We take all kinds of dangerous activities for granted, thanks to our faith in industrial designers and engineers: we roar across the skies at 30,000 feet, wield hand-tools capable of turning us into hamburger in an instant, put slivers of plastic directly onto our eyeballs to see better. How far does this faith really go?
Sitraka Rakotoniaina and Andrew Friend created an art installation called "Neck Clamp and Impactor" that provocatively poses that question. The idea: put on a neck brace with a tiny piece of impact-resistant nanoceramic covering the tenderest part of your throat — and fire a gigantic metal rocket launcher straight at it. Would you dare?
Like fellow designer-artist provocateurs Ludwig Zeller and Revital Cohen, Rakotoniana and Friend tell Co.Design that their work "aims at creating a certain theatricality and help to trigger people's imagination." Which means that while "Impactor" is currently on display at Work Gallery, you won't actually be seeing projectiles being blasted at high velocity into people's soft spots. "The impactor is a working prototype, even though we had to adapt the motor for gallery spaces and remove the trigger," Rakotoniana explains. "It doesn't fire the lump of steel anymore but we kept a slight bit of motion to show how the mechanism is supposed to work. The little plate on the neck clamp is supposed to be made of nanoceramic, but as the research on that material just started when we were making the project, getting that amount of material wasn't possible."
The artists collaborated with Dr. Yanqiu Zhu at Nottingham University, so their concept is scientifically sound. Still, only a crazy person would be likely to put themselves in the "Impactor"'s killzone. "As the metal projectile is getting loaded, the 8 bows bend slowly increasing this psychological tension," Rakotoniana says. "Even without actually experiencing the impact, the design helps the audience to identify with the situation and the potential danger." Food for thought next time you get on a 747 or use a bandsaw in your garage: just as with "Impactor," the only thing between you and horrible, splattery death is a little thing called design.
[Images by Hitomi Yoda; Hat tip to New Scientist]