Sleep Like Mountains – (Re-)discovering bodies in landscapes

Created by Lotta Stöver, “Sleep Like Mountains” enacts a process of digital embedding and embodying. The installation measures the topography of a human body and compares it to geodata sets of Earth, searching for a most similar location, where the topography of the human body and Earth elevate and digitally situate in similar ways. It attempts to (re-)discover bodies in landscapes and vice versa. By exploiting the inherent reductiveness of digital discretization processes it opens up a virtual space where the essential categories of the human and the other-than-human can be imaginatively merged.

“Lay down and feel your feet and your legs. Usually, they are your connection to the ground, to the land. But not now. Now, when you’re sleeping like a mountain, it is your whole body that is connected to the ground. To sleep like a mountain means to deeply breathe in and feel your body being strong and steady. You are not merely connected to the ground – you are now part of the land.”

The installation consists of a custom horizontal planar 3D scanning machine, a projector and a software for finding similarities among the generated height data of a human to the height data of Earth. While the topography of the human body can be generated during the exhibition, the height data of Earth have been sourced from SRTM geodata.

As an artistic research project, this installation appends itself to a wider discourse on negotiating degrees of human emplacement in the world. It is an argument against human exceptionalism and instead enacts a digital embedding and embodying process to visualize an imaginary where the human is seen as an intrinsic part of a more-than-human world. The project also functions as a formal investigation of data generating and its implicit loss of information, or perhaps even initial meaning; resulting in the emergence of new connections, associations, thoughts, and also new meanings, which in turn could be framed as digitally-situated embedding and embodiment.

The 3D-scanning machine is actuated by two Nema17 motors, GT2 belts and pulleys. The motors are driven by TMC2208 SilentStepper drivers, controlled by an Arduino Nano. The sensor for generating the elevation data of the human body is the VL53L0X infrared laser distance sensor. The 3D-scanning machine moves the sensor along two axes to cover the scanning area. Every quarter-second it takes a distance measurement and sends it via Serial communication to a Processing sketch that visualizes the height data. The Processing software then loads the first set of SRTM geodata and starts the search by comparing the scanning data of the human body to the geodata. In detail, this process of finding similarities happens by segmenting both sets of data and comparing the histograms (height values) of their segments. The more values histograms have in common, the higher is the calculated similarity. The scan of the human body is “moved along” the geodata in different positions, scalings and angles. After all parameters have been compared, the next set of SRTM geodata is loaded and the process repeats.

All 3D-printed parts have been designed in OpenSCAD, and the PCB design was made in Kicad.

Project Page | Lotta Stöver

This project was developed at the Digital Media program of the University of the Arts Bremen, with conceptual support by Prof. Dennis P Paul, Prof. Dr. Andrea Sick, Prof. Ralf Baecker, Dr. Petra Klusmeyer and Prof. Peter von Maydell. Documentation video and photos – Nathalie Gebert.