Out of Building
Consciousness, as we are acculturated to believe, exists in our brains. When a part of our body hurts or receives pleasure, however, we realize that it extends to the limits of our sensorium. To support this idea we can observe animals that have the kind of consciousness we associate with our brains invested in other parts of their bodies. The limbs of octopi, for example, think independently from one another and when severed will continue to look for food and feed a phantom mouth, similar to how some human amputees report an itch in a phantom limb.
As long as we are talking about the limits of consciousness and cephalopods let us also consider the way consciousness extends beyond their bodies and into their environments through camouflage. As these invertebrates move along the sea bed, their skin mimics the silty surface in color, pattern, and texture. The distinction between landscape and octopus becomes hazy both visually and conceptually. This extended consciousness allows it to hunt and avoid being hunted.
As humans we have a similarly extended relationship between our consciousness and the environments we inhabit. However, unlike the octopus that absorbs and approximates its environment, a human does the opposite and adapts the environment to match how his or her consciousness would like it to be. Our designed world is thus human consciousness projected outward.
The Antarctic landscape, however, projects back through geomagnetic fields that have greater intensities than in regions closer to the equator. These waves project into us, cross the thresholds of our skulls, and have been known to alter human consciousness. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of this in The Captain of the Pole-Star, and this
phenomenon is currently the subject of scientific investigation.
As this exhibition speculates the cultural Antarctic, it is fitting to ponder an architecture of altered consciousness. How might it respond to the out of body experiences, vivid dreams, and changed perceptions reported by so many who have visited? Alex Schweder’s entry for the 2014 Antarctic Pavilion, Out of Building Architecture (OBA), imagines just this. An edifice suspended above the ground using the propellant magnetic forces of the south-pole that also act on consciousness. It
hovers above “magnetic south” a point different from geographic south that moves slowly with this location. Marking the place where consciousness is most likely affected by these invisible forces, the experience of OBA will be different for each occupant as sensitivity to magnetic waves varies from person to person. The architectural
language of OBA is thus more about hypnotic suggestion than clear intention.
Collaborators: Gillian Shaffer, Shane McCorristine, Jane Mocellin
Orangery in Antarctica
Top View Melt Down
A Perfect World -
Sound Vessel and Shelter
Polar Axis, 1987
Ice: Antarctic Landscape Dissected
Transformable Antarctic Research Facility
Life in a Freezer
Out of Building
Some Things Happen All At Once (2014)