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Léa d'Albronn Allexandre
Better than Well
How are media and health-related technologies changing our perception of the body?
The project sets a narrative around the contemporary body and the way that humans modify themselves.
We are surrounded by a collection of artefacts that each engrave our anatomies from the beginning to the end. These objects are at the source of rituals, each marking the body, as a site of transient inscription.
Architecture is just the frame that allows for these inscriptions to happen. We always think of architecture as a way of managing space, but in reality it first starts by regulating our habits.
100 objects per day, on an average of 80 years for a Westerner’s lifetime, are we still human?
What do these artefacts have to say about our perception of the body?
The project starts by acknowledging a structure that divides these collections into the category of either subcultures or medical institutions: from grinders to DIY bioengineering, to BIO hacking, technology has enabled medicine to democratise and given greater control to individuals.
Identities, and communities, are given the opportunity to self-define, and so by doing it at home.
The first methodological step is to gather evidence over different online platform communities. Creating taxonomies of the objects and artefacts that they use, while trying to understand and to visualise the context and most importantly the procedures that they use for this.
And on the other hand medical institutions are still providing an image of the body very linked to objectification.The role of commodification, the patient as a client creates an economy that drives ever-lasting bodies, and pushes the boundaries from care to enhancement.
Ideologies of Foucault’s discipline have evolved around technology driven endeavours.
The project creates a juxtaposition of these two architectural typologies: the hospital and the home.
This structure will allow us to see how to the home slowly becomes the institution that produces new individual subjectivities, in opposition to the hospital.
The health care system is still largely flawed and increasingly inegalitarian, the home becomes the place for the birth of new communities and shared knowledge that contributes to more individual and (female) body agency.
Part of the methodology is to look at concrete and specific happenings within these institutions:
1) Starting with robotic surgery
In 2018, the Marsden Hospital performed the first surgical robot surgery in the UK with the Da Vinci robot.
New imagery is constantly produced with the use of this specific technique by introducing a minuscule camera that will wander inside tissues and muscles.
The relationship from doctor to patient is ruptured, as doctors operate from distance with the help of the machine: decisions are made from the produced imagery.
In order to understand the human body, the machine needs a special light and central space arrangement, in order to perform, making the design decisions focus on the technology rather than human.
Can we talk about an architecture that transcends human need only?
The first part of the project (film) proposes a space where the confrontation of the patient with media would come to life, as an illustration for that misbalance of power, (patient/doctor/technology) by re-creating this familiar typology and dramatising the surreal aspect of this technology that alienates and takes possession of space.
It is essential to recreate the typology with symbolic and familiar artefacts and materials, such as the bed, the cart, the gauze, the gloves, metal and plastic. And add it with what seems to symbolise extreme objectification: the robot, the screens, the blue light.
While this is experienced, physical rituals within the home allow for a reappropriation of the body, using it as an experimental site.
And this brings us to the domestic institution:
2) Domestic practices of modification: invention of a subject.
Bioengineering, bio hacking, grinders, feminists, xenofeminists, are all part of a larger changing approach to the contemporary body.
Hormones hack into the gender systems with the accessibility of public endocrinological archive.
Can gender hacking be extensible to a long time-strategy that will create an entire universe of free and open platforms?
If this is the case, and this is what this projects argues – it is no longer about discovering the hidden truth in nature, it is about the necessity to specify cultural, political and technological processes through which the body as artefact acquires a ‘natural’ status.
The second part of the project creates a surreal hybrid of medical rituals and domestic environment.
The chosen ritual is ‘hormone absorption’ with the aim of switching from female to male gender.
Through this new hybrid, the project proposes a logic of design that aspires to already-existing domestic rituals (eating, cleaning, washing) with a logic that promotes living through an open-atmospheric space guided by molecular flows such as heat and humidity (expand).
The space is flexible through absorbent and waterproof textiles in order to counter the ongoing discipline and objectification. The project also acknowledges a space where media becomes part of the ritual to reestablish a form of trust in technology, by bringing these online communities into the home (consultation phase).
Molecules are associated with the cleaning ritual because it diffuses the most heat and humidity. Molecules can follow air flow (liberation phase) and enter in direct contact with skin (absorption phase) avoiding oral absorption which unnecessarily damages organs.
A space of intermission gathers activities around eating and sleeping that stay untouched by these chemicals.
School of Architecture
- BA Architecture, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris Val de Seine, 2016