Bodies in the Anthropocene Workshop

By Patricia Wu Wu, a PhD candidate in Fashion within the School of Design (www.patriciawuwu.com), and

Asad Khan, a PhD candidate in Architecture at the Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture (www.theentropyproject.com)

Outline

The Anthropocene is the geological epoch in which the collective actions of human activities have been the dominant influence on our environment. The aim of our workshop was to address this ecological crisis, in creative ways that engage participants to think and explore collectively through the making of narratives. We encouraged them to re-imagine their relationship with the world using LiDAR scanning as a means to challenge their perception of body and surroundings, and how that in turn generates alternative modes of seeing.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning uses an infrared light in the form of a pulsed laser beam to measure distances when in contact with an object, and converts the signal’s return time back to the scanner as a discrete set of distance values in the form of X, Y, Z coordinates. These coordinates are stored in a 3D point-cloud archive, which produces a highly accurate production of its target. Our focus was not to use LiDAR to reproduce a replica of the physical environment, but we were looking to subvert this particular technology into glitched and fragmented errors of alternate realities that could not otherwise be seen by the human eye. Through this thought process, we encouraged participants to arrange choreographed scenes through the use of gestures, body movements, materials, etc to potentially distort the machine vision of LiDAR into unexpected, unknown visual possibilities.

LiDAR visualisation

Development

On the first day of the event, we delivered our research presentations and engaged participants in discussions. This was then followed by the creation of diagrams in preparation for their scanning work. The purpose of diagramming was to capture their thoughts about how they wanted to be seen by the machine and what parts they wanted to reveal or hide, before being captured by the scan. Some were lines, curvatures, shaded contours to express body motion, whilst others preferred to write short poems to express a certain feeling. The diagramming process allowed them to conceptually grasp first how to plot a narrative and project it into a 3D archive. Based on each diagram, participants experimented with different postures, reflective materials wrapped around their bodies and different locations to visually speak through their narratives.

Participant Diagram 1
Participant diagrams
Participant diagram 2
Participant diagrams

After collecting their scans, they were taught how to visualise them and at the same time animate them into short animations. This tutorial was done during the second day to offer them a glimpse of the possibilities of navigating their LiDAR archive, and how they wanted to immerse themselves or others when viewing the scene. These techniques engaged them to understand and explore further the potential of a 3D archive, how their environment is being seen by LiDAR and how different it is from our actual environment, but also, in how they originally perceived it as through their diagrams. The perception of opening the archive, from before and after, is transformed by the LiDAR through its glitches, where participants’ bodies were split into parts, or merged with others. These scans created surreal aesthetic glitches, almost ghostly figures of their bodies in both their presence and absence. The end of the workshop concluded with reflections about the event and supporting participants further with their own work in how they could incorporate LiDAR.

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