Bratton – Flesh + Form

Rona Pondick

1. Animal and Architecture


The question of how architecture becomes animal is entwined, especially today, with how animality (and in fact, animals) become architectural.

What Agamben calls the anthropological machine constructs a contingent boundary between human-animal and non-human animal, and a definition of politics in the imagee of what sits on the ?human? side of that line. Animal is a kind of ?medium? between human and thing: I mean both the position that is transitional or in-between humans and things, and also animals as media for humans to act on things, and things to act on humans.

The human body (and its image) is by tradition, a first architecture: a dwelling that precedes the worldly habitat. From Vitrivius to Virilio, an architecture has looks toward the specific humanity of the body for its telos. its image of a unified singularity, and a continuous historicity. The condition of embodiment and its material poetics of scale, temperature, solidity and pliability, reproducibility and singularity has located the horizon of design from

But the genomic animal, sliced into component sub-variables and statistical predispositions, are imaged now as genomic territories, as mobile cities of genetic expression. Several and incompatible projects contribute to the historicizing and unknotting of the foundational distinctions between humanity and animality. Human body and the human species ?in relation to other animals and other objects- is deterritorialized as is made into a kind of bare life or open territory available to design, (made outlandish)

This is the territory being undone by contemporary biotech, which destabilizes the body-as-centering-refrerrent, and asks us to challenge the position of human in relationship to other things. This is a new opportunity for thinking the body in desing, and the architecture (of the vitrine, and otherwise) that springs forth from it. When rendered as pure flesh, the human-animal becomes both animal and object, and in the position undoes what it is possible to be as a human subject. Which is to say, the crisis of subjectivity brought about by biotech is also a crisis of human Objectivity, a crisis of being an object in new ways.

So?The animal is us , not an exotic Other whose profile architects might appropriate. The animal is the architect, the animal is the design and the design is consumed by animals.

Man animal object.
Body house world.

Genomic society, billboard
As the body, as a medium, becomes destabilized (as a genomic and Steigler? epiphylogenic assemblage and not a organic singularity) and as the worlds we define through the body become themselves equally determined by the genomically recombinant imaginary, its essential contiguity scatters.

In this what is most crucially at stake is not the physical body per se, even as it is fundamentally reconstructed before our eyes, but rather the local and global social practices (including architecture) emergent over the centuries upon concepts of the body (and the human) as stable bounded referent. As they are deterritorialized they are also reterritorialized, over-written, over-coded by other global complexes of material semiosis.

So here?s the question?

So in the truth of its practice, when does architecture?s preoccupation the expressivity of matter and assembly provide for a logic of situated craft that would provide, perhaps far better than art, a field of affective concepts with which the social, indeed the very matter and form of flesh, can be re-known and re-deployed in and as the built world?

2. Inverse Prosthesis

As an animal?s humanity is itself is called into question, it?s important to specify and adovate for assemblage ontologies as opposed to organism metaphors, and to understand through this the real bidirectionality of prosthetic economies.

Two very different thinkers who work from a human center outward to its social prosthesies.. FF and John McHale.

Proximate to the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall, neo-conservative Hegelian, Francis Fukuyama infamously ventured that the end of dialetic history was upon us, and with this epochal culmination, the Last Man (the ultimate Man) had emerged as the self-evident Liberal marketeer. Small h history would prove otherwise, and two ?events? in particular would cause even Fukuyama himself to quality his position to the point of retraction: 9-11, and the rise of biotechnology leading to a ?posthuman future.?

This link is critical for us. In the neo-conservative historical index, the idealized androcentric image of the historical actor, the subject of history, is a clearly articulated, differentiated Human. The formation of this critical fiction of the self-evident dominant human actor is, as critics from Ramon Gutierrez to Donna Haraway have articulated, the unstable suppression the heteronomic complex of animal and machinic actors that embody the territorial fluxes of history.

That is, the Man that appeared at the end of history was already being eaten alive by technologies that generated his phantom image. For Fukuyama this is a nightmare, not so for others. Quaint.

Artist/sociologist, John McHale (and so many others working in 1960?s) worked toward an image of architecture as a assembly of prostheses for plural bodies and compound subjectivities, that would, on local and global scales, extend their embodiments into the world into and against its expanded ecologies. (here Wigley?s work as a source point of reference)

For McHale, Modernity is a complex of prostheticization, a global field in which the subjective agency of he human body is extended into a global ?house? of communicatins media, transportation, architecture, medicine, ingestive imagery and instrumentality etc. It is both an amplification and a diversification of the organism and the species, a funcamental transformation o the morphological and social condition of humanity.? ?the distinction between body and space soon collapses. In ecological terms, human flesh is but a transitional event in the continuous redistribution of energy.? 40

?it is not that social life deploys various technologies to sustain itself or that social life can be found within technological space. Rather, social life can only reside prosthetic accessories. As mchale puts it, man is a social animal only through his extensions??

but extensions from what ?

brought about by encounters with the as yet unnamed categories of agency and processural objectivity within computationally intensive biotech,
There we transfer the loss of agency away from ourselves, projecting it into the world?art and arch that gives it iconicity and which renders its productive violences in symbolic terms.

