For Once, Kajagoogoo Has Purpose


You’d probably sell your own mother before you sold that iPod, you hardened mp3 punk. So why do you still have those old Wham tapes lying around? They just sit at the bottom of your closet, buried underneath that first Led Zeppelin mix and some unloved Pet Shop Boys singles.

Well, keep ’em. They’d make one sweet dress.

What began as just another conceptual art project for RISD grad Alyce Santoro has grown into a new commercial purpose for discarded cassettes. Santoro weaves the tape into textiles, which she then cuts into bags and dresses. As Santoro explains on her Web site, the woven fabric emits sounds when a tape head is run over it “because the tape retains its magnetic quality through the weaving process.” The idea of fashioning old cassette tape into fabric came to the artist from her observation of wind-direction indicators on sailboats (her father used a strand of cassette tape as his), and from Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags, silk-screened with mantras that, she says, “are sent off to the world on the wind. It seemed a natural progression to me to combine these two concepts to create a fabric with sounds I considered sacred woven into it.” Although Santoro began with her own collage of sounds she cherished—from city noise to recordings of her high school punk band—she has since expanded into encouraging others to donate their own tapes, which are weaved into fabric by a craft collective in Nepal.

Santoro’s project came full circle when Phish drummer Jon Fishman wore a Santoro custom-made dress at a concert. Wearing gloves with tape heads, Fishman performed on his dress. Admittedly, the sounds from her sonic bags (retailing for roughly $125 to $135) are largely unintelligible at this point—akin to “white noise, or a record playing background,” Santoro describes. “Because I wasn’t aware that it was going to be audible at all, it was just conceptual . . . so when the head runs over it, it’s maybe 20 tracks of information being picked up. There may actually be a way for us to record onto the fabric after it’s been woven, but I haven’t perfected the technology yet.”

But they are hand-washable . . .