Open Conference Systems, National Conference on the Beginning Design Student

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The Body Mantle
Meghan Lynn Minton

Last modified: 2016-12-15


The body mantel is a means of provoking a young designer to become sensitive to the body, its proportions and its ability to create, measure and understand space.  This project is predicted on the work like Rebecca Horn’s performance Unicorn, Hussein Chalayan’s Afterwords and Oskar Schlemmer’s costumes form the Triadic Ballet.  Their uses of applying mediators to dynamic beings and how that then can begin to define not only the being but also the place in which they are in.  

To begin this project each student investigates the material properties of several everyday items; cafe straws, envelopes, garbage bags, coffee filters etc. The students are then asked to create a textile of sorts by joining a 100 like pieces of these items together.  The 100 pieces may be joined by bending, folding the material onto itself or the student may add a second material, a stitch. Through the process of developing  this textile the students are asked to site this textile on their bodies thus creating the mantle.  However, this is not a linear process, making the student continually test, analyze, iterate and recalibrate their mechanism of joinery.  The students must take into account the ability of the mantle to stay on the body and its’ amount of flex and restriction the mantle makes on the body.  Craft is developed through the repetition of producing this textile, and is integral to the performance of the body mantle fore the piece must then be able to stay on the body and endure the movement of the student.  As a final element to this project the students are asked to participate in a college wide show of body mantles.  This not only allows the students to share their findings across the studio, but also get further insight into how students across disciplines addresses this problem.  

This research is the examination of that which mediates between the body and architecture.  It explores what it means or could mean to begin design from the body out.  Bringing first year students into the world of design must begin with making the students cognizant of their own bodies in space.  This project allows them to discover the body as a space maker and further emphasizes this by being an extension of their body contextualizing themselves in space.  To produce the mantel the students explore basic human proportions and movement, and how their mantle can alter this.  The mantle allows each student to create a space that only they can experience, but when they participate in the college wide show they are confronted with other’s mantles are forced to negotiate space.  Through the course of this project the mantle and the body become altered needing to adjust with this new relationship furthering ones understanding of how the body imposes on space and how space imposes on the body.