What happens if we make the micro world of the human body perceivable? For her graduation project, Sonja Bäumel wanted to confront people with the fact that the human body is a large host of bacteria and that a balanced perception of the body is closely linked with a balanced perception of the self.
“In order to learn more about the lives of bacteria, I had the opportunity to complete a microbiological internship at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands. After having been introduced to the basics of microbiology, I started to experiment with skin bacteria and, at a later point, their reaction to textiles. Since 2008, in the course of my thesis project at the Design Academy Eindhoven, (In)visible membrane: life on the human body and its design applications, I am exploring the human skin and its potential. This project is part of my on-going research the (In)visible membrane project.
The (In)visible membrane confronts scientific data and methods with fashion design in order to find a balance between individual identity and the surrounding local environment. By doing so, I want to create a new second living layer on the human body, based on the interaction between individuals and their surroundings.
What fascinates me is the human skin, the layer between the inside and the outside. a second skin can be found on our skin. It is a layer full of life, which serves as a membrane for exchange. This body