‘mammoth imperator’ (2011) part of ‘back, here below, formidable’ by marguerite humeau
resonance cavities, larynx with vibrating vocal cords, windpipe, air compressor, programmed breathing system, subwoofer
installation view, 600 x 300 x 100 cm
marguerite humeau, a recent design interactions graduate royal college of art aims to resuscitate the sounds of extinct animals
by reconstructing their vocal tracts, in a project titled ‘back, here below, formidable’. interested in bringing back to life
this aspect of prehuman history, humeau reflects that ‘science, design and fictions have to be used [together] as tools
to recreate the beasts.‘
composed of soft tissue, the vocal chords of animals do not fossilize; only the surrounding bone is preserved.
humeau’s extrapolation of the form of the windpipes involved extensive research and collaboration
with paleaeontologists, zoologists, veterinarians, engineers, explorers, surgeons, ear and throat specialists, and radiologists.
the design process varies for each animal, based on how much data is available and whether the creature has modern relatives.
for ‘lucy’, for example, based on a hominid australopithecus afarensis that lived 3.85 to 2.95 million years ago,
humeau compared a CT scan of a human trachea and larynx against data from a chimpanzee and the skeletal data of ‘lucy’,
using the predictions of scientists to guide her design.
in addition to reconstructing a model of the windpipe, humeau has developed a means of restoring ‘voice’
to the creatures by connecting the models to an artificial breathing device based on an air compressor.
‘back, here below, formidable’ currents consists of a book documenting the research and process of the project,
and two complete models: ‘lucy’, and ‘mammoth imperator’, whose species lived from 4.8 to 4500 years ago.
closer view of resonance cavities of ‘mammoth imperator’ (2011)
‘lucy’ (‘autralopithecus afarensis’) (2011)
resonance cavities, larynx with vibrating vocal cords, windpipe, air compressor, programmed breathing system
installation view, 50 x 115 x 30 cm
larynx with vibrating vocal cords, windpipe
3D reconstruction of CT scans of an asian elephant’s vocal tract, used as research for ‘mammoth imperator’