Signs of Clandestine Disorder in the Uniformed and Coded Crowds

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Signs of Clandestine Disorder in the Uniformed and Coded Crowds

in the uniformed and coded crowds

Possible Bodies (Jara Rocha, Femke Snelting)

What are the implications of understanding bodies as political fictions in a technical sense? With what techniques, technologies, protocols and/or technoscientific paradigms are contemporary volumetric forms entangled? How are the probabilities of these technosciences strained by the urgency to broaden the spectrum of semiotic-material conditions of possibility for the bodies present? What worldly consequences does the paradigm of the quantified self bring? Bodies (their presence, their permanence, their credibility, their potential) are affected by the way they are measured, remeasured and mismeasured. This workshop-script was developed for a workshop on speculative somatic measuring and data interpretation. It invites participants to invent other systems of measuring bodies by mixing already existing disciplines or crossings with what is yet to come: anatomy, physics, chemistry, geometry, biology, economics, anthropometry...

Duration: 2 ca. hours; between 6 and 60 participants.

Materials to prepare

  • Sheets with situation, 1 for each group
  • A sheet with an empty legend and space for description, 1 for each group
  • A set of Measurement units, printed on small pieces of white paper, 5 for each group: kg (weight), grams (weight), milligrams (weight), tons (weight), ρ (mass per unit, density), red (RGB), green (RGB), blue (RGB), mm (height), cm (height), km (height), mm (width), cm (width), km (width), years (age), mm (diameter), cm (diameter), meters (diameter), cm (radius), m (radius), cm2 (surface area), km2 (surface area), m2 (surface area), (number of corners), (number of limbs), liters (volume), cm3 (volume), BMI (Body Mass Index), likes, IQ...
  • Small pieces of colored paper, 2 for each group
  • Empty pieces of white paper, 5 for each group
  • A set of numbers (12, 657.68787, 24, 345, 0.00012, 2000, 1567, 4...), printed on small pieces of white paper, 5 for each group

Introduction: From the probable to the possible

(10 minutes)

The workshop is introduced by reminding participants of how we as quantified selves are swimming in a sea of data. Bodies (their presence, their permanence, their credibility, their potential) are affected by how they are measured, remeasured and mismeasured. These measurements mix and match measurement systems from: anatomy, physics, chemistry, geometry, biological, economic, biometrics...


(10 minutes)

Divide the participants in groups of between three and five participants. Each group selects 5 numbers. Ask if participants are happy with their numbers.


(15 minutes)

Remind participants that these are raw numbers, not connected to a measuring unit. Brainstorm: What measurement units do we know? Try to extend to different dimensions, materials, disciplines. Each group receives 5 papers with measurement units.


(5 minutes)

Groups have received numbers + measurement units. But what are they measuring? Each group proposes 2 body parts and writes them on the colored paper. These can be internal, external, small, composed... Gather all colored papers, mix and redistribute; each group receives 2.


(5 minutes)

Alphonso Lingis, Dangerous Emotions (University of California Press, 2000): “We walk the streets among hundreds of people whose patterns of lips, breasts, and genital organs we divine; they seem to us equivalent and interchangeable. Then something snares our attention: a dimple speckled with freckles on the cheek of a woman; a steel choker around the throat of a man in a business suit; a gold ring in the punctured nipple on the hard chest of a deliveryman; a big raw fist in the delicate hand of a schoolgirl; a live python coiled about the neck of a lean, lanky adolescent with coal-black skin. Signs of Clandestine Disorder in the Uniformed and Coded Crowds.”

Drawing and annotating

(30 minutes)

Fill out the legend with the data you received, and draw the so-called body/bodies that appear(s) in this situation. Make sure all participants in the group contribute to the drawing. Circulate or draw together. Fold back the legend and re-distribute the drawings.


(30 minutes)

Each group makes a technical description of the drawing they received and details the measurements where necessary. Possible modes of interpretation: engineer, anthropologist, biologist, science fiction writer...


(15 minutes)

Re-distribute the drawings and descriptions among groups. Look at the drawing together. Read the interpretations aloud.


This script was applied multiple times at a design school and then published by a museum as a pedagogical method.