Sputniko!: A Provocative Artist and Technologist
The apple of our eye at the moment: Sputniko!, a Japanese/British artist who challenges gender stereotypes through music, film, installations and technology. After completing her masters at Royal College of Art in 2010, she has gone on to produce works that have been featured in MoMA, Bunny Smash in Tokyo, and was awarded "Woman of the Year" in 2013 by Vogue Japan. In addition to her creative endeavours, she also delved right into rigorous academics. That same year, she became an assistant teacher at MIT Media Lab and was dubbed by Le Figaro as one of "30 most talented women under 30" just this year.
Her impressive background matches the influential projects she's produced. She is a unique hybrid of creative and scientific and describes herself as she's in "a gray spot of the tech field...In a way I feel like I was able to do things I wanted because I was a little bit of an outsider. I’m kind of in the arts and in tech but I’m not completely part of either of them. I think when you’re in just one you loose perspective."
With her name based off of technology (or space) Sputniko! and surprise, Sputniko!, she is surely an element of both. The first major project that caught our eyes was in 2012: Nanohana Heels. The heels, which dispense rapeseeds (nanohana in Japanese) in response to the wearers footsteps, were a sentiment to the nuclear explosion in Japan in March 2011. A collaboration between Masaya Kushino and Spuniko!, the dispensing shoes were an attempt to revive the area's agriculture, as rapeseeds absorb radioactive remains from the explosion.
In 2013, Sputniko peaked public interest again with her project, The Moonwalk Machine - Selena's Step. This digital masterpiece proposed to put a woman on the moon. Since Apollo 11 won the space race back in 1969, the moon still has yet to experience the grace of a female. In response to the 13 year old girl, who sent a Hello Kitty doll to space, and her aim for female equality, Sputniko wrote a sci-fi tale of Selena, the female protagonist who invents a lunar rover adorned with high heels, in the hope of stamping the moon with a female footprint.
Her latest project, Tranceflora - Amy's Glowing Silk, dabbles with the concept of desire. As all of Sputniko!'s projects are based off of an intricate science fictional story, Amy's Glowing Silk tells a tale of a girl who uses biotechnology to win over a crush. Amy is said to be deeply in love and harvests a colony of silk worms in her room in order to weave the perfect outfit together; and by perfect outfit, she means a scientifically proven perfect outfit. By using the technologies of the silk worms in combination with smart fabrics and fashionable silhouettes, she creates a silk ensemble that glows, smells like roses, and emanates oxytocin (the love inducing hormone). With this triple threat, she could win over her crush in just one date. A whole new meaning to love at first sight...
Thanks to Sputniko! and her mechanical approach, we can better understand our behaviour in real life. Using technology to push for a greener world and take a stance on gender inequality (amongst many other provocative political subjects), she also illustrates how science can be used for the greater good in reality.
On fear of technology, Sputniko! notes: "I almost feel that technology can be considered as life, too. In some way I think it is dangerous to say that everything using a smartphone is unnatural and everything about jungle is natural. From my point of view it is just a new natural that has been been created. For instance, phoning used to be 'technology' when it first appeared but right now we consider it 'natural'… By my hand, I just embrace technology as a reality."
But her work wasn't always strictly technical. When she was fourteen, she wrote a self help book, "The Power of Odd One Out." Discussing the rigid gender inequalities in Japan, she wrote the book to preach to avoid becoming cookie cutter copies. Her book features tales from her own childhood as 'the odd one out' and not fitting in, and leads up to her career at MIT. Describing MIT as a safehaven, Sputniko! says it is a place that gives outsiders meaning and gives equal opportunities for men and women.
Sputniko!'s aspirations haven't shifted since she's been fourteen as she's stayed true to helping the greater good - the constant theme throughout all of her work. The group she works with at the MIT Media Lab strives to "design for debate," or to design for "different sort of futures: what is the future like this, what is the future like that, what the world could be… "