In this collapse, the world folds into the extended will and wisdom of the body; but today perhaps the inverse is more critical, the revelation of the animal-human body again as world-matter: the body as an ?extension? of the world, condensing it, correlating the world, not necessarily piloting it. (cybernetics is to pilot)

That is, a reverse prosthetiziation, which would instead use the bodies of humans as the media of extention, originating for some other field positions, elsewhere. Here the human subject becomes object, body becomes flesh, and also an instrumentalized actual machine, a metabolic tool. Media are corporeal extentions but their agencies are massively distributed, not contained in a contiguous centering body whos whose influence, incorporation and identity would radiate outward into continuously expanded concentric plateaus ?an deep humanism?instead, it is both food and consumer, are irreducibly two-way chains of association.

Robot cockroach, robot surgery .is?.

–Is for robot surgery

To pilot: the cockroach?. Cybernetics, to fly?

Garnet Hertz, cockroach controlled mobile robot, runs up and down the seams of these reversals. First, the singular pilot of this machine is a bug, that all-purpose icon of primoridal mindlessness, and repeitioous, autonomic aggreagation. Second, the robot radically amplifies the scale of the bug?s intentions, transforming it into a grotesque ?.

The intervention of the animal, especially this animal with an apparent minimum of Cartesian credentials: cockroach as a ?living dirt? a kind of uncannily active species of filth substance, not at all anthpomophisizable.



In the afterimage of organ receipients as a population of cannibals, and of semi-living subjects as source of nourishment in the form of the disembodied and then organ without a body (flesh is a substance that is grown, consumed as food, or technology for the consumption of food)

Could the man with the jaw grown in his back eat that flesh with greater or lesser ethical. Stability. Would it bde more ore less a form of cannibalism for him? What would be his condition of habition?

Are there then things that he can or cannot eat with his jaw that are more less cannibalistic than what we others can eat? Are there things he can eat that we can?t without being cannibals?

What prostheses are not ingestion machines?

3. Flesh, Embodiment.

Readers of Bergson body appreciate that the body is always in a constant flux of animate formation and deformation, and that the image of stability, is only that, an image of frozen movement. Merleau-Ponty shows us how our sensory capacities and the world that we are given to sense are mutually constitutive embodiments. The condition of subjectivity is an epiphylogenic objectivity. This is the quality of flesh: its reversibility: actor/actant, eater/eaten, media/form

Again, Flesh as an extant medium points not to the vitrine but its inversions. A soft flesh housing the hard core, to metal prosthetizing the flesh, the flesh prosthetizing the metal, the tranference of agency from the small to the large, and from the large to the small?

In their lifetimes the students where will have some opportunity to encounter cultured tissue and/or genetically modified and genomicaly designed flesh as a fuunctional design medium.


Science and fiction in a promiscuous affair.

Claude Douret- ” a zoophyte, or plant animal, called in the Hebrew Jeduah. It was in form like a lamb, and from its navel, grew a stem or root by which this Zoophyte, or plant-animal, was fixed attached, like a gourd to the soil below the surface of the ground, and, according to the length of its stem or root, it devoured all the herbage which it was able to reach within the circle of its tether. The hunters who went in search of this creature were unable to capture, or remove it, until they had succeeded in cutting the stem by well-aimed arrows, or darts, when the animal immediately fell prostrate to the earth, and died. Its bones being placed with certain ceremonies and incantations in the mouth of one desiring to foretell the future, he was instantly siezed with a gift of divination, and endowed with the gift of prophesy.” (Historie Admirable des Plantes, 1605)


—Pig wings, tissue culture.
W is for wings, pig wings. Semi-living subjects.
In fact, Tissue Culture Project has already made real pig wings. Guy Ben-Ary, Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts are genetic artists at the University of Western Australia in Perth. In 2000 they took umbilical pig stem cells and cultured them into and across a sort of biopolymer net. Like ivy growing into a lattice, the cultured pig cells multiplied and grew along this biopolymer infrastructure shaped into the form of little wings. Next, the pig wings will be animated (flapping?) by muscle tissue harvested from rats.
If ?mammalian? flesh can be conceived, designed and constructed with this level of precision, can we anticipate that media realized at two inches by two inches today could tomorrow be twenty inches by twenty inches, then twenty feet by twenty feet, then even two hundred feet by two hundred feet? We would witness a dramatic new debut for the structural-architectural career of flesh, in which bodily matter interacts with structural systems to create highly intricate – and perhaps deeply functional – material forms.
Next on the menu for Tissue Culture Project is to grow meat in a dish from cells taken from a still-living sheep. They plan to eat the chop in the immediate vicinity of the donor animal. Welcome cruelty-free meat.17 disembodied cuisine and then victimless leather.
Vegan biotech.

