The exhibit Bodyworks explores the complex and mutually defining relationships between the human body and architecture through a series of images and spatial constructions. From the Vitruvian body to Le Corbusier’s Modular Man and technologically machined ergonomic bodies of modern architecture, there has always existed a coordination between variant cultural representations of the body and the changing spatial models that have supported architectural practice. Modern architecture, in its dependence on the three dimensionality of cartesian space, for example, has constructed the numerically defined ergonomic body represented in plan, section and elevation to support its spatial ideal, just as Leonardo's Vitruvian body, doubly inscribed within the square and circle, supported a theologically engendered and idealized Platonic geometry of closed solids and Euclidean space. The emergence of the modern, not only defined a new spatial/bodily coordinate system, but also redefined architecture and the body based on new technological, industrial and functional imperatives, whether considered through Foucault's analysis of architectural panopticism and social regulation, Le Corbusier's machine à habiter (machine for living) or the biomachinic body that was pervasive in Schlemmer's workshops at the Bauhaus and the pre-war European avant-garde. Although pervasive in the twentieth century, this mechanistic-organic model of both bodies and architectures was neither internally consistent nor singular. It was challenged on the one hand by psychoanalysis, through its production of an unconscious and sexual body revealed in the work of the surrealists and expressionists, and on the other hand by phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty, who advanced the body as unmediated "flesh"—material substance filling and potentializing a sensory experiential space—a conception that simultaneously displaced machinic models while resisting traditional images of architectural anthropomorphism.
These models form the background for this exhibit, which focuses on the production of a contemporary body-architecture hybrid, a complex mixing of primordial matter and post-cartesian technology, intended to displace the ergonomic body still remaining as the residual occupant of modern architecture. The modern imperative for framing, and the resultant distinction of frame and skin (in the "skin and bones" architecture of the modern Miesian skyscraper, for example) is reconsidered in this exhibit through the introduction of a post-industrial architectural "flesh"—smooth structural and spatial surfaces that transform the architectural frame through molding, layering, laminating and weaving in wood, metal and plastic. The drawings, images and sculptural interior objects/landscapes exhibited—a series of bodymaps, bodyprostheses, and bodyworks, evolve as a registration of the spaces and surfaces between the animate material body and the structural architectural frame. As the architectural—its elements, techniques and spatial models—attribute to the body an organizational geometry and measurable structure, it is the body, because of its "thick" and "fluid" nature, that imbues architecture with material specificity, inflecting it with dynamic forces and sensory affects.
In the enfolded body series, the casting and analysis of local folds in the flesh—dermic surface effects produced by enfolding the body—are mapped and translated into the design of a sutured mahogany skin, an animate and enfolded architectural surface generated to support that body as it enfolds itself in the act of sitting. A nonhierarchical and strangely mimetic relationship is generated between the enfolded surface detail and the entire body's involution, between the bodymap and the program the designed work shall both initiate and fulfill.
In this exhibit, the body is reintroduced into architecture not only as an object of conceptual inquiry and potential site for design, but also through the embodiment of the design/fabrication process, recognizing both the necessary presence of the physical body as it manipulates material, and the material embodiment of the finished work. The gap that traditionally distances the body from the architectural object, and the architect from construction, is thus intentionally collapsed in these works, mediated by material methods and experimentation, in the generation and production of interior landscapes for the body.