Tag Archives: Architecture and the body

X-Ray 3b mk.2

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.

X-Ray 3a – positioning image for X-ray 3b above

X-Ray 2b mk.2

X-Ray 2a Positioning image for X-Ray 2b (immediately above)

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!

Body project thee X-ray (Nat Chard)

Body project thee X-ray (Nat Chard)

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.

Layer1, third body project (Nat Chard)

Layer2, third body project (Nat Chard)

Layer 3, third body project (Nat Chard)

Layer 4, third body project (Nat Chard)

Layer 5, third body project (Nat Chard)

Layer 6, third body project (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

The different versions of Instrument Five discuss a development of the project shown in this model. One of the limiting agents on an indeterminate condition is typology. The embodied knowledge in things carries with it embedded behaviours. I have visited quite a number of research establishments where new architectural questions bring a combination of new architectures but often with borrowed bits from elsewhere. One such place in Cape Kennedy where NASA launches most of its rockets. Along the coast is a compressed archeology of space flight architecture. At one end is a nipple on the concrete apron and a pole to hold a bleeder tube. This is the launch architecture for the captured German V2 rockets after the war. It is generic, portable, un-sited and does not discuss the body. After passing a succession of ruined Mercury and  Gemini launch sites (as well as an early Apollo site) you come to the space shuttle launch pads, formerly used for the giant Saturn Five rockets of the Apollo programme. These emerge out of the landscape and are tied to it by the gravel roads that lead to the Vertical Assembly Building. In less than forty years a highly developed architecture emerged particular to a new venture.

The Bird Automata Test Track  is the “before” model for the drawings in Instrument Five. Or the drawings in Instrument Five try to develop what is started in this model. It is at the V2 stage – generic, without a site, portable, and the only acknowledgement of people is in an access stair and the seating positions for the cameras.

Why a Bird Automata Test Track? The speculation is that if architecture was more of an automaton – if it had the capability to also be awkward, teasing, silly, precisely helpful, sometimes sulk and sometimes playful, for example, then it could be in a position to nurture a far more indeterminate condition than one that is more fixed in its relationship to our occupation. The test track is the first step – how might we behave with automata, how can I examine the idea of an automaton before looking at it as architecture, those sorts of questions.

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track (Nat Chard)

Bird Automata Test Track Birds (Nat Chard)

The image above is of the birds that can be clipped in to the track trolleys for the animated films of the rack in action.

Instrument two drawing (Nat Chard)

Here is one of the drawings from Instrument Two. It is a photograph on photographic paper that was held on the picture plane with acrylic plates, so the holes around the edges are from blots that hold the plates (and the photographic paper) to the picture plane. The dark parts are the projection of the white model in the box (projector) and the white parts are the negative of the shadow. below is the positive from this negative (in conventional photographic terms).

Instrument two drawing positive (Nat Chard)

The only reason for showing thei image is that it makes it easier to see where the various parts came from, so the projection is now white and the paradoxical shadow is black. The shadow seems to register with the base of the projected model, but is mysteriously smaller, geometrically perhaps appearing to be the object for which the projection is the shadow. You can also see photograms of the plate edges (that hold the paper flat on the picture plane) and some of the registrations cut into the surface of the plates.

Below is a sequence of drawings. The whole sequence can be seen in a picture in the previous post.

Instrument two drawing (Nat Chard) 2Instrument two drawing (Nat Chard) 4

Instrument two drawing (Nat Chard) 9

Instrument two drawing (Nat Chard) 10

The difference between the images is established mostly by folds in the picture plane. As the picture plane adjusts to question the projection, the model int he projector also moves to try and sustain its opinion on the picture plane.

Body Project One (Nat Chard)

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.

Study for Body Project One (Nat Chard)

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.

Body Project One -detail (Nat Chard)

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.