The organ bank and the bubble

Simultaneous with David Blaine‘s final moments sealed inside a sphere of water, intravenously fed by tubes on the steps of Manhattan’s Modernist opera house – Blaine’s ball was actually a “ten-foot tank with 1.5-inch-thick insulating acrylic walls, filled with 2,000 gallons of spring water,” surely making Archigram roll in their collective architectural grave –

[Images: From Flickr (via Towleroad) and the Gothamist; meanwhile, a reader emailed a few days ago, describing Blaine’s stunt as “the intersection of performance and sculpture.” “The lens of the bowl,” he continued, “seem to magnify [Blaine], and refract the sun spectacularly” – perhaps making this an astronomical event, as well…].

– I was on the phone with author Jeff VanderMeer, recording an interview for BLDGBLOG about the role of urban space and architecture in science fiction.
At one point we got onto the subject of VanderMeer’s so-called “cadaver cathedral,” featured in Veniss Underground. The cadaver cathedral is not a church, however, but a subterranean organ bank, modeled after England’s York Minster, complete with “a plaque to fallen surgeons.”

[Image: The rose window of York Minster, architectural inspiration for the cadaver cathedral].

Though the interview itself won’t appear on BLDGBLOG for another two or three weeks, I thought I’d plug VanderMeer’s work ahead of time – and introduce you to the building.
Somewhere between Blaine’s aquatic sphere, a scene from The Matrix, and a medical device gone horribly awry, VanderMeer describes the High Gothic organ bank as follows:
“Where the sculptures of saints would have been set into the walls, there were instead bodies laid into clear capsules, the white, white skin glistening in the light – row upon row of bodies in the walls, the proliferation of walls. The columns, which rose and arched in bunches of five or six together, were not true columns, but instead highways for blood and other substances: giant red, green, blue, and clear tubes that coursed through the cathedral like arteries. Above, shot through with track lighting from behind, what at first resembled stained-glass windows showing some abstract scene were revealed as clear glass within which organs had been stored: yellow livers, red hearts, pale arms, white eyeballs, rosaries of nerves disembodied from their host.” Etc.
So check back later for the interview – and, in the meantime, feel free to take a look at VanderMeer’s other work.
Finally, the architectural implications of Blaine’s submerged spherical stunt are surely worth a bit of discussion…

(Earlier: Hyperoxic architecture, where David Blaine also pops up; and thanks to Sam Buggeln for his email a few days back!).

5 thoughts on “The organ bank and the bubble”

  1. That really is an oddly appropriate juxtaposition. Very odd image of Blaine for such a kind of PR-like endeavor. Really interesting.

    Great to talk on the phone. As you know, I love this blog.


  2. Blaine’s stunt reminded me of a relative of mine who is in a wheelchair. She has to go in the wheelchair to get anywhere, and frequently the architecture gets in her way. Every trip is difficult not only because of her frail body, but because of the ‘frail’ design.

    Blaine has to plan every move or he’ll drown.

    I also have to wonder if he’s getting sunburned in there.

  3. Thanks for the shout out Geoff– I think the thing that struck me most about the piece (performance?) was, as the previous poster mentioned, its fragility. In that sense it reminded me of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s stuff, which also stays up for just a week or so– but in those pieces the brevity is artificial, they can stay up for as long as C&J-C decide is optimally effective. The bubble stayed for up as long as it possibly could, every minute at physical expense to its subject.

    And that could be said about any number of daredevil stunts, it’s just that this one was so aesthetically evocative (for example evoking to Geoff JeffV’s Cadaver Cathedral, very apt, wasn’t there a movie like that in the 70’s called Coma?) Good fun!

    Sam B

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