Radical Austria | Everything is Architecture

Feedback Architecture

20 July 2021

This text by Bart Lootsma was originally published in the accompanying catalog of the exhibition. You can find the full catalog here.

A series of experiments by Coop Himmelb(l)au investigates how human test sub­jects respond to intensive media experiences and how these reactions can be fed back to those media.

Coop Himmelb(l)au, Hard Space, 1970. Photo: Gertrud Wolfschwenger, courtesy Coop Himmelb(l)au.

An example is Harter Raum (Hard Space) in which the three members of Coop Himmelblau let ex­plo­sions go off to the rhythm of their heartbeat. The shock of the explosions accelerates their heartbeat, which in turn increases the rhythm of the explosions. In The White Suit, violent film images are projected onto a transparent helmet, supported by scents and a pneumatic vest that gives the subject a punch when they see brutal scenes.

These works are influenced by the media guru Marshall McLuhan. He believed that it is not so much the specific content of media that should be investigated, but the medium itself: ‘the medium is the message.’ The installations by Coop Himmelblau not only help to understand this proces, but also teach visitors to deal with the increasingly inten­sive bombardment of impressions in the media.

Coop Himmelb(l)au, White Suit, 1969. Collection D.A.M., Frankfurt. Photo: Ben Nienhuis, Design Museum Den Bosch.