Collaboration - Dance Backpack

Dance Backpack
Biofeedback instrument mediating music to dance. 20 testers personal behavior documented.
Gives physical qualities to music

Kerstin Nigsch and Adam Somlai-Fischer, A+Url
2002 spring

Project website:


We have developed a backpack, that turns the dance of the person wearing it into music, a biofeedback instrument. We have tested and documented on 20 people from the streets of Vienna and Budapest. Something that today is more and more defined by remote stations, is generated by the physical movement of your own body.

The heart of the backpack is a script predefined, centralized, running in a microcontroller. The users on the other hand, vary in nationality, age, gender. One interesting aspect of the experiment was, that even though the backpack acted as a ready made product, none of the users have danced in a similar way to the others. We might claim that a centrally designed product with some scripted sensitivity does not necessarily creates uniform users.
One major problem with the uniforming effect of globalization is that according to evolution theories, a system without a strong variation in its elements is a dying system.
The space created with the backpack + people is interesting regarding its location. It did occur simultaneously in the physical environments where the different testing took place, and in the microchip, in the algorithm of the script coded by us. The 'dead' code-sound became 'alive' with the uncontrollable input from the users.
We have turned the automatic apparatus against automation.

In classical Athens the festival of the panathena - which was to remake the cloth of the wooden statue of the goddess Athena located at the acropolis - was a procession translated as dancing from the center to the acropolis. These dance can be seen as communication between the center and the acropolis - the inhabitants of Athens and the goddess. The city itself was remade during this festival.


With re-appropriating existing technology and products - an old backpack, a radio, a computer mouse, car speakers - the actual design of the instrument is quite simple.

Film of the testers in Vienna and Budapest