BodyBuilding. Inefficient Tool Building for Quantified Beings

From Hackers & Designers
BodyBuilding. Inefficient Tool Building for Quantified Beings
Name BodyBuilding. Inefficient Tool Building for Quantified Beings
Location Tetem
Date 2020/02/20-2020/06/14
Time 11:00-17:00
PeopleOrganisations The Underground Division, Thomas Rustemeyer, Kiki Mager, Nazanin Karimi
Type Exhibition
Web Yes
Print No


EN (for Dutch visit the Tetem website)

Inefficient tool building for quantified beings

On a daily basis our bodies are being scanned, tracked, debugged, rendered, manipulated, and categorized by different technologies. How are we, as users and makers, able to understand our bodies' relationships to these biometric computational processes? BodyBuilding is a process-driven exhibition curated by the Hackers & Designers collective (H&D), which investigates the intersection of technology and the agency of the (human, post-human, trans-human, non-human) body from a maker's perspective.

Engaging with technologies such as scanners, geocomputation, and motion capture, the commissioned works problematize the role of the "body” in computation. In addition to the commissioned works, H&D will work in collaboration with architectural designer Thomas Rustemeyer, to develop a support structure which will host the works of the invited artists. The structure will reflect the ways in which H&D functions as a community, a network, and an infrastructure.

As the artists are also tool-makers, visitors are invited to actively take part in processes of constructing and deconstructing tools, ask questions about their inner workings, their ethics, and socio-technological entanglements. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the works on display will be activated through different (inter)activities such as hands-on workshops, lectures and discussions.

Exhibited Works

Sunburned Land: A bodily experience of a digital story

by Nazanin Karimi with sound design by Piège Bureau Located close to the shores of a politically strategic territory, and placed in the middle of digital warfare, this island carries aggressive and charged news about drones, tankers, oil, weaponry, rivalry, deceptive claims, and false flag operations. The Sunburned Land is a fictive portrayal of an actual location and its occurring events.

In this new work, Nazanin focuses specifically on the ‘physicality’ of the landscape and the effects of the landscape on narrative and the body of the audience. The warmth, colors, and ambiguous topography are the natural elements of the landscape’s physical presence. Lying down and looking at a holistic picture on a tilted angle engages the body and mind in an experience that brings us closer to feeling the contrasting tranquility of the island. (The tilted surface, at -6° to -24°, stimulates blood circulation to give a neutralising and numb-like feeling while looking at the screen). Together, the flying movement of the camera, the physical weightlessness and numbness, and the storyline, create a bodily experience of a digitally narrated story.

The work began when Nazanin was developing a script for a new game environment and travelled to Iran to film and scan the landscapes there. While she was filming, new concerns were raised about the Hormoz Strait and its role in escalating political tensions between Iran and the West. The perception of potential violence was being shaped through the news, in digital media, and tweet wars. However, the ‘physicality’ of the location remained mostly unknown to the audience. Therefore, Nazanin travelled to the politically strategic Qeshm and Hormoz islands and tried to capture the natural landscape by filming and photographing it with a drone.

In order to play with the tension between fiction and reality, Nazanin combines 3D scanning, 3D modeling, and real footage to recreate the island. This way of working is the result of prohibitions that are in place at the Qeshm and Hormoz islands to freely fly a drone and use laser scanners for aerial documentation. By simulating the hidden characteristics of this geographic location, the work engages the audience in a critical exploration of the political reality of the Hormoz Strait. It allows us to move within the slippery space between fiction and non-fiction—questioning our trust in perceptions that are shaped in the absence of bodily experiences.

Collective Gait

by Kiki Mager Programming by Christina Karpodini (programmer) and Sami Sabik (creative engineer)

Scientists have claimed that ‘gait recognition’ can determine an individual body based on its movement with 94% accuracy. While the use of gait recognition technologies for surveillance is an extreme example, it opens up a conversation about how individual body movements are interpreted and used in various fields. ‘Collective Gait’ is an interactive, process oriented work, which uses the application of gait recognition as a starting point to unfold the complexity behind human motion capture technologies.

The work creates a framework for a motion sculpture built from a continuously growing archive of motion signatures (gait / walk patterns), which are composed of points that each represent a sensor on the wearer’s body. The walking patterns are visually overlaid into one collective body walking through space. The motion sculpture gains volume through the combined differences between each pattern—taking the form of a mesh of bodies, their tracked bodily movements becoming a singular form.

This visualized collective gait sculpture is a reflection on scientific studies into individual gait patterns (movement signatures) and their application for surveillance purposes. Gait recognition operates in a similar fashion to facial recognition technology, with the shared claims of identity recognition, including personality recognition (mood, age, health, etc.).

