By Neri Oxman
2012, 3D Print
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
The Remora was said to hold ships stock still in their course. A notable account by Pliny the Younger blamed the remora for the defeat of Mark Antony and for the death of Caligula, determining its physical power to delay and reverse man's paths at sea. Its command originates in its rounded sinuous curved anatomy and special physical features. Also known as the suckerfish, the remora's distinctive first dorsal fin takes the form of a modified oval sucker-like organ with slat-like structures that open and close to create suction and take a firm hold against the skin of larger marine animals. By sliding backwards, the remora can increase suction. The remora is often seen as a companion to sharks with whom they form a symbiotic relationship: the shark provides protection and transport while the remora maintains services of the shark's dermal denticles. Appropriated as a hip splint, which attaches itself to the pelvic region by way of suction, this imaginary being is populated by barnacle-like hollow structures. The cellular 'suction cups' promoting attachment to the skin vary in size and density informed by the natural curvature of the human body. This girdle-like contraption promotes circulation when worn on the inside; by reversing the structure and wearing it on the outside, the wearer is able to attach the pelvic region to rough surfaces.
About the Collection
Imaginary Beings: Mythologies of the Not Yet
Design and Mythology are both media for storytelling that represent general cultural truths and their human meaning. Like design, mythology is a universal language by which to decode human culture; and as in design, myths often employ the augmentation of human power in expressing the super-natural. Indeed, throughout the history of design, humans have attempted the unattainable. From Da Vinci's human-powered aircraft as inspired by the wings of Icarus, to inventions of material self-repair and regeneration dating back to the myth of the Promethean liver, design has consistently dealt with amplifying human powers or compensating for human limitations. It is not surprising then, that mythological 'beings' are often portrayed as personifications of natural forces. Indeed, the myths that tell of these earlier gods fulfilled the role of explaining the existence of nature. The collection includes 18 prototypes for the human body inspired by Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings. An encyclopedia of fantastic zoology, the book contains descriptions of 120 mythical beasts from folklore and literature. Situated within and against the forces of nature, Borges' bestiary provides the site for coupling the 'cultural' with the 'natural' in design, by designing a collection of nature-inspired human augmentations. Imaginary Beings : Mythologies of the Not Yet postulates that futuristic design afforded by technological advancements, is rooted in fantasy and in myth: from the Golem of Prague to robotic exoskeletons, from Daphne's wings to flying machines, from Talos' armor to protective skins; mythemes - the design kernel of the myth as defined by Claude Levi-Strauss - provide us with eternal archetypes of the super-natural and its material expressions. Each 'being' in this series encapsulates the amplification and personalization of a particular human function such as the ability to fly, or the secret of becoming invisible. What was once considered magic captured by myth, becomes actuality as design and its material technologies offer more than meets the skin: spider suits, wing contraptions, and ultra-light helmets; these are all what one may consider mythologies of the "Not Yet". In projecting the future, this work makes use of new and innovative material technologies enhancing both the physical and environmental properties of these wearable myths and habitable contraptions. A library of algorithms inspired by form found in nature informs the design and fabrication process. Novel multi-material 3-D printing technologies along with new design features such as bitmap printing and property textures have been developed to support material performance and expression. Revealing nature's design language, this collection of objects represents a library of design principles inspired by nature suggesting that the ancient myth and its futuristic counterpart unite where design fabrication recapitulates fantasy.