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Leonardo Reviews 153 authors is incredibly tantalizing precisely because so much of the discourse and problematic surrounding information systems and products and their relationship to the body is left for the reader to explore. Projects such as Techno Textiles have short shelf-lives, which is already apparent . The discussion of the cyborg is sandwiched between “Living in Space” and “Stelarc”; it could be fascinating but the examples of information products chosen are neither contemporary nor sophisticated, and the authors do little to illustrate the concept of the cyborg . Similarly the “Audio Jacket” by Benoit Maubrey is feeble in this context , even considering it was created in 1983. Nonetheless, there are some stunning examples of techno textiles in action, such as the “Air-supported structures at Philips Fantasy World” by Studio Matteo Thun; Mark Eisen’s “Metallic Vest”; and “Woven Light” by Sonja Flavin. Free creative works such as Onyema Amadi’s extraordinary “Beetlejuice” jackets, which are formed from re-functioned tires and Sunild Wollwage’s “Rapport” formed from plastic spoons can be contrasted with technical illustrations such as NASA’s “Autogenic-Feedback System2 ” or “Outlast,” a phase-change material by Outlast Technologies, Inc. There are also some glaring omissions. Gore-Tex, for example, might not be the most contemporary of “techno textiles ” but its domestication and embodiment in everyday clothing and language might be seen as an example of the way that techno textiles are central to the rise of adrenaline sports. Snowboarding, skydiving and rock climbing are not mentioned even though they have become activities that have developed the idea of techno textiles as cultural icons. These difficulties point to the real value of the book as a resource, rather than as a discourse. It is something of an encyclopedia describing almost every new and “funky” fabric together with techniques of production as an end in itself. But its organization and verve in incorporating a wide range of cultural references does provoke the reader into questioning their attitudes or prejudices about what a textile might be. Techno Textiles is going to date horribly ; in the meantime, while it still has currency, it is a book to keep looking at: there are plenty of fresh and relevant ideas about textiles within. THE PYROTECHNIC INSANITARIUM: AMERICAN CULTURE ON THE BRINK by Mark Dery. Grove Press, New York, 1999. 304 pp. ISBN: 0-802-11640-X. Reviewed by Molly Hankwitz, 2940 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, U.S.A. E-mail: . Dreamland is Burning! This is not an irrelevant book. There are irrelevant, undistinguished texts in millennium publishing. Mark Dery, coiner of the term “culture jammer” and author of the “culture jammer manifesto,” gives an interesting interpretation of the apocalyptic chatter characterizing the American millennium . He manages a huge quantity of material and untangles some of the most ridiculous and dramatic mediahype in which post-postmodern American minds are mired. An admirable undertaking ! This is a book about Western pop culture and Americans’ contradictory relationship to it; a somewhat Eurocentric critique that is fascinated with catching its own tail. Yet Dery’s perspectives are well-argued; his subject matter is handled with sophistication. Readers will get off on the joy ride as the white middle class nerve is touched. Dery has a multiplex knowledge of contemporary media and sharply contrasts media messages with their prevailing counterforces : economic stability, middle-class home life, the role of the family, children , globalism, social control, gender roles and preconditions for these ideologies to remain intact (or to fall apart). The book depicts an uncanny, unwholesome world, obsessed with lack of control, full of theatrical despair compassionately upturned by the author who points the finger at the stasis at the heart of American social fear. From the perspective of contemporary critiques such as Sorkin’s “Variations on a Theme Park” or the writings of Mike Davis and some of the new publishing on architecture from Princeton, Dery makes his most important point when he undertakes an argument on the inner city, with its ultra-rich and majority underclass and renders this as the site, if not the root inspiration for the disturbing mainstream spectacle. This point is argued in the last chapter but is dealt with...


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pp. 153-154
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