Exhibition Review: Coding the Body – Organized By Leah Buechley

All / Reporting / Reviews / April 14, 2014

Coding The Body is a very small exhibition at apexart aiming to communicate the notion of integrating the body with technology, organized by Leah Buechley, founder of Lilypad Arduino (a small circuit board made especially for wearable technologies).

Upon entering, you will first see a wall with data visualizations extracted from the Nike Fuel band followed by a piece by Ben Fry called “Chromosome 21” (2002). The piece displays a part of genetic code from the chromosome 21, nicely illustrating the way bio technologies and genetic engineering serve as a vital building block towards this new era ahead of us. For true integration of technology with the body, nanotechnologies are essential, as this is the only way technology will be able to truly morph with the body. Next, you will see a piece that nicely leads into the aesthetic and expressionistic part of the exhibition, made by Nervous Systems – an apparel company that works with algorithmic designs inspired by organic systems.

Nervous System. Kinematics concept wearable, 2014.

Nervous System’s wearable is a great example of how 3D printing enabels novel aesthetic forms, taking a 3D scan of the wearers body and then creating pieces using a pre-written code to generate a design, giving fashion new interdisciplinary aspects. The exhibition also showcases an object made with FreeD, a software that translates physical sculpting into digital.

The aim of the exhibition according to the brochure seems to be creating a discourse between the digital and physical and the merging of these, questioning our comfort as these technologies get pushed towards posthumanism. As Leah Buechley states: “The cyborg is a popular imagining of the relationship between code and the body, of how people can and should relate to computers. Alluring and unsettling, this vision promises that we can be better than human: smarter, stronger, faster; but it leaves us suspicious that we will lose ourselves in the process—as parts of our bodies are gradually “augmented” or simply replaced by machines and software.”

The exhibition falls short in communicating this notion.  Materiality, processes and function should have been amplified though storytelling. However the project is admirable and clearly much research has gone into it, reading the online material accompanying the exhibition gives the necessary insight in design and technology discourse to breach the subject of body and technology merging.

Photo: Courtesy Fabiola Einhorn

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Fabiola Einhorn
Fabiola Einhorn
Guest Contributor, Cultbytes Austin-based interaction designer and recent MFA graduate from Parson's Design & Technology program, currently at frog design. A passion for understanding human behavior lead her to pursue a BA in creative advertising strategy at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, which has greatly shaped her research focused work, always considering the cultural and contextual aspects of user centered-design. Her creative practice is led by an intent to explore forgotten or hidden truths about the human condition through conceptual forms of inquiry and design thinking/making. She finds it an exciting time to explore her biggest passions - notions in connected healthcare, affective computing, tangible interactions and wearables. She truly believes that technology needs to be in service of design, and can help the greater good. l contact l

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