The interaction with the tool acts as an experiential entry point for visitors into questions, frictions, opportunities, and consequences in relation to how technology is constructed to perceive human subjectivity at the level of bodily movements and how it de facto achieves to do so (or not). By generating a collective body of gaits, the tool asks: When is the individual gait abstracted so far from its recognizable pattern that gait recognition technology cannot be applied anymore?


by The Underground Division (Helen Pritchard, Jara Rocha, Femke Snelting)

The ROCK REPO is a device built by a team of trans*feminist post-normal scientists for thinking with rocks. Managing rock slope instabilities by LiDAR, optimising strata modelling for fracking, rendering cavities in 3D for gaming, and algorithmically smoothed rock shaders are all deposited in the REPO. The REPO inquires into these banal, exquisite, kitsch, static, carbonivourous figurations to fracture the normative 3D processes of geocomputation and their crushing exploitations and extractions. Through making a collection of ROCKS, The Underground Division gets close to particular ROCKS and their unstable stories, as told through scientific and technological practice. Recognising that rocks have their own lively forces, the unruly team studies rocks’ 3D imaginings, the softwares and hardwares that rocks intervene on and builds new glossaries on the go. Their studies operate as a chipping away at what limits the resistant and destructive capacities of rocks.

The ROCK REPO device crosscuts with rocks as 'bodies' in a purposeful move away from the somatic corporealities of individual humans. This shift allows the team to ask about inhuman materialities and how they matter [in] the world. The REPO is an inquiry into what ROCK is, what it could be and the ways in which ROCK is seen or considered as an entity separate from its environment. It works with the 'deep implicancies'* of this moving between figure and ground, asking what happens as result of this cut, and what other formations could appear. Sharpened by queer and anticolonial sensibilities, it investigates the way ROCKS are quarried, measured, quantified, historicized, visualized, predicted, classified, modelled. The REPO, as an instrument itself, crystallizes other stories of spatial and temporal geologic processes and throws rocks through the glaciated windows of turbocapitalism.

  • A term Denise Ferreira da Silva and Arjuna Neuman borrow from forensic genetics to talk about implications and entanglement in a non-linear way


by Thomas Rustemeyer

In his work, Thomas Rustemeyer deals with forms of representation and their political and social implications, with a focus on spatial and urban issues. His works span different disciplines and media ranging from exhibition, scenography, publication, and drawing. For BodyBuilding, Hackers & Designers invited Thomas to collaborate on making a translation of the work of H&D into a spatial design.

The work takes the form of a physical and interactive structure, through which visitors can move, view, experience, and interact with the different art works. The structure simultaneously brings together and differentiates between collective and individual forms of engagement—accommodating collective workshop situations as well as the viewing of an individual video work. While highlighting the connections between the different artworks, the work mimics, in a tongue-in-cheek way, the ‘platform qualities’ of H&D, and also creates a space for the different activities that will take place during the exhibition period.

The exhibition infrastructure emphasises the way that H&D works as a collective, with a focus on process, prototypes, transparency, and criticality, exercised through workshops and interactive activities.

Support Structure

by Hackers & Designers

Hackers & Designers (H&D) is an interdisciplinary collective ‘body’ that functions as a network, an infrastructure, a host, and a facilitator for makers who come from different disciplines (art, design, computer programming). By initiating a diverse range of encounters that involve hands-on making, H&D aims to create opportunities for makers to meet and collaborate. H&D also makes educational resources available to the public by documenting and publishing tools, technologies and processes that are used and produced during workshops.

As curators of the BodyBuilding exhibition, H&D worked collaboratively with invited artists on developing their commissioned works and with spatial designer Thomas Rustemeyer on the exhibition architecture. As a reflection on the work of H&D, Thomas designed a platform that visually manifests the often invisible aspects of collaborative practice, such as maintenance work, as well as the manifold of encounters and interactions necessary for the network to come into being and sustain itself. The platform serves as a support structure for the invited artists, and the different hands-on activities that will be hosted and activated inside the exhibition. At the same time, the structure functions as a work in and of itself, translating the methods and approaches of H&D into a spatial arrangement.

For the exhibition, H&D also created a resource library, which takes the form of different WiFi hotspots throughout the exhibition space. Visitors can access the resources and research that went into each of the works by logging into specific hotspots. The resource library consists of images, videos, and textual materials that contextualise, expand, and intersect with the works on display.

In addition H&D will curate and organise a bus symposium that will take visitors from Amsterdam to Enschede, providing artist talks and other interactive activities along the way that elucidate ideas around the impact of technology on our bodies.