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TEMPORAL BODY

PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDIES OF CORPOREAL MOVEMENT AND PERCEPTION

Master of Architecture Thesis

As part of my graduate thesis, I explored topics of phenomenology, neuroscience, and developmental psychology as they relate to architecture. These photographic studies analyze human perception. They capture the moving body to reveal how we perceptually experience architecture – with time and motion being critical elements.

This study examines movement, temporality, and perception. It delves into the ‘durational space’ that the body occupies as a means to answer questions pertaining to the spatial realm. What is ‘empty’ space and how do we perceive it? How do we perceive the moving body? And what is the dynamic, physical relationship between our own temporal body and the environment through which it moves?

High-speed shutter of the Dash Vault

In this experiment, an acrobat performs a series of vaults over an obstacle. Photographic techniques, as well as digital mapping technology, are used to measure the imperceptible; that which the eyes cannot see, but is actually there. 

This begins by shooting the subject at a high-shutter speed of six frames per second. The movement in its entirety can be understood in sequence. 

High-speed shutter of the Dash Vault

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Slow-speed shutter of the Dash Vault

The photograph on the left shows the entire jump captured in a single photograph. We are given insight into the force and flow of the athlete. As body parts slow down they solidify into view, while faster moving body parts create an ephemeral blur. The faster-moving parts of the body create fluid-like streaks of light, tracing the athlete’s path of travel. 

For an event to occur, experience has to be pulled out of the indeterminate, activated from the virtuality of the not-yet.

 

–Erin Manning, Relationscapes, p37

Six Vaults, captured with a slow-speed shutter

While the aim of the high-shutter speed photographs was to reveal movement, that Merleau-Ponty would term, ‘in-the-flow.’ These slow-shutter speed photographs capture entire movements of the body in a single image, revealing a holistic state; freezing the movement, as it were, in its gestalt. 

Lights attached to the body's joints

Slow-speed shutter of the Dash Vault with light trails

Small lights are attached at every major joint of the athlete’s body (and the head). This light is then photographed and can articulate the specific trajectory of each joint. 

By tracing the light over the course of the vault, the body can be reduced to its simplest form for rendering its movement. By choosing to highlight only certain points of the body as it moves, the actual (the visible body) may slide into the virtual (the body unseen). Singular images express a temporal event in its entirety - making its durational force visible to the observer. 

High-speed shutters of the Dash Vault with lights

Points are given coordinates and mapped in 3D space

The movement of each joint is tracked through space and over time. This movement is captured from all angles, including the top, before being compiled digitally. Using this data, the x, y, and z coordinates can be determined for each point throughout the entire movement. By using the points compiled in the computer, the movement could be accurately mapped. Curving between the points and assigning faces, the athlete’s movement took three-dimensional digital form. This durational space shows the movement of the athlete – without the athlete. What is typically understood as ‘empty’ space is now occupied by ‘movement-space.’ 

The space around the sculpted form is cast

3D print of Durational Mapped Space

After creating a full digital model of the move in its entirety, it is 3-D printed. This brings the movement back out of the computer, so that it may once again occupy the physical world. Once the durational space of the body is mapped, the form is inverted to give positive mass (concrete) to the negative space within the room. What was initially understood as ephemeral ‘empty’ space is now given permanent solid form. In this state, the durational space – occupied by the athlete’s body – cuts through the ‘empty’ space, creating a void. Just like the air around the flying bird, this final part of the experiment focuses on the space around the moving body. ‘Empty’ space is presented as a tangible, malleable medium, through which the moving body carves its way. The resultant volume is cast in concrete to give visible contour to this liminal space. 

Concrete casts of 'Empty Space'

3D print of Durational Space

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