A BREATHING CYBORG! Review

by Chris Doray, MA History + Critical Thinking Student

07 March 2017
Architectural Association, London

 

1-The-Drawing-Machine

The Drawing Machine in the Graduate Gallery, AA School of Architecture, 2017. Photo courtesy of Chris Doray.

Sixteen weeks into their first year at the AA, Caspar, Tamara, James, and Quentin have already launched their first invention- an experimental prototype for a ‘drawing machine’. It is, of course, no surprise to see the Sixties icon and founding member of Archigram, David Greene, standing amongst the ‘Coligopulmogrammers’, watching on with much enthusiasm and ‘joie de vivre’.

2-Grad-Gallery

The Drawing Machine; four Coligopulgrammers drawing in The Place Where No One Goes (Graduate Gallery), 2017. Photo courtesy of Quentin Martin.

If you were to have walked past the Graduate Gallery (now renamed as The Place Where No One Goes as part of David Greene’s AA LAWuN project) during Open Week (6-10 February 2017), you would have been tempted to bestow an ounce of your breath in exchange for a Coligopulmogram (drawing). With my early architectural education being an apprentice-draughtsman, I was an easy draw! It was an exhilarating experience and not to mention, addictive! The main difference here was that one voluntarily forgoes the ‘other’ contemporary addictive needs, i.e. to tweet, browse, or email in favour of this more immersive experience. And was this addiction achieved through omitting the intuitive ‘touch’ of a wireless technology in favour of the simple empowerment of the respiratory system to place ink to paper? Or, in plain words, was it the thrill of engaging with an apparatus that is more cognitive in its making.

3-Oase

Oase No: 7, Documenta 6 Kassel, Germany. Haus-Rucker-Co, 1972.

A brief chat with David and one can easily see the parallels to the some of the pneumatic structures and prosthetic devices that altered our perceptions of space in the mid-Sixties by the Viennese group, Haus-Rucker-Co.

4-Flyhead

Mind Expander/Flyhead Helmet, Haus-Rucker-Co, MoMA, 2011. 

The one that David specifically recalled was the ‘Mind Expander/Flyhead Helmet’ which enables one to view the world from the specific visual perspective of a fly with a mind-expanding accessory, capable of mutating the ways we place ourselves in this world.

5-Uberorgan

Überorgan by Tim Hawkinson, a sculptural installation at the Getty Centre, 2007. 

In the new millennium, we are now reminded of the work of the LA artist Tim Hawkinson and his enormous multi-sensory experiential sculpture, Überorgan, which invasively occupied the modernist rotunda at the Getty Centre in the summer of 2007.

6-The-Drawing-Machine

The Drawing Machine: the exterior lung. Photo courtesy of Chris Doray.

What these young innovative minds have assembled with the Coligopulmogram is primarily a low-tech cyborg resembling parts of a machine or mechanism and, by extension, is coupled with biological partners: living organisms (humans).

7-Slide-Rule

The Slide Rule became obsolete in 1974. 

A masterfully crafted transparent cubist-cadaver fitted seamlessly to a MDF air chamber with exposed ‘lungs’ (balloons) and flexible windpipes terminating with personalised hygienic nozzles. Visually, this cyborg appears to impersonate a version of an orthogonal jelly-fish; posing to be an amphibious-like construct while collectively merging with its organic partners in order to begin recording some of its ‘un-premeditated thoughts’ (drawings).

8-The-Drawing-Machine

A Coligopulmogram in progress. First Year Studio, AA School of Architecture, 2017. Photo courtesy of Chris Doray.

To inhale is to contract (work) and to exhale is to relax (play). What we have before us is an all-inclusive, human-machine-nature symbiotic drawing apparatus. Beyond the invisible skeletal structure, a quadrangle MDF box is suspended within the interior which behaves like a reservoir for ‘breath’.

9-Detail

Close-Up Detail of the Coligopulmogram. First Year Studio, AA School of Architecture, 2017. Photo courtesy of Caspar Schols.

It then funnels air into the attached four balloons which then inflate and deflate accordingly and dependently to each participate at the end of each nozzle. Fundamentally, what has been created is a ‘life-line’ (conduit) between the human lung and the artificial lung (balloon). The reservoir slides horizontally on pairs of steel-rod stanchions in all four directions whether it is being pushed out on each exhale or receding on each inhale. And while these are in motion, four coloured markers attached to this ‘slider’ are randomly calibrating a ‘thought’! This system is not far from the workings of a slide-rule where the human mind engages with its muscular systems paired with a precisely tabulated hand-held sliding device to perform complex mathematical computations.

10-In-Tate

The Drawing Machine at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, London, 2017. Photo courtesy of Caspar Schols.

I suppose when one begins to speak of computation, which is an inevitable paradigm in the realm of emergent technologies and cognitive sciences, there lies this lucid thought amongst critics that perhaps this invention might evolve into becoming the next generation of 3D printers. XYZ, watch out!

11-Kids

Young Coligopulmogrammers at Tate Modern, London, 2017. Photo courtesy of Quentin Martin.

Perhaps in their remaining undergraduate years at the AA, the foursome who so diligently conceived this embryo of a drawing machine will take on this mandate and deliver a reincarnated version of this apparatus, which could potentially become the next updated ‘Molly’, the street samurai in Gibson’s 1984 novel, ‘Neuromancer’.

12-Front

A Coligopulmogram. Scanned by Tamara Rasoul.

My only disappointment was that the inventors had not managed their evidence adequately to produce a 1:5 scaled drawing of the Drawing Machine – an essential piece of work that I would have liked to have pondered over, studied, and scrutinised closely to my heart’s content, and most certainly published in this review. A drawing that if revealed, I am certain would have taken our breath away again!

 

13-Front

A Coligopulmogram. Scanned by Tamara Rasoul.

For more information:

First Year Brief

MA History and Critical Thinking

Coligopulmogram (CPG) by Quentin Martin, James Lysaght, Tamara Rasoul, and Caspar Schols