I met Alyce Santoro in 2006, in Brooklyn, not too long before she moved to Marfa, Texas. Filled with curios and the materials of her multimedia artwork, her basement studio made an impression on me as a place of cramped enchantment. I was there to learn about Santoro’s SONIC FABRIC, an equal parts blend polyester and audiocassette tape textile. Tell-tales affixed to sails to gauge the wind and Tibetan prayer flags inspired Santoro to make mixes of her favorite music and then repurpose the audio tape. As she describes it on her website, SONIC FABRIC is “a beautiful, tightly-woven, functional material . . . [I]n 2003 I constructed my first sonic shaman-superhero dress from the panels of fabric, which I came to realize, were actually audible…the fabric retains it’s magnetic properties throughout the weaving process, and when a tape head is dragged along its surface, it emits a garbled, underwater-like sound.”
The alternative material has received plenty of attention over the years, from media outlets to the SONIC FABRIC muumuu commissioned and oft donned by Phish drummer Jon Fishman. Santoro’s Voidness Dress will be included in The Power of Making exhibit that launches in September at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Santoro is in the process of raising funds with the support of United States Artists. Her hope is that in the next week she will raise enough money to make customized SONIC FABRIC. From the project’s page: “From the beginning the goal has been to share this project with others, to collaborate with fellow musicians and artists, architects, designers, collectors – anyone interested in having sounds, music, wishes, ideas recorded onto tape and woven into versatile, durable, audible fabric that can be used in any imaginable way . . . In exchange for your tax-deductable contribution of $2,000 you will receive 20 yards of SONIC FABRIC recorded with the sounds of your choice.”
Bands, music lovers and forward-thinking fashionistas could have a lot of fun with this stuff just by wearing a remixed mix tape, like Jon Fishman. And if you pledge now, there are matching funds available, so if your curiosity is piqued, have a gander!