.1. Introduction

From the cultural collection of body interior depictions
to an adventure museum for one’s mind

 

The downfall of our culture is that it has developed much more materially than spiritually. Its balance is disturbed.

[1] [2]

 

Scenario 1: The heritage, the receiver and the visual

Being an average healthy person in a first world country sometimes offers one problem: After a relaxing walk through your memory and world of thought on your sofa, you feel something that hurts inside of you. Physical pain suddenly makes you aware of your body. That it is vulnerable. That it is flesh and blood. And suddenly the sweeping and world conceiving thoughts you just had do not help at all. You just want to know what happens inside of you, go mad and directly ask the internet doctor.

On the other side, you are happy that everything is so neatly closed, you got used to it. And like Kafka already wrote so in 1920, it is “interesting” when your blood leaves your body.[3] Nothing holy, nothing extremely dangerous, just unfamiliar/peculiar and of strange colour…

And a few days later – you saw the doctor and it was just a pinched nerve – you lean back and stray through your mind palace again. Accidentally you encounter the visit at the doctor’s. But you quickly drift further, imagine your body interior in bright colours – like you remembered this one series you watched as a child –, in bright colours – like you remember out of your biology books in high school – and busy chemicals moving through eternal labyrinths – with the grace of an animated explanatory video clip…

Scenario 2: The museum, your house and the 360-degree-reality

It rains. You wanted to do something highly cultural today; go to the museum. The close one – you surely don’t have the time to plan a whole city trip only for a museum. Now you are strolling through the internet instead. The articles facing you are: “Interactive Go-Pro-Tour through the Grand Canyon – Join the experience! – for only 45 Dollars “, „Anna makes her first panorama photo from out the back of her horse” and “The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Public Domain – See them all under the following link!”. Which would you look up first? Depends on your interests, you say? Well, depends on the provided medium/form, I say! The first sounds hot, but too expensive, the last is highly informative, but very cold. And you are trained for pastime and amusement. So, you see Anna grinning at you, turn around with the mouse, see a lot of trees. And of course, you are checking this out, because your eyes are curious; it’s a new experience. And although the picture has over 100.000 clicks, it feels individual, self-controlled, to look in any angle you like and whenever you like.

 

Those and similar thoughts convinced me to dive deeper into the topic of body interior perceptions and visualisations, and VR and museums as media.

The body and its interior is something natural and is, for us as humans, omnipresent and essential. It does not have the glory of the outer body, but it still gets depicted. And people get something back from the depictions that are mostly of scientific nature. And because we can say very little about our inner body without visualizations from a third person, these facts make the body interior a highly cultural place!
On the other side, the body interior is highly subjective, at least in the relation of the self to the own body. This gives it an importance/status that is not quite appreciated by the significance of current inner body depictions. Nevertheless, this circumstance brings me, as the potential designer of those body interior visualisations, in a highly responsible position. Especially as an illustrator and animator of products that are often half educational and half entertaining, it is important for me to know where certain visualisations come from and how much they are shaped and how much they shape themselves. So, regarding the “cultural inner body”, I want to investigate body visualisations, peoples’ connections to it and possible new visualisation forms.

So, the question that I approach in my research is: How can I improve todays people’s perception of and the connection to their cultural body interior, with the help of redesigned anatomic visual heritage and contemporary design tools? Or in short:

How to visualize a “cultural” body interior experience contemporarily?

 

I’ll research and try to answer this question in three parts:

  1. Focus on the heritage: How was and is the body interior depicted and why?
    This will be an investigation and understanding of the evolution of visualisations from the antiquity to the presence, regarding the scientific, the metaphysical and the artistic approach.
  2. Focus on the receiver: How does this cultural heritage influences the viewer of today that will be my audience? What “changed”, what is “lost” and, most important, what “remained”?
  3. Focus on the visual: How to bring together the main issues – body, viewer, experience – into a VR-medium? The current scene of body/heritage-VR-visualisations. How does the viewer interact with his body and 360-degree-spaces? Construction of the final visual of a heart/body experience.

Concluding, I will outline how to classify the research and visual outcome, how to place it and me as its designer in the field and what the perspectives are.

So, at the end there may be a solution to encourage people to interact with their natural but cultural heritage.

The imaginative mind-body relationship on the one side and the crucial current scientific developments (especially those in the field of neuroscience) on the other side, can be easily matched with my design work that has enchanting and educational emphases. With the help of VR-techniques I will create an educational product, that is likewise an immersive experience you like to remember.
My interest in explanimations and other educational illustrations as well as designs and stories of atmospheric worlds and journeys will be expressed and further developed in this project.
Also, it is a good opportunity to learn more about the cultural topics heritage, the mind-body relationship and scientific progress, that fascinate me.
The topics ancient history and digital era are also favoured inspiration sources of mine, what I can perfectly express during this research and visualisation project.

My main sources will be Hugh Aldersey-Williams book “Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and the Stories They Tell“ which provides a good mixture of scientific and entertaining body interior explorations,  “Dream Anatomy” from Michael Sappol which has a huge collection of historic inner body illustrations, Richard Sennett’s “Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilisation” that gives good historic background knowledge about mind-body and human-space relationships, and a lot of contemporary illustrations and animations from the public space.
The focus on the strong European/US-American shaped discovery[4] can be seen as a first initial step to build on, be it a segmentation into more regional developments or a comparison or additional research about.

My research methods are a mixture of historic research and visual experiments and analysis. I will turn the rational informative into the experimental adventurous. From 2D-Illustrations that tried to explain everything and show a truth, to an animation concept that interacts with the viewer and gives him the possibility to explore and perceive on his own… And with the attached visuals this research document step by step changes into a research globe.

 

[1] Albert Schweitzer was a French-German doctor, culture philosopher, theologian and musician and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 1952.

[2] Translation of „Das Verhängnis unserer Kultur ist, daß sie sich materiell viel stärker entwickelt hat als geistig. Ihr Gleichgewicht ist gestört.“. In Albert Schweitzer, Kulturphilosophie, I und II (1923), 2007, 90

[3] Franz Kafka, Briefe an Milena (Vollständige Ausgabe): Ausgewählte Briefe an Kafkas große Liebe, 2015, chapter “28. Juli 1920”

[4] My sources are almost exclusively out of these areas