CORPUS was on display at the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles.
“We think with the entire body, or rather, we have to acknowledge the embodiment of the brain, and the embrainment of the body.” – Rosa Braidotti, Anthropocene Feminism.
CORPUS imagines a future of blended, embodied entanglement between human, machine, and microbiome in the form of a towering AR “symborg”, anchored in the industrial atrium of the historic Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. Scaled almost to the ceiling of the atrium and intended to induce ergonomic awe in viewers, the animated, gender-ambiguous figure presents a series of provocations. The Bradbury atrium, a National Historic Landmark featured in films such as Blade Runner and The Artist, serves as an ideal poetic container for a bioengineered future human. Rumored to have been inspired by Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel, Looking Backwards, which imagined a socialist utopian future, the building’s glass roof allows light to flood evenly throughout the 5 story atrium. Architecturally the interior evokes an elegant industrial aesthetic, a literal feat of engineering.
Over the course of approximately 1-2 minutes, the AR figure will emerge as a series of constituent metallic and organic particulate elements rendered to resemble an ever-shifting blend of pulsing binary and DNA code. Breathing and gently shifting its weight, CORPUS will appear transparent in places to suggest a blurring between the digital and the physical and to underscore the fluid nature of realities we have evolved for evolutionary fitness. The soundscape is composed of a blend of heartbeats; fetal, human, whale, cosmos (a recording of black holes colliding), and an AI interpolation of them all.
My belief is that future life will involve embracing interconnected embodied (and embrained) sources of intelligence- microbial, artificial, and carbon-based. Our bodies will be increasingly mediated not just by technology and quantum media, but also by new viruses and cellular organisms that thrive in, through, and across our bodies. As a holobiont, an “assemblage of different organisms” behaving as a single entity, CORPUS also intends to evoke the idea of a body politic (and echo the ideals of equity built into the surrounding architecture). I also imagine a differently gendered future, a blurring and expansion of gender identities. The blending of so many life-sustaining sources of encoding will generate new architectures and the positioning of a body as process, versus as object.
By scaling the artwork to dwarf human-scale viewers, the artwork inverts the assumption of human dominance and invites a reconsideration of perspective, embodiment, relational engagement, and bioengineering. It may also enable new insight into the complexities of encoded, algorithmically mediated life. We hope to elicit or inspire a reconsideration of scale, embodiment, the particulate/microbial, performative engagement with the artwork, and consideration of digital/analog hybridity. Ultimately, this project will result in documented engagement, conversation, related projects, and new methodologies of embodied consciousness.
-Nancy Baker Cahill, 2022
Project page available here.