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  • Housework Lock (her) Down
  • Jocelyn Ho (bio) and Margaret Schedel (bio)

Housework Lock (her) Down (2020), for three or four Embedded Irons in telematic performance, is part of Women's Labor, a feminist project directed by Ho that uses embedded technologies to transform domestic tools into new electronic musical instruments. These musical instruments are featured in sound installations, new compositions by female composers, participant workshops, and performance.

Women's Labor addresses gender and class inequality in domestic labor division and challenges persistent gendered social norms through music-art activism. While public policies have made strides in promoting workplace gender equality, women continue to shoulder the majority of unpaid domestic work in opposite-sex households. Moreover, the outsourcing in affluent households of domestic labor to poorer women of color reinforces domestic labor as women's work while perpetuating class inequality. Traditionally relegated to the private sphere, domesticity is recast in a new light through public engagement and performative spectacle.

The instrument Embedded Iron is based on an early twentieth-century wooden ironing board and antique iron. Players can "iron" fabrics, including their own pieces of clothing, to make music. It has a color-sensing ability that uses spectroscopy to "see" the color of the fabric to play different timbres and pitch modes. The Embedded Iron is trained to recognize a few fabrics/colors; however, it interpolates new sounds from untrained fabrics through the machine-learning software Wekinator. The Embedded Iron's placement on the horizontal axis of the ironing board determines pitch using LIDAR and ultrasonic technology. Pure Data drives sound synthesis, resident on a Raspberry Pi. A speaker and a transducer are attached to the underside of the wooden ironing board, which acts as a [End Page 26]

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Fig 1.

resonator. The Embedded Iron is an Embedded Acoustic Instrument that includes all necessary components for performer interaction, data-mapping, synthesis, and sound generation in a single self-contained body. Because it is not dependent on computers or speakers that are used for other tasks, it gains more agency and identity.

Written for Nownet Arts Conference 2020: Network Arts and Social Distance, Housework Lock (her) Down was premiered as a telematic performance by Meenah Alam, Theresa Dimond, and Taylor Long, highlighting the unequal burden of housework and expectations on women, which have been especially spotlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We explore the gestures and frustrations of housework, elicited by the different gesture-sound mappings of items of clothing. Text chosen from an oppressive nineteenth-century marriage manual are mapped to a special "white apron" for ironing. While the text may seem ludicrous and outdated, the intentions behind the text are still eerily prevalent today. The interaction and listening between the players are inspired by Pauline Oliveros's Sonic Meditations (1974) for ♀ Ensemble, a continuation of her feminist creative work through music activism.

For performance materials, please contact [End Page 27]

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Jocelyn Ho

jocelyn ho's artistic practice involves the exploration of the relationship between sound, bodily gesture, and culture, as well as the rethinking of the classical music genre through multimedia technologies, interdisciplinarity, and audience interactivity. As a pianist, composer, and theorist, Ho engages practice and scholarship in a dialogic process to challenge and enliven contemporary concert practices. She directs, composes, and performs in interdisciplinary performance projects involving collaborators from vastly different fields, including the soldout music-art-tech concert Synaesthesia Playground, as well as Women's Labor. As pianist and composer, she has been featured internationally at Radio France, the Sydney Opera House, New York Symphony Space, and Berlin's Radialsystem V, among others. Ho is a Steinway artist and an assistant professor of performance studies at UCLA.

Margaret Schedel

margaret schedel has an interdisciplinary career blending classical training, sound/audio data research, and innovative computational arts education. Schedel transcends the boundaries of disparate fields to produce integrated work at the nexus of computation and the arts. Internationally recognized for the creation and performance of ferociously interactive media and her work in the sonification of data, she has a diverse creative output with works...


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