The London-based designer Sitraka Rakotoniaina has applied Mr. Miyagi’s most famous aphorism—“man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything”—to an arm prosthesis that tries to mimic The Matrix’s most enduring visual image: bullet time. Participants wear Rakotoniaina’s contraption to try to catch flies with chopsticks, while the prosthesis trains the arm’s reflexes to operate at a speed slightly slower than normal. Once the brain has adapted to the new speed, the prosthesis is taken off, allowing the brain’s neurons to experience time in “slow motion,” so that the body and mind experience time on two different intervals.
The piece was part of a larger exhibition, “Design Faction,” at the Lodz Design Festival last month that highlighted 12 projects at the intersection of biology and design. Kasia Jeżowska, the show’s curator, tells Co.Design that the pieces, most of them by recent London-based graduates, made the exhibition feel more like a laboratory than anything else. Santiago Ortega’s “Blink to See Clearly” apparatus replicates the feeling of tunnel vision, for instance, while Marek Kultys’s hearing implant looks like the tracking device that was extricated from Neo’s belly button.
Although it’s just a speculative piece, Jezowska says that the prosthesis could eventually work. It consists of a simple hydraulic system that moves a fluid to make your arm move slightly slower than normal. “It’s designed like an exo-skeleton with plastic rings, metal rods, and bearings used as a support system for the rubber tubes and glass syringes,” she says. “Each articulation is connected to a set of ‘piston’-like devices that push the fluid in or out.” Primarily, though, it aims to create a “certain theatricality that triggers people’s imagination,” she says. Maybe Morpheus’s “desert of the real” is closer than we thought.