MUDAC, SMus?e de design et d?arts appliqu?s contemporains
Lausanne, SW

Betes de Style/Animals With Style

—Edible body parts
Kittiwat Unarom

surrealist taxidermy

–Afke Golsteijn
Ophelia 2005

–Gordon Wilding

cat handbags

–Werner Reiterer’s
HYPERLINK “”Beginnings Of Space Travel is
Cat floating in space

–Martin Buron
Future Farm

–Elinor Carucci
skin as inverse world.
Skin as index, imprint?inverse prostheis.

—Splain and aziz and coucher
Skin as arhcitectture, architectue as skins
Laura splan, and aziz and coucher are prototypes.

When the architecture is made of the same matter, embodies the same substance as the human subjects and cultures it volotizes, what does this do to the horizon of design

Andrew Krashnow

Human skin. Bit of earnets agitprop

–Laura Splan?s pillows.
The affective intricacy of the designed surface has been in many ways predicated on a metaphor of skin. Here the world is figured as an assemblage of smooth and folded skins in which the image of the aestheticized image of human body as smooth surface finds an originary image.

These pillows, by designer Laura Splain, exagerates this to a productive reversal.
Here human skin is re-embodied not only onto the surface of the world, but onto objects into which deeply impress our sleeping faces.

These skin-pillows are artifacts from a stem cell farm of security blankets, designed now into warm, mammalian blobs.

–Natalia edenmont.
Natalia Edenmont is an notorious for her apparent ethical recklessness in

After relational aesthetics?.New material, but so hard to get out of represtaitonal thinking.

demetaphorizing. See Jens huber below vs. relational aeshtetics. Actual embodiment.
Is is though possible to escape semiotic overdetermination? Bare Life as design ground zero, as raw material? Icon index symbol, mediations in a realist ontology?..????

Need More Here

Always Have Done This
Ossuary, birdhouse architectre..


Bare Life..
L is for Lampshade, buchenwald
Unit 731

X is for xenogenesis, xenotranplationation. Is cannibalism? Y is for Yamamoto, yoji Shoe. Big Toe, all body as Big Toe. Kojeve shows up here. V is for vitrine, softbody in hard shell? Is for Veridian

Flesh and Form:Good and Evil

spinach in pig flesh,

strawberry skin, etc.

new kind of life.

M is for Mai, realdolll or Necrophilia?

O is for OOZ is f

K is for KOLMac?s wall,

andrew krashnow ugly flag, inversabrane

4. becoming Animal Seminar and 7 Scales Project

I want to show you some work by SCI_Arc students of a studio and seminar I taught a couple years ago with Hernan that focused on this same issues.
The studio began on the day of the final review of our previous studio, that for the design of a free standing home for a family of disabled persons, and at which it became clear to the critics that the students had not so much designed homes as architectural images of possible bodies or states of embodiment.
For the next studio, we decided to begin with the design of the animalian body and then find ways to shuttle it into architecture, instead of the inverse: to develop animals and let them find their own architectural careers.
This seminar and studio focused not about the mimetic taking of biology into and onto architecture, but the transference of multiple physiological scales into the systemic intelligence of the involute surface-dwelling, and back again.
We studied particular machines: the ocular nerve of the owl, the locomotion of the giant jellyfish, the pack logistics of rats, the program of the frog’s anus, not as geometries, but as interfaces.
The way Hernan teaches Maya already shifts our thinking and clicking away from the wedge, volume, void, plane ?.
The students were already comfortable thinking of architectural program in terms of the joint, organ, cavity, skin: of fleshes, rather than blobs. What we were tracing, I think, were some very partial contours in a broader biopolitical shift that foregrounds its own tectonic vocabulary: ingestion and digestion, dilation, prolapse, speciation, locomotion, orifice, membrane, interface, immolation, secretion, optics, gestation, camouflage, exception, etc. etc.

7 Scales

?generalized symmetry? ANT..
Galloway and thacker, protocols. 😛 is for Protocol, is for Prosthesis, procedural ontology.
open at telic, LAX or opening ceremony?
7 Scales not homology, but relational experimentation.

So hopefully what you see here are not biomorphically evocative, biomimetic forms –not animal-posture buildings and furniture?but partial animals, unrendered as organisims (genetic strata) and re-rendered as segmentary assemblages, into which that an processural architectural imaginary can intervene at multiple cospatial and contemporary scales: medicine, device, garment, habitat, landscape, etc.

Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker are extending their consideration of standard ?protocols? (such as TCP/IP or RNA) as control mechanisms of processural systems, to include both biologic and genetic processes as well as the software infrastructure of global media.

This is, I think, correspondent to ANT assumption of a ?Generalized Symmetry? :that all the elements in a network, human and non-human, can and should be described in the same terms. The rationale for this is that differences between them are generated in the network of relations, not internal to themselves, and should not be presupposed.
Along these line of thought, my next project

Along the model of a fashion collection that includes several kinds and layers of garments and accessories, I am, in collaboration with a small group of collaborators, developing an 8 Scale proposal: a ?collection? of interrelated but independently developed ?programs? for architectures both inside and outside the animal body.

Of course, the first interest is not in a fractal homology of like systems from molecular to climatic scale, but of experimenting ?through and for arhictecture- of the conditional autonomy and relationality ?all the way down? as it were of each scale?s potential program.

Each ?program? is conceived independently in relation to some set variables and scenarios, and from this provisionally developed. Only then is each proposal is shared with the other collaborators who each in turn revise and rework their ?program? accordingly.

Immune system
communications media (kommbooth)

ready to share?


ackroyd and harvey’s ackroyd and harvey?s mother and child

Ron Mueck, giant baby

Mediation and Purfication

If as Latour defines it, Modernity is a ongoing process of purfication of different fields (nature / culture, humans/ animals) and the governance of their inevitable, conditional hybridization (Modernity as meta-medium, or transduction machine) for things kept at artificial distance and then conditionally intermingled, then part of what is at work in the ?bio-art? sampler are of course various visual exercises in hybridization:

Dead and living
Human non-human
Human animal
Matter expression
Eat what we design/ What we design eats us
We eat the dead flesh/ The dead flesh eats us
House the flesh, housed by the flesh
The animal has agency, agenc has the animal,


But so much hybridization is signal that the terms at work (the purfication) is sort of broken. So if design is a kind of putting the world in order, how to classify things if we think the world through connections and not contiguous organic essences?

As ever, these integrations and disintegrations point designers toward even more bodies of experimentation, that leave us without adequate ?expert systems? to arbitrate them, or their ethics, and without certain capacity to adjudicate in advance our own risky, inevitable involvements as both producers and consumers, of both each other and our habitat; of architectureas part of the food supply, and food as part of the architecture supply.

That is, what happens to ?care? of the world, what is eco-philosophy when cultured tissue, artificial but real flesh is a an architectural medium, when the things are made of the same stuff as we are. What is to care for the substance of the world as if it were our own body, because it is, and to instrumentalize our own body as if it were substance of the world, because it is. The designer becomes Things, and Things become him. Does design become, again, an extended mirror-stage of phased re-recognition, this time a recognition as object more than subject?

Bernad Steigler, epiphylogenesis Transgenesis.

We may find ourselves in recombinant habitats simultaneously more similar and responsive to our sensate bodies, more intimately incorporated with our biological presence, and also entirely unrecognizable to us as architecture, let alone as homes. Instructively, the same goes for our bodies.

And if our architecture is another sensate body with which and in which we live, spend our most intimate moments, connect within a most intimate way, what kinds of desire for our habitats are then inevitable? What kinds of desire will it have for us? Will we fuck our architecture, and if not, why not? Will our architecture sexually reproduce, with us or on its own?27 Will our categories shift in such a way that we will recognize that it already does and always has? What selection variables might pressure our architecture to move toward parthenogenic strategies?

Dog Kiss
Cibachrome on aluminium
Edition of 3
cm 130 x 100

When architecture becomes genomic, the ecological circuit between the human immune system and a building?s immune system is raised to primary importance. The notion of sick building syndrome takes on unimagined ethical ramifications. When we get sick, the building gets sick. When the building gets sick, do we get sick? Whether or not we come to eat our architecture, we will further internalize it on a micrological level, as we would the viruses, bacteria, diseases of any complex organism with which we share close quarters. Is this the hypermodern uncanny, or its opposite ? a radical reconnection with space on the most fundamental level?

It is an open question as to whether amplifying already present integrations of body-as-structure into structure-as-body – a delicate intradependence between building and inhabitant – will bring therapeutic transformative reintegrations of self and space, or in it?s universalziation of the bare life of flesh, instead an infinite, unimaginable anomie, or somehow both?

All of this is overstuffed with risk. Virilio?s genetic accident is now a immediately at hand.
But I think critical to the challenge is to extend ?open-ness? to the world, now into the world (to appropriate an old criterion of human-animal difference) and to not close the search field of fleshly emergence too soon. Another risk is to freeze it again through a new extension of the anthropological machine?s virulent humanism into a new spectral ethical and aesthetic litmus test. That?s something we can?t afford.

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