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Ling Tan: Supergestures

Empowering young people to take action in their cities

SUPERGESTURES is a participatory project by artist Ling Tan, co-created with 50 young people across Manchester. Following six months of workshops culminating in an outdoor performance in Manchester city centre, SUPERGESTURES uses wearable technology to explore the relationship between a smart city agenda and the impact it has on people’s everyday lives.

Artist: Ling Tan

Date: September 2017 – March 2018
Medium: Participatory art, wearable technology, outdoor live performance
Related to: Fault LinesCo-creating a Smart City blueprint

How can we harness technology to raise questions and kick-start conversation about the personal impact of smart cities?

Is the city of the future a city for our next generation? All too often, young people are excluded from decisions about the future, even though they’re the ones who will have to live longest with the consequences of those decisions. Without participation, young people can often feel disenfranchised by decisions made by government officials and top-down policies.

In SUPERGESTURES, artist Ling Tan explores this tension by looking at the impact of technology, policy-making and its relationship with citizens through the lens of young people living in Manchester. Through workshops, wearable technology and a site-specific outdoor live performance, SUPERGESTURES presents young people’s personal stories concerning freedom, pride, technology and ownership of the city.

Image credit: Robin Hill Photography (via Ling Tan | SUPERGESTURES)

Commissioned by the UK’s first smart city demonstrator, CityVerve, SUPERGESTURES uses wearable technology to help question how much tangible impact smart city technology can have on future generations. Over a period of six months, Ling held workshops with young people across Manchester during which they co-created a series of physical actions, postures and gestures performed with a wearable ‘power suit’. Created by Ling, the technology-laced power suit includes body gesture sensors, vibration actuators, LEDs and audio feedback. The term SUPERGESTURES represents the many gestures created by individuals, as well as the massive gesture that many people can create together at the same time.

Image credit: Ling Tan | SUPERGESTURES

Coordinated through social media (Facebook and Instagram) as well as local community groups such as The Proud Trust (the only LGBT purpose-built centre in Europe), The Hideaway, (the oldest youth group in Manchester), and students from Manchester School of Architecture, the young people recorded and shared their stories while laying out their visions for Manchester’s future

You can hear more of these audio stories on Ling’s website.

The co-creation process culminated in a dramatic, outdoor performance on 10th March 2018 in which 30 members of the public each donned a SUPERGESTURES power suit and illuminated the streets of Manchester. Lit up with animated LEDs and triggered by a high tech sensor system, the wearers could listen to, embody and perform the young people’s stories, visions, and gestures at key locations around the city. The hour-long, semi-choreographed, interactive walking performance was designed to lead people across several different neighbourhoods and immerse them in a future envisaged by the young people of the city, who will be most affected by current policy and technology decisions.

The finale of SUPERGESTURES was exhibited as part of FutureSessions: Trust in Invisible Agents (March, 2018).

The exhibition also included a specially commissioned documentary film, created as a visual journal of the young people’s journey through the project; from the workshops through to the final outdoor performance.

Film by OODA Film

SUPERGESTURES is an artwork created by Ling Tan. Commissioned by CityVerve in partnership with FutureEverything. Supported with public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

For more information, visit or email Ling Tan at