Human-Machine Topographical Drawing-Machine

Human-Machine Topographic Drawing-Machine

Media: Winch-Motor Mechanized Choreographic Performance, Continual Drawing, overlay of Construction Site images.

Date: Winter 2020

Human-Machine Topographic Drawing-Machine thinks of modern topography as a form of drawing that documents human and machine co-exigency. It imagines human relationship to technology as an emergent mark-making machine. Through a collaborated choreography between two industrial motors and my body, a pile of gravel is shifted around the space leaving patterns and traces. As my body and the motors equally contribute to the shifting of the gravel, it is undistinguishable as to who is directing the drawing. Both the machine navigating me around the room, and the independent gestures of my arms and legs contribute to every stroke. This questions if landscape is shaped by human design or developed based the capacity of machines.

Is modern topography the result of Human Intention or a Manifestation of Machinic Power? The collaborated choreography shows that it was never either or, but an emergent human-machine that is driving topographical change.

Throughout the performance, I am sliding around a pile of gravel with a broom. My movement, direction, and location in the space are dictated by two industrial motors. As they manoeuvre my body, I am manoeuvring the broom with independent gestures of my own body- by reaching out my arms, leaning forward or back, rotating various degrees etc. The gravel is moved according to the collaborated orchestration of both the machine and my body. The specific patterns and traces left behind from the shifted gravels become a documentation of this collaborated choreography. A dual agency between myself and the motors affect the process of the drawing. The “exigency”- existence and agency- of both humans and machines are performed to be equally influential on the structural evolution of landscape.

Without human intelligence and planning, reconstruction of natural landscapes could never have been imagined and put into effect. Without the strength, force, and efficiency of machines, these changes could not have been exerted on the vast scale, in the rapid time frame, by the extreme measures witnessed in the heavily architected continents of today.

When considering topographical influence, humans and machines can not be separated but must be conceived as a unified systematic structure. A new mark-making machine has emerged with the combined powers of human intelligence and mechanical force and productivity. It performs as both the thinking architect and the brute destructor or efficient re-constructor of landscapes.

Levi Bryant’s Machine-Oriented Ontology proposes that the assemblage of two systemic entities creates a brand-new entity. Bryant emphasizes that the new entity possesses operative powers and behaviour that its integrated components did not possess individually.

The collaboration of my body and the machines demonstrate such an emergence of a total-machine, an entity distinct from its human and mechanical constituents. The total-machine possesses human cognizance which the machine lacks. It performs the demolishing and manufacturing power of the machine which is impossible for the human body.

As my body and the motors perform a continual rearrangement of the gravel to endlessly reformulate various trails, we demonstrate topography’s ever-evolving transformation under the works of a human-to-machine merged Drawing-Machine.


  • Bryant, Levi. Onto-Cartography An Ontology of Machines and Media. Edinburgh University Press Ltd, 2014, Edinburgh, pp.77