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Bigger than the real thing

bigger than the real thing

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre


In 2010 three exhibitions articulated the enquiry using the exhibition format as discursive element: 'Bigger Than The Real Thing' / 'Des Seins à Dessein' / 'Incredibles'

In 2010, three exhibitions articulated Zellweger's enquiry, using the exhibition format as discursive element: a joint exhibition with artist Emma Woffenden ('Bigger Than The Real Thing', Marsden Woo Gallery, London), the medical/artistic context of a group show for the benefit of a Breast Cancer Foundation(Des Seins à Dessein, Espace Arlaud, Lausanne), and a solo show as installation ('Incredibles', Gallery ViceVersa – l’Annexe, Lausanne).

Zellweger's work reflects on the wide acceptance of plastic surgery and other emerging technologies that are able to aestheticise the human body and improve its performance. The research was enabled through the support of a plastic surgeon who invited Zellweger to be an observer during operations. This association supported a significant methodological shift from Zellweger’s established practice (documented in Journal of Craft Research, 2011 and in a keynote speech at ESKIG Skin Deep Conference, Farnham, 2011). The research builds on earlier investigations, which were presented at the Design Indaba Conference, Cape Town, 2008, and the Design Research Society Conference, Sheffield, 2008.

The research propositions are materialised into tangible objects that respond to factual, fictional, and ethical dimensions of the subject. Artistic strategies with an affinity to critical design were combined with surgical techniques and data from surgical proceedings in the realisation of the objects. Industrial processes are also used both to contrast with and also complement studio-based craft approaches. Exaggeration served as a conceptual device for; the lengthening of limbs ('Phantom Limbs'), improved performance ('Plug-ins & Add-ons'), impossible body parts and optional aesthetics ('Incredibles').

The enquiry led to conference presentations at the Swiss Design Network (SDN) Negotiating Futures conference, 2010, and at Design4Health Conference, Sheffield 2011 (keynote), which traced a historical and critical contextualisation of the human body treated as a malleable design project.

Researchers involved

Professor Christoph Zellweger - Professor of Art and Design

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