I have posted these two related drawings before, but I have been thinking about them recently while trying to clarify my research practice. They were made twenty years ago and in making them I knew what I was discussing but could not discuss it. Through the subsequent work I can now articulate what they are about, and understand the importance of making work like this in the broader frame of things. There is a set of drawings that forms and antecedent to these, but if I look at what I am doing now it stems from these two drawings.
I have just returned to some drawings I made many years ago. I had a request to put them in an exhibition, which might interfere with a couple of other exhibitions that are coming up, so I have made some copies with slight alterations. It is part of the second body project (see here and here) where I altered X-ray photographs of the body and the related positioning photographs to take those X-rays. The positioning pictures (the originals are taken from Positioning in Radiography by K.C. Clark, 1949 edition) have slight bumps on the body that reveal the synthetic organs through formal transparency. I have not altered these much but have developed the X-ray images by spraying transparent cool grey on the interior of the synthetic organs and added soft highlights, which gives a transparency closer to that in an X-ray.
Although I have returned to projects before – there are three generations of body projects (and one that was started about eight years ago but lying dormant) and I am working on the eighth generation of drawing instruments, but I have never redrawn an old project before. I know a couple people whose work I really admire who are constantly revisiting old projects, so I do not feel too queazy about it!
I have been sharing my attic studio with these characters recently. The house has been on the market in anticipation of a return to the UK in January and they have been moved to my studio so as not to scare off potential buyers. It seems the people who bought the house liked them anyway. They normally hang out in the living room (with a few others), as seen below (also with the author).
Medical models appear so much more critical than their architectural equivalent. The section lines are content driven and understand the general symmetry of the body, so they tease your imagination to carry what exists at one layer on one side over to that other, where greater depths are then revealed. I purchased my first one (that I keep at work) when I moved to Copenhagen. In London I would borrow one from the anatomical lab at UCH, who were very helpful as I was teaching at the Bartlett, also part of UCL. In Copenhagen the Academy had no affiliations with medical schools, so I would borrow the Academy’s van and drive all my equipment to the alcohol dependency unit of a nearby hospital who were happy for me to work with it there but not to borrow it. As there were so many knowing looks by people seeing the school of architecture van outside the alcohol dependency clinic, and also the inconvenience of having to move all my lights and large format camera, I bought my own figure. I have not done any body drawings for a while, pertly due to the demise of Polaroid film which I used to use to make transfers, but with some distance it would be good to rethink the project some time, with one of the other figures.
A couple of studies I made before the second body project, before deciding to work with available technology (as far as possible). As with the earlier pairs of drawings in this blog, they are stereoscopic pairs so size them small enough so that you can resolve them when you go cross eyed.
There are more drawing instruments to come, but I thought that I would mix things up with the last of the body projects (so far…).The third body project, from 2002, was an update on the second project and was initiated by two considerations. One was that medical technology had got ahead of the earlier project, especially with the development of left ventricular assist pumps that was much more compact than the circulatory pumps I had drawn. I had been working on the basis of a low pressure high volume pump to avoid blood clots and cell damage around the moving parts, but the new technology seemed to have overcome this problem. The whole system is much smaller, although the energy conversion technology is still a fantasy. Also, I had moved to Copenhagen where the winters were noticeably colder than in London and I realised how site specific the second body project had been. This version played greater emphasis on the thermal performance of the system to cope with the climate in Copenhagen. There were some minor variations where parts that I had previously thought important were edited and some parts were combined with others to improve the packaging. Conceptually, it is the same project.
As before, the pairs of drawings are stereoscopic so can be seen in 3D when you resolve them by going cross-eyed. THe drawings are airbrushed on Polaroid transfers.
The stereoscopic anatomical drawings describe the apparatus to make an internal architecture. THis sequence of paired drawings discusses the revelation of the architecture in both a practical way but also by implication a sense of the larger spatial consequence of the project. Each pair of drawings has an X-ray and a photographic illustration of the position the body has to hold to take that X-ray. The base images (except for the final X-ray) are taken from Positioning in Radiography by K.C. Clark (1949 edition). Francis Bacon worked from images in the 1939 edition of the same book.
Each X-Ray shows parts of the new body apparatus but they are available to this sort of inspection selectively, so not everything is visible. The positioning photographs display a formal transparency of the apparatus, again selectively as only those parts that press against the skin are visible.
When walking in the city (with clothes, mainly for modesty and or vanity, for the apparatus copes with all but the chilliest or steamiest climes) the person hosting the architecture is formally indistinguishable form anyone else except through their behaviour – perhaps being alive and engaged in the world and maybe through the ability to wear out of season clothes – the apparatus coping with the temperature difference.
In the positioning picture (2B) you can see a filter under her skin just above her forearm and the top of the breathing/cooling components just below her collar bone, the piece that is visible in the X-ray.
I found the radiography manual in a second hand bookshop just outside Manchester for three pounds when I was visiting friends. It had been a student f the year prize for a radiographer and includes things like X-rays of unborn babies (very beautiful but where one might wonder about the effects of the X-ray on the baby) and one of a man who has swallowed his false teeth.
X-Ray 3A is not from Positioning in Radiography, but 3B is, the positioning to take the image in 3A. The X-Ray shows the selective revelation of the intestines through the agency of a barium meal – tissue that would otherwise be transparent to X-Ray shows up due to the meal. The image is unlikely, as the synthetic organs of the new apparatus should divert toxins through the synthetic system (and therefore reveal them more fully) so we have to assume that the apparatus has been turned off to check the natural organs. In the positioning photograph you can again see discrete bumps around her waist and abdomen where the apparatus pushes into the skin.
