mean body (as in Standard) is a performance document and database of surface anthropometric data sets (3D body shape scans) that I created while a guest artist with the National Research Council of Canada (2001-2003 and 2004-2006).

Inspired by study of established human body databases such as the Visible Human Project¹ and CAESAR², I embarked on a performative process to establish my own body shape as a baseline for scientific research. This gesture was motivated to critically engage with certain oppressive cultural norms, standard and averages that have prevailed in the colonial west, especially since the birth of anthropology, ethnography and photographic technologies.

After eight months of intensive body training to achieve my idealized body shape, I worked with a 3D whole body laser scanner to capture hundreds of variations of my body’s geometry. While the poses appear art historically inspired, open, stable postures were intended to enable the best possible data capture within the limitation of the scanner’s 17 second capture. The resulting mean body database is a decidedly subjective collection of surface anthropometric data sets. My formal relationship with the NRC was completed with the licensing of the mean body database to the Institute for Information Technology to support research of human body shape variability.

I created nine artworks derived from my shape data that include conceptual works of digital sculpture, photography, video animation and installation. The figurative pieces document the conceptual and technical evolution from representation into abstraction through graphical and algorithmic software processes. the chimaera set explores hybridity – hybrid bodies, hybrid life forms, hybrid processes. I created this series of otherworldly body fragments by interpreting language metaphors common among critical theory and computational vocabulary.

The specific intention of the chimaera set is to engage critically with ethical implications of biomedical research, while the mean body database addresses the study of the human body in general.

Gratitude to the National Research Council of Canada, Cyberware and Joe Fafard

¹ The Visible Human Project® is a complete anatomically detailed, 3 dimensional representation of the “normal” male and female human bodies. It is directed by the American National Library of Medicine and managed by the Center for Human Simulation at the University of Colorado. The Visible Human Project® is the standard or atlas against which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data is indexed for visualization (deformation of atlas processing).

² The Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource (CAESAR) is an American Air Force database representing in 3 dimensions, the anthropometric variability of civilian populations. CAESAR is a survey of body measurements of approximately 5,000 people ages 18 to 65 years in the USA, Canada, The Netherlands and Italy.

© nichola feldman-kiss 2005

© nichola feldman-kiss 2021