The speculative garment HUG explores the capacity of technology to respond to human tactile deprivation during the COVID-19 pandemic by creating the sensation of a hug without the presence of another person.
Researcher: Kaisu Koski
Funding: Research England
Social distancing has been a core method of disease prevention in the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, hugging a loved one has, in many cases, become rare or prohibited altogether. While a hug is one of the primary gestures in expressing love and care, it is now also considered a health hazard, leaving many of us deprived of the human touch. This research explores affective health technology, creating a prototype speculative garment HUG to create the sensation of a hug.
Exploring affective health technology
The speculative garment HUG explores the capacity of technology to respond to human tactile deprivation by creating the sensation of a hug without the presence of another person. It is made of recycled air cushions (lock-down online orders) and infuse bags and can be used independently or with a friend (tube length 1.5m). The two airbags, one on the chest and one between the shoulder plates, can be filled separately or simultaneously.
HUG is the first prototype in a project exploring affective health technology. It is inspired by “hugging” garments, used in so-called deep-pressure therapy, imitating the structure of embodied human empathy. Next to offering relief from isolation and lack of affective touch, the garment evokes questions about breath and its multiple meanings in connection with others and mental well-being.
In pandemic times, breath is seen as a biohazard, a cloud of pathogenic aerosols that needs to be contained. However, breathing into a paper bag may also reduce anxiety. In HUG, breath creates a feedback loop to calm both through deep pressure and carbon dioxide reduction in the bloodstream.
The speculative garment HUG is presented as an installation and Digital C-print in a number of exhibitions and events.
- Juried Group Show “Mirrored”– international photo performance exhibition, MUU Helsinki Contemporary Art Centre. March 10-23, 2021.
- ACM art exhibition and Proceedings: Kaisu Koski. 2021. HUG: In ACM Conference on Creativity & Cognition ’21, June 22–23, 2021, ACM, New York, NY, USA.
- HUG represented at Translational Humanities for Public Health website at Rice University. https://transhumhealth.rice.edu/
- Ars Medica Photo Essay HUG. https://ars-medica.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/1479. 20-08-2021
- Talk at Art Science and Cocktails at Nordic Edge Innoasis, Stavanger Norway. 21 September, 2021.
- Group exhibition <Immune Nations>, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton ON, Canada. August 28-December 11, 2021. Exhibition tour: https://museum.mcmaster.ca/immune-nations-virtual-exhibition-tour/
- Group Exhibition PEMULIHAN (Recovery) at Publika, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. November 15-Dec 5, 2021
- Group exhibition Caring Futures at Sølvberget Gallery, Stavanger, Norway. September 15-November 15, 2022
News item: HUG at Immune Nations exhibition