L'homme machine

The figure-player Vanesssa Valk and the scenographer Jens Burde approach the subject of body image together with other artists, students and scientists. In a somewhat different university class and on the basis of interviews with patients, a participative exhibition is created that shows how illness and technology can change people's perception of the body.

The image we have of our body is usually invisible to others. This subjective experience of our own body schema is the result of thousands of sensations, images and feelings that we have stored as body memory. In this way we construct the inner reality of our physical form. Sometimes this image is changed by something: a neurological or psychiatric disease such as Parkinson's, stroke or depression. Or through a system extension, such as a prosthesis, a cochlear implant, an electrode in the brain or even a smartphone. How does depression affect the perception of certain body regions? Does the sense of balance shift when a part of the body is missing? How does it feel when electrical currents stimulate the brain? And what is part of the body in a digital, networked world? The project investigates the spectrum from purely therapeutic restoration to augmentation and the enhancement of physical or mental abilities, drawing on the knowledge of doctors, patients, philosophers and artists.

Cooperation Partners
Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS),
University College Freiburg (UCF)
Target Group
Studierende, Patientinnen und Patienten, interessierte Öffentlichkeit

Research and artistic process

We want to try to make different body images visible by means of artistic processes. The aim of this event is to present on one evening various, essentially theatrical works that make scientific research a sensual experience.

First we will meet with patients to get an impression of their personal body image through interviews. In this way, we want to generate texts that individually reflect the subjective experience of the body.

We then want to expose these texts to various artistic processes: Together with a dancer, we develop a choreography on the basis of the text material, which examines movement sequences, such as those created by a hemiplegic paralysis. With a figure builder and player we develop one or more puppets that deal with the experienced body image in proportion and shape and set it in scene. With an actor we stage the interview contents performatively, as a sound installation and as a reenacted interview situation. Together with an actress who specializes in transdisciplinarity and has completed her master's degree in this field in Zurich, we examine the gestures that result from a body extension, for example through a smartphone, and become part of our everyday lives. We will detach these gestures from their context and present them as video installations and performances.

The project "L'homme machine" is a collaboration with the University College Freiburg, where a course enables students to learn more about philosophical, neuroscientific and psychiatric aspects of the concept of body image and body schema. Participants in this module at University College Freiburg will also be involved in the development of performances.

The closing event will take place at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies FRIAS on December 8, 2018.

Click here for the calendar of events: http://nexusexperiments.uni-freiburg.de/aktuelles/artikel/sciart-event-frias/

More information about the module can be found here.


More information on Vanessa Valk:



More information on Jens Burde:


04   Experiment