Human body appropriation

Artnshelter, 1-19-10 Higashioi Shinagawa Tokyo Japan

curated by Elisabeth Saubach


A machine can be given an appearance of life by diverse means. The eyes are very important to humans and their mechanisms of perception and recognition, as the organs of attentiveness, reaction and communication. For a human, it is very easy to calculate the angle between the directions the eyes look in, in order to find out in which direction another human, another animal, or more abstract, a camera looks. Apart from that, small movements and sounds of the body, like breathing or heartbeat, are perceptible and allow us to unconsciously distinguish the animate from the inanimate. Other important factors are inconspicuous body movements and a non-industrial-norm look. [Niki Passath]

In 2002, while the artist was still studying media art at Peter Weibel’s class, he realized a tattooing machine that inscribed a generative drawing created out of the machine into his forearm. In the meantime, fourteen years later, technology has become increasingly disembodied, smaller, more abstract and available everywhere. At the same time,

the body has become more and more an area of representation. Tattoos, Bodyshaping, Posing and the corresponding digital filters for the optimized and for the ideal of the mainstream adapted documentation and representation of the own idealized ego, are provided via social media for the fact that this illusion becomes reality.

Virtual representation becomes more real than physical representation and the body is the image carrier and projection surface for one’s own imagination of one’s own person. The subject is this self-objectification and synchronization with an individualized touch. The body is brought about by the tool with the change and objects can be brought about itself to the object which is changed with tools. There is a similar change as at the beginning of the industrial revolution, Jaques de Veaucanson, vending machine builder and inventor, famous for his mechanical duck, for whose artificial digestive tract the rubber hose was developed, also developed the first fully automatic looms that paved the way for industrialization. At the same time, the watchmaker Jaquet Droz, who still runs under his name today, built the famous “Schreiber”, which is considered to be one of the first computer systems, because with different gears and disks, similar to a typewriter, it was

possible to define what this realistic figure should be written with his hand and feather on a sheet of paper. Through the new economic possibilities of using these art machines and automatons, which were previously invented to represent the understanding of man as an intellectual achievement, the speaking machine and the chess automaton of Joseph von

Kempelen seem to have internalized the human ratio itself, this access to machines changed with a purpose.

The machine became a robot, pure working machines, and better tools to produce things faster or easier. Now a new, more object-like form of man has emerged in the factory machines on the conveyor belts. Due to the limitations of machines and production facilities (until now?), humans are needed as organic prostheses on the inorganic body of the factory. The body of the person working there is freed from his individual spirit and becomes part of the machine body, as Charlie Chaplin exaggerates in “Modern Times”.

As long as man was active in the machine, he functioned as a prosthesis; when he left the machine, that was over. With the introduction of artificial intelligence systems and machine learning algorithms, it became possible for machines to make independent decisions based not only on precise information, but also on fuzzy information. This led on the one

hand to the fact that fewer and fewer people are needed in production plants and on the other hand to the fact that the role of the worker in the factory is no longer absolutely necessary and thus the role of the worker within society has lost its relevance. The exhibition report to this “new” objecthood and formability of the own body. One’s own body is regarded as sovereign, only one’s own person has the right to understand it as a medium and to use it as a picture carrier or to change its form.

In the context of tattooing, it’s also a interesting case: If the artist penetrates the body with a needle and paint without state permission, the offence of grievous bodily injury applies. Only if the artist has been taken a test which gives him the ability to tattoo, he can draw someone else. Only in the rarest cases a tattoo artist signs his/her drawing, the extension or improvement of his/her own body and the merging of the drawing in his/her own body is of higher importance.