Co-Corporeality » Project
The project goal is to establish an interaction between a human and a living material in order to develop a responsive environment that interacts, learns, grows and decays in relation to human presence and behaviour. Co-corporeality spans between free ranging speculation and scientific research, and will be explored from three different perspectives:
(1) Development of materials that can sense the environment and interact with a human,
(2) Design of interfaces that allow non-verbal communication to evoke changes and responses within the material,
(3) Production of full-scale proto-architectural installations.
Co-corporeality proposes new aesthetical and technological approaches to re-discuss the role of material systems within architecture emerging from questions of the terms nature and ecology brought up by synthetic biology, genetic engineering and cloning. Contrary to conventional building materials, “living materials” have the capability to be tailored and programmed in relation to the environment or specific needs, to transform the built environment into a “biological entity” and change the way we understand, observe and communicate with the built space. Co-corporeality applies new fabrication methodologies and novel sensor systems to create a radical new approach towards responsive and immersive environments.
Co-Corporeality is funded by the
Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK)
The arts-based research Co-corporeality examines the built environment as a “biological entity” and attempts to change the way we understand, observe and communicate with it. The goal is to establish an interaction between a human and a biological material system, such as biological polymers, in order to develop a responsive environment. This biotechnical architecture will then be able to interact, learn grow and decay in relation to the behaviour and presence of a human. The research is located in the domains of material studies, cognitive sciences and performative architecture, taking its base from previous projects such as “Building As Growing” (Imhof, Gruber, 2015) and “Growth Based Fabrication Techniques for Bacterial Cellulose” (Derme et al., 2016). The proposed research focuses on two main key factors: firstly, the production of programmed communication interfaces between a human and a biological system and secondly the production of novel material systems using biological polymers. Furthermore, the research investigates on how reciprocal recognition becomes part of our consciousness. The discursive nature of the research investigates on the effects of the human-microbial relationship as responsive environment where one biological system (the human) is observing another one (a responsive material) and vice versa. The viewer approaches the potential biological subject (the material) through the state of perceptive co-existence and develops a distinct relationship different to that of a dead object or mere simulation. Conventional research on responsive architecture is mostly based on strictly controlled dependencies, creating kinetic and interactive environments only by using mechanical apparati and large arrays of sensors. The innovative aspect of the project Co-corporeality is to use biotechnical architecture as a discursive platform where technological, biological hybrids generate performative architecture. As such, the concrete effects of this interaction, allow an enhanced perception of space-comprising factors of non-verbal communication including haptics (touch), kinetics (body movement), proxemics (human presence) and especially oculesics (eye contact, patterns of fixations). New fabrication methodologies for biomaterials and novel sensor systems will be used to create a radical new approach towards responsive and immersive environments.
Arts-based research context
Co-corporeality focuses on the production of new domains of descriptions within architecture related to building with biological materials such as biological polymers and novel bio-fabrication techniques. Bio-polymers and bacterial cellulose are extremely versatile producing little to no waste, as they use small amounts of energy to produce multi-functional and adaptable systems (Vincent 2012). Those materials are produced through processes of bio-synthesis as they are formed by a strong relationship between bacteria, nutrients and environment (Derme et al., 2016). Karen Barad, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, architects/artist Philip Beesley and Oksiuta Zbigniew demand a re-discussion of material systems towards processes related to biological materials and biosynthesis. This need to re-discuss the role of material system within architecture arises from fundamental questions and reformulations of the terms nature and ecology brought up by synthetic biology, genetic engineering and cloning. The project examines the necessity of conceiving the built environment beyond its formulation as dead entity, addressing the vivification of the space through mutual interaction and reciprocal recognition of the two biological systems.
Until now there has been no substantial architectural research into how theories and technologies could activate a meaningful engagement between two biological systems and how this would change our perception of architectural space. Co-corporeality proposes new aesthetical and technological approaches, which can develop existing genres of material studies, cognitive sciences and ecology to re-establish our definitions of real and artificial, organic and mechanical, and consciousness through coexistence. In particular, the project will discuss current scientific approaches of biomedia such as growth-based materials (Derme et al., 2016), performance space architecture, co-realism and biotechnological art. Performance-space-architecture describes an immersive space, which is an evolving system, using non-verbal communication to interact with visitors, including conscious and unconscious processes of encoding and decoding. To date, most of these reactive environments are “quasi alive” using mechanical apparati to simulate natural behaviours. Additionally, these responsive environments are mostly based on strictly controlled dependencies. The innovative aspect of the proposed project is to use biological systems to generate a discursive performance-space-architecture with the goal to establish the state of “Correalism” (Kiesler, 1939). This term describes the dynamics of continual interaction between the human and his natural and technological environments. “Biomedia” biological materials and biotechnologies as media for art and architecture have been explored by some researchers and artists, such as British researcher Rachel Armstrong and architect Ferdinand Ludwig, to overcome long standing traditions and generate a media which potentially can inhibit novel capacities such as self-repair, adaptation and evolution. Works like “Hybrid Muscle” and “an architecture des humeurs" by François Roche discuss the role of ecology and nature within the built environment exploring the political meaning of the human presence. However, development and experimental work in this field are still rare and scarcely exist within the realm of responsive biomaterials, awareness and synthetic biology applied to architecture. Co-corporeality discovers the creation of awareness through reciprocal recognition as productive force, proving the potential of synthetic biology to upgrade art historical paradigms of “creation”.