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Safety Measures

Year: 2018
Format: HD Video, 3D Animation
Duration: 13 min 47 sec
Audio: None
Commissioned by Nieuwe Instituut for the Dutch Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

The installation Safety Measures by Simone C Niquille unravels the parameters embedded in ergonomic design software used to optimize contemporary workspaces for efficiency and human/machine interactions. Safety Measures is an environment situated between virtuality and reality, a simulation generated through a meticulous measurement and scrutiny of the physical world.

One such measurement is the translation of bodies into data for guidance during the design process. This measurement data is sorted into neat computable categories, reducing complex life forms to digitally digestible spreadsheets. Rendered as digital human models in ergonomic simulations, this data is used to test products and spatial designs before being put into production. As such, these avatars simulate entire populations, age groups, ethnicities, ultimately defining what a body is, while the uncaptured non-standard body — often marginalized in terms of class, gender, race, or disability—is rendered virtually non-existent.

Safety Measures analyzes the parameters within the databases and software that define these digital human models by tracing through a Western historical obsession with measurement and quantification: from perspective drawing to computation. As its starting point, Safety Measures takes a drawing by German draughtsman Erhard Schön. Published in his 1538 book on the proportion of man and perspective accuracy, the drawing looks similar to a low-resolution 3D rendering, echoing contemporary CGI image construction.

Safety Measures also tells the story of JACK, one of the first avatars developed at the University of Pennsylvania. Through a series of events JACK ended up as an ergonomic simulation software owned and distributed by Siemens. The interface of JACK looks similar to early versions of The Sims in that on screen heteronormative avatars Jack & Jill, which are virtually sized to represent average bodies, inhabit architectural spaces. They analyse the reach radius of an airplane cockpit or a car interior and test the accessibility of parts at a factory assembly station. Their bodies are based on the data of body measurement databases which is selected from a dropdown menu. The database labels are universal, alluding to a mixed bag of nationality and geography rather than contextualising the intent, subjects and timeframe of the data. The politics of these databases is crucial in understanding 'who' Jack and Jill are representing. However this information is inaccessible to a user of the software.

Related writing


↑ Erhard Schön, Fünf Figuren in einem Gebäude, 1538.

↑ Erhard Schön, Fünf Figuren in einem Gebäude, 1538.

↑ **Safety Measures** at the Dutch Pavillion, Venice Architecture Biennial 2018.

Safety Measures at the Dutch Pavillion, Venice Architecture Biennial 2018.

↑ **Safety Measures** at the Dutch Pavillion, Venice Architecture Biennial 2018.

Safety Measures at the Dutch Pavillion, Venice Architecture Biennial 2018.


⦁ Research, Script & Animation: Simone C Niquille
⦁ Perspective Drawings: Erhard Schön, Unterweisung der Proportion und Stellung der Possen, Nürnberg 1542.
⦁ Inflatable Construction: X-Treme Creations ⦁ Model: JACK ↗, Center for Human Modeling and Simulation at the University of Pennsylvania, 1992.
→ I found the 3d model of Jack in a 3D training dataset for object recognition. The dataset also included Jack sitting in a car. Both models feature in Safety Measures.\

technoflesh Studio ( ᐛ )و

Design & Research practice
of Simone C Niquille

Located in Amsterdam, NL

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