Friday, September 18, 2009

Cadaver Cathedral


"A few weeks ago I mentioned some 3D-printed work by Yousef Al-Mehdari ... The project explores religious ritual and the human body, alongside an interest in 'transitory sculptures,' processional routes, and a kind of body-futurist rediscovery of architectural ornament. Vortices of limbs ossify into cathedrals; overlapping anatomies become windows and valves.

Al-Mehdari suggests that a careful – even mathematically exact – study of human bodily movement could serve as a basis for generating new types of architectural form. As if we could take conic sections through Merce Cunningham, say, and turn the resulting diagrams into churches.


The use of the human body as a generator for architectural ornament reminds me, in an admittedly tangential way, of the "cadaver cathedral" by Jeff VanderMeer – the description of which is worth quoting in full:
"Where the sculptures of saints would have been set into the walls, there were instead bodies laid into clear capsules, the white, white skin glistening in the light – row upon row of bodies in the walls, the proliferation of walls. The columns, which rose and arched in bunches of five or six together, were not true columns, but instead highways for blood and other substances: giant red, green, blue, and clear tubes that coursed through the cathedral like arteries. Above, shot through with track lighting from behind, what at first resembled stained-glass windows showing some abstract scene were revealed as clear glass within which organs had been stored: yellow livers, red hearts, pale arms, white eyeballs, rosaries of nerves disembodied from their host."

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