The body project drawings are made on Polaroid transfers using type 59 film, taken with a 5″ by 4″ view camera. The Cambo camera I use has just enough movement side to side to take a left and right eye shot without moving the tripod or camera’s monorail (when photographing the anatomical torso at the distances used in these shots). If you look at the first body projects in the second post there is no compensation for the position of the figure in the frame, while in the subsequent projects I used the horizontal shift in the film plane to locate both images in the same area of the frame. Despite this, the imprecise nature of making the transfers makes it hard to register the two images centrally on the stretched watercolour paper (I was using a heavy grade of Fabriano Five). When you see the frames lined up the pairs of images are noticeably irregular.
One day while I was working on the second body project (previous post) I was drawing on a pair of images in the morning. So as to protect the rest of the image I placed a paper mask (see the image above) that exposed only the area I was working on. I placed masking film over that area and cut out my masks for airbrushing with a Swann Moron scalpel. That afternoon I had an appointment at the hospital to examine a mole on my abdomen that was growing at a worrying rate. On seeing my mole, the doctors decided to remove it. As I sat there they gave me a local anaesthetic and then placed a paper mask around the area, mostly I believe for my modesty. Then they cut into my abdomen with exactly the same sort of scalpel I had been working with that morning. As they cut around the mole into the fatty layer under the skin to make sure they had captured everything. I was looking through a paper mask to the inside of my body just in the same way I had looked at a similar area of the body in the drawings.
To dig out greater nourishment from the project I went through the performance and plumbing of the main body organs that were appropriate for the projects and set out a parallel synthetic system with feedback loops to the natural versions. All the flow rates and pressures for fluids, solids and air were calculated to work in sympathy with their natural counterparts. A sequence of drawings works from the deepest levels to the surface. THe first layer has the main mechanical pumps for air and blood.
The premise of the project remains similar to that outlined in the previous post.
The second level shows the abdominal filters, some of the pieces most likely to protrude as bumps under the skin.
The red and white element shown in layer three is the digestive element that converts carbs into electricity to run the synthetic organs. It is the least plausible of the synthetic organs. Most of the others have some basis in medical reality and after this project was made some of them were overtaken by medical technology – but more of that when we get to the third body project.
Layer four has additional pieces inserted between the new and existing organs to help slippage when the body twists and turns.
Layer five shows a heat shield. As with the previous body project, all the drawings are stereoscopic and made over polaroid transfers. The polaroid photographs were made from an anatomical torso borrowed from UCH in London.
The heat shield is drawn as a transparent layer in the remaining drawings. Here in layer six the sensitive control unit sits outside the heat shield.
Layer seven shows the heat exchanger that works with the air handling vessels (see next layer)
The top layer includes the air handling vessel that works as a constant volume inverse of the natural lungs, and breathes through one of the abdominal filters. The drawings are airbrushed over the already unreliable polaroid transfers. Several of the layers are transparent so cannot be painted over if the work goes wrong. Working without an undo button can help one commit to something…
One of the central questions in most of my architectural projects is how to nurture an indeterminate condition. In the body projects (also mentioned in post 2) the question is inverted – how is it possible to take possession of the city as it is given? How can we take the city with all its prescriptions and certainties and open it up as a fresh and available territory? As touched on in the previous post, there are a number of sites where architecture and the city make great claims about their precise relationship with the body. By adjusting the organs in the body that touch those programmatic sites, if architecture and the city’s claims were true, you would therefore be able to adjust the city. By adjusting the performance of the new synthetic body parts in one way, you could change the city in one way while I could change it differently. This offers questions about the collective consciousness of the city that will be touched on in a later post.
I will explain the workings of the body architecture further when talking about the second body project. At the stage of these preliminary studies I imagined that they would be made possible by the range of bio and nano technologies emerging at the time. As these provided no practical resistance, almost anything was possible and as a consequence the poetic possibilities felt limited. The subsequent projects were much more practical.
The drawings are stereoscopic (the first image in the post has a stereoscopic pair to the left showing the new organs opened up and then in normal position in a single image to the right). They are made by taking Polaroid photographs (Type 59 film) and peeling the film apart ten seconds after pulling it through the rollers. The negative is then rolled on a pre prepared piece of paper with a sort rubber roller. All the marks and distortions around the image come from the negative and its chemicals. The process is unreliable, providing a level of thrill when working with it. Unfortunately the film stock is no longer available. When the images are dry they are drawn over, each side adjusted relative to the other for parallax to provide a three dimensional view. If you have the image quite small on the screen and go cross eyed, you should be able to resolve a stereoscopic image (or you can use stereo lorgnettes).
The figure to make these drawings was cast in a mould for an écorchémodel that i adapted with an abdominal and chest void and added organs from a plastic model. For the next generation body project I borrowed an anatomical torso from University College Hospital (I was teaching at the Bartlett, UCL, at the time) and for for the third project I bought my own anatomical torso. When I took this headless, legless, armless body through Stanstead Airport the human torso appeared on the X-ray screen at large luggage security but the guard did not flinch, presumably looking for certain colours rather than the figure.
This image is the stereoscopic pair of drawings from the picture at the top of this post.
When viewing the stereoscopic drawings, go cross-eyed so that the most distinct features sit over each other (for instance the head in these drawings). Try to hold it and relax as much as possible, and the two images will resolve into one, appearing as a strange construction between two and three dimensions.