Dangerous Fur (2016)

Danger is not something external to ourselves that we can eradicate from our lives.

This project is a work in progress….

>> Flickr set

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Our bodies evolved over millions of years to survive an environment shaped by natural forces. We’ve used our bodies to modify this environment, building tools, technology, infrastructure and community to overcome the dangers that threatened our survival. Today our bodies survive the dangers of the built environment we’ve created.

Walls, railings, enclosures, protective clothing, preventive drugs are all there to protect us from physical harm. We live in a world in which it is okay to interact with almost everything. And if not, then we trust that our governing bodies have put laws in place to protect us. Poisonous items will be labeled, slippery surfaces signposted, the radio frequencies from our cellphones will not be cancerous, the plastic encasing our laptop will not be toxic and superglue will not be sold to children.

Yet we seek out situations that take us outside this constrained world of Health and Safety in order to experience danger. Extreme sports are an example of our desire to face the unknown and uncontrollable elements of nature. By facing the possibility of getting hurt, we are forced to make our own decisions.

Dangerous Fur adds an instance of physical harm to our interactions with the built environment. Making our body vulnerable to pain by lining it with a series of mechanical and electrical hairs that can seriously hurt us. Even in the safest of situations it threatens us with danger.

Background

This project proposal emerges from my fascination with how we’ve used our human ability and skill to shape the world around us. In order to do so we developed many hand tools that allowed for a risky process, meaning we could mess up at any point. Machine tools imply a process of certainty, aimed at mitigating such risk. In order to command these certain processes we use interfaces of certainty. Our hands become tools for translating our ideas from mind to computer. Danger is mitigated by Ctrl+Z. Pressing buttons and moving the mouse are entirely safe interactions. The buttons won’t shock us, the mouse won’t nibble at our fingers. There is no danger, no moment of fear. I want to work with these machines on a more risky level. Dangerous Fur is not a practical answer to this desire, but rather a wearable opportunity for dangerous engagements with a very safe world.

Technical Specifications

Dangerous Fur is a man-made fur structure assembled from dress pins, 3D printed textile and integrated circuitry. The link to the Flickr set shows sketches and images of my first prototypes that lead to the idea. I imagine the final design to look much more technical (less steam punk). The fur should be a densely populated material that can be tailored like fabric to produce a series of wearable fur accessories such as gloves, shoulder and leg wraps.
In my current thinking the fur actually consists of two kinds of fur that address different parts of our body in terms of what surfaces we actively use to touch, and which surfaces passively receive touch.

Inner fur: is applied to the inner surfaces of the body such as the palm of the hand and the chest. It is a purely mechanical construction consisting of suspended dress pins pointing towards our skin. Even the slightest pressure exerted on the fur will cause the pins to contact the skin. The amount of pressure required to press the key on a keyboard results in the pin piercing the first layer of skin.

Outer fur: applied to the outer surfaces of our body such as the back of the hand and the shoulder. A fury needle structure made up of dress pins that are internally wired up as electrodes to a circuit that will cause an electric shock to the body when two needles touch because the fur was stroked or brushed against a surface.

Notes

Many “modern” ways of manipulating the built environment eradicate the skill and dexterity of the human hand from the equation. Instead interfaces require our hands only as input mechanisms to translate our human brain capacity into machine language. Dangerous Fur seeks to bring the hand, the body, the sensory organ back into the digital manipulation process.

Our hands are our primary tools for manipulating materials to manufacture. Machine tools move our manual manipulations away from being a risky process, towards becoming more and more certain. In order to translate our intentions into reality using many of the highest tech manufacturing tools such as 5axis mills, laths, knitting machines, looms… our hands play the role of translating our creative abilities from our minds on to computers that will control the machines. The instance of clicking the mouse button or typing on a keyboard are extremely certain interactions. There is no danger, Control z, undo…


The initial ideas for a Dangerous Fur came during a 4-month residency at Autodesk’s Pier 9.