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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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The Viscous Body

The Viscous Body

Ethics of the Viscous Body describes the human body as a viscous one — constantly negotiating with its environment as it seeks comfort. Comfort is the state for which the presence of the material environment disappears. It is when our body is uncomfortable that the physical environment is brought from the background to the foreground.


Pose Work for Plinths I 1971 Bruce McLean


Arakawa and Gins designed the Biocleave House as an “inter-active laboratory of everyday life”, where the purpose of the architecture is to keep people on guard, and in a “tentative” relationship with their surroundings. People are made to use their bodies in unexpected ways as they go about their routines with heightened awareness.

This state of awareness is when there is an active relationship between body and space.

Emotiv, the EEG technology company, claims to be able to measure emotional states from the raw brainwave data gathered from the headset. These states include: engagement, excitement, interest, relaxation, stress and focus. Through using the data from the EEG headset as an instrument in the feedback loop to reconfigure the body, it will be interesting to understand the notion of a comfortable body through both the raw brainwave data and our body itself, and question Emotiv’s claim of being able to quantify emotions.

Using the real-time information, the raw data will trigger the reconfiguration of the body. The person will be perpetually involved as he or she continuously negotiate with the physical environment, and confront the limitation of his or her body’s mechanics — human and machine as a performative system.


Reconfigurable Body


This week, our goal is to create a robotic / mechanical system that:

  1. Is able to reconfigure the body’s position and / or posture
  2. Be able to interface the body tangibly




[vimeo 73164578 w=640 h=360]


Our prototypes:


[vimeo 256749297 w=640 h=360]

Virtual Black Box

A datascape will be constructed from the information extracted from the EEG headset and this datascape will act as a virtual ‘black box’ that will dynamically affect the physical environment. Virtual reality is less governed by the physics of reality and interfacing with this virtual black box will drive the physical body to be in unexpected conditions.

This virtual black box will be revealed to the user possibly as a projection onto his or her environment. Similar to Lozano Hemmer’s Relational Architecture works, the projection will open up the body to the outside and creates opportunities for the body to interact with its surroundings.

Lozano Hemmer’s Relational Architecture 6 Body Movies

Alexandra is working on creating the datascape with the EEG headset, translating engagement of the user into a reconfigurable space. We will, over the course of the next few weeks, experiment with interfacing this virtual black box with the reconfigurable robotics system.

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