning with the aid of digital vision that overlaps the past and the present.

This project received the first TASML / DSL Artist Residency Award.

This project was developed during a residency as part of a Summer Sessions residency at V2_.