NEO-CAIRNS

Postgenomic Stelae
Parametric design and fabrication
Ongoing

The cairn –– an ancient stela typology –– is reshaped for the postgenomic era through crypto-architectonic parametrics.  

(1) The elemental shell form of an egg –– a parametrically flexible ovoid with radius [r] and height [h] –– serves as a base shape.  
(2) The egg is partitioned vertically into strips [u], and a helical spiral [v] horizontally circumscribes it.  
(3) These curves divide the surface of the egg into distinct subsurfaces [uv].  
(4) The opening sequence for the protein coding CRH gene, which regulates the production and release of corticotropin –– a hormone closely associated with emotions of grief and mourning –– is transposed onto the egg’s quadrilateral subdivisions. 

(5) A sine wave transforms the surface of each subdivision (in direction [w] along both the [u] and the [v] axes) at varying amplitudes per each genetic nucleobase [A], [T], [G], or [C], to produce a series of seemingly esoteric convex and concave dimples. 

r:h = 1:4  ,  umax = 24  ,  vmax = 24  ,  e1 = e2 = 1  ,  s = 504  ,  w = 1  ,  f = 0.5

This generative process produces a series of mysterious stone figures, in which parametric variables oscillate to induce an array of diverse yet definitive outcomes.  Not intended to be alien, but recognizably animalian, the artifacts evoke a wide range of animate and progenitive associations: eggs, sea urchins, cacti, microbial organisms…static embodiments of life. 

Imagine stumbling upon a quiet, remote forest clearing, where a circle of ten enigmatic quartz figures stand.  In spite of the brisk weather, and the forest’s autumnal state, the figures are surrounded by a scattering of summerly flora that evade season, anomalously teeming with bright color and fresh aroma.  An intervention is evident.  

The CNC-lathed figures are clean, smooth, and polished; they are diverse in both proportion and physique, but unmistakably familial in aesthetic.  In stark contrast with the surrounding nature, their appearance suggests processes of human design and human making, of homo faber.  They invoke a connection to some of the most ancient artifacts of human making.  Neo-cairns synthesize two early human type-forms: the stacked stone formation of the cairn, and the monolithic standing stone formation of the menhir.  Due to the prehistoric origin of the cairn and the menhir, their functions are indeterminable.  Whether for commune or ritual, or as a marker of place or distance, or as an emblem of technological prowess, a signature of human intervention is implicit.  There is also an essence of anthropomorphism inherent in both the figural shape and the descriptive language of many of the archetypal cairns and menhirs.  Although monolithic in form, neo-cairns carry forward the lineal title of the cairn to emphasize the aggregative nature of the nucleobasic foundation of the genetic information embedded into the artifacts. 

Embracing the transient nature of existence, and the inevitability of death and extinction, neo-cairns serve as an environmental index of past human presence; they whisper cryptically of techne, culture, ritual.  

A further iteration of the project applies a polished bronze mirrored surface to the artifacts –– fabrication technique to be determined –– to engage with dialectics of vision and reflection. 

Each bulbous protrusion produces a uniquely distorted pictorial reflection, an amalgamated image of the artifact’s peripheral body, its environment, and its viewer.  This vertiginous contortion blurs the visual boundary between object, environ, and subject in varying relationships and proportions.  

The artifact as a whole can be read as a mosaic of intermingled pictorial chimeras; a gestalt of complex ontic conditions.  

DALL-E AI Image Generation from Text Prompt: “The chimeric unification of individual, environ, and apparatus within the distorted reflection of a mirrored surface”

© Human Being Design 2022

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