Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Joint venture

July 17, 2008

This pairing is grossly unequal. Sidi Larbi is a dancer of exceptional vitality and versatility. His partner, made by artist Antony Gormley and nicknamed Ibral, can’t move a step without external influence. Yet the tension between them makes the partnership more dynamic than any solo.


Just hanging around

November 16, 2007

It’s an indication of one’s ignorance to say that all crash test dummies look the same. It’s easy to tell the difference when you get to know them . For example, the suspended one (below) has specially modified hips which allow it to sit upright on a train seat. Yes, there are indeed experiments where trains are crashed to see how they can be made safer, and the experts at TRL (the Transport Research Laboratory) know exactly how to prepare the dummies to extract the right information.

The hanging man from

The keen-eyed will notice that the two dummies in the background also look a little different. They once held down good jobs as motorcycle crash test dummies. However, they got knocked about so much that they don’t cut the mustard any more. Today they are merely “make-weights” – strapped into vehicles that need a full complement of inert passengers for a realistic crash test.

The lesson is clear. Don’t judge a dummy by its looks. Take a little time and get to know it. You may be surprised by how much you have in common.

Hit Parade

November 8, 2007

Dummies are, on the whole, passive servants of our bidding. They will wear what we ask and sit when they are told. There is one, however, that has to be told quite firmly. In fact, it is asking to be hit. Often.
This manikin is called SlamMan. We came across it in a barn in Kent, England. It’s fully-wired and includes a microchip, which is the nearest a dummy can get to having a brain.
This gives it just enough intelligence to switch on different lights around its torso and head, showing exactly where it wants to be hit. Or maybe the lights go on wherever it is hit. We don’t know for sure because half of its wiring was hanging out so we couldn’t try it out.

The dummy that likes to be hit from


SlamMan is the docile training partner for solitary martial arts practitioners. It gives them the opportunity to improve their reactions and the accuracy of their punches, thumps, slaps and kicks.

To be fair, it shouldn’t really have a place in this blog because, despite its undoubted resilience, it is clearly only half a man. The top half, to be precise. But it looks so peculiar, like a punch-drunk boxer who’s lost all awareness of where he is, that he deserves a little recognition because he could never, ever, be a contender.

Radio Bionic

November 5, 2007

The figure on the right is a scientist at Queen Mary, University of London. The figure on the left is a hollow “phantom”. The chamber in which they stand excludes electromagnetic radiation.

Radiation phantom from quitehuman

The scientist fills the phantom with fresh lamb meat. He buries a small antenna in the meat and triggers it to send and receive radio signals.
The aim is to design an antenna for implantable medical devices for insulin delivery, pacemaker regulation, cardiac defibrillation and bowel control.
The perfected antenna will improve patient comfort because the implanted devices will then be totally free from wires. A nurse or doctor will be able to monitor and regulate the wireless device inside the patient from their office down the corridor.
But first the scientists must be confident that signals to and from the antenna propagate efficiently and do not affect human body tissue.
Each experiment must stop after four hours. After that point, the meat is no longer fresh enough to have the same properties as living human flesh.
A virtual phantom – a computer model – is being constructed so soon the experiments will be able to continue without visits to the butcher.
In a previous life, the phantom was used to test the electromagnetic radiation from police radio handsets. That’s why its hand is in front of its face.

Heavy breathing

October 29, 2007

It seems, from the comments we’ve been getting, that inanimate dummies evoke sympathy. What’s wrong with you people? Dummies are slightly creepy artifacts made by humans to help us in one way or the other. They’re not some cute cuddlesome honeybun. It’s the people who have to work with them that should be getting the sympathy.

Take Annie, for example. She’s the one on the right. She’s a resuscitation training doll used to show volunteers how to bring cardiac arrest sufferers back to life from their near death experiences. The lady on the left, a wonderful member of the marvelous St John Ambulance, has to blow into Annie’s mouth and beat her chest more frequently and forcefully than is decent.

And no matter how hard she’s tried over the years, she has never yet managed to bring Annie back to life. Nor have the hundreds of trainees who’ve also pumped and thumped the manikin.

So who deserves the sympathy here? The ungrateful rubber effigy or the hard-working instructor?

Mind you, Annie is about to get what she deserves. Health & Safety officials have deemed her too heavy so lighter versions are taking her place. And the dumb blond will be locked in a suitcase for the rest of eternity. Aaaah.

Annie the resuscitation doll from quitehuman

Akram + Marka

October 16, 2007

Dancer Akram Khan sits on himself, an articulated effigy he nicknamed Marka which was made by Antony Gormley (see the Pixelated post). They’re in a brilliant piece called Zero Degrees, alongside Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and another manikin, with music by Nitin Sawhney. Go to see it.

Akram Khan from


October 8, 2007

At last, you may be thinking, just what I expected to see on a blog dedicated to dummies – a crash test dummy. Well, yes it is, but we do try to be unpredictable so it’s not your ordinary run of the mill, mindless serial impact victim.

This is, we believe, unique. It’s the only pregnant crash test dummy in the world. This immaculate model was conceived from a passion to understand how car seat belts might be redesigned to give better protection to expectant mothers. It’s surprising that nobody had considered improving the safety of pregnant women in cars before.

Standard belts can be uncomfortable when you’ve got a bump with a baby inside so some women choose not to strap in at all, increasing their risk of injury at a time when they really want to be even safer. So this female has a water-filled container inserted above her pelvis to mimic the foetus. Then she is accelerated up to 50 mph (80 kph) and brought to a sudden halt, just to see which kinds of belts work best.

Pregnant dummy from

Fred the Scarecrow

October 1, 2007

If you were a crow, which of the figures below would scare you most? Probably neither. The chap on the left was on the books of Chelsea FC 50 years ago, earning £2.50 a week. Today he keeps an immaculate allotment for growing vegetables and he built the figure on the right, called Fred, to scare the crows away. It’s made from pair of his old trousers and his old t-shirt, with a scarf knitted by his wife. The tranquil scene, with cricketers walking out to play on the field beyond, belies its recent history. The local council had tried to turn all of the allotments into a car park but eventually changed its mind after a fierce community campaign to save them. Now Fred can stand guard over neatly tilled rows of onions, spuds and beetroot.

Fred the Scarecrow from


September 26, 2007

Antony Gormley has been making copies of himself for decades, including an inspired life size silhouette made of sliced white bread. Recently there were dozens of his sculptures on the tops of buildings in central London, “watching” and being observed, as part of his Blind Light installation hosted by The Hayward. While that project was in development, and while he was finalising the design for the 25 metre high Waste Man for The Margate Exodus event, he gave us some time to take this portrait of the artist with a 3D pixellated metal version of himself in his north London studio.

Antony Gormley and his pixellated self, from

There are many people who work with life-size human forms – dummies, manikins, statues, phantoms. We are documenting them in portraits and words and will post them to this blog every week. Here are clips from some which will soon be posted in full.

Detail of blonde dummy head from Detail of man who works with dummies, from Detail of phantom holding hand in front of face, from


September 17, 2007

Jim Cunningham saves the life of this dummy every working day – sometimes in a training pool, sometimes in the open sea. The dummy is also saved by trainees. It is the same weight and size as a human and is equally awkward to man-handle in water. Trainees in the marine industries learn how to rescue the dummy and strap it to the yellow stretcher. Jim kindly gave us 10 minutes to take their portraits as they were being transferred from the training pool to the quayside in the back of a van. sea rescue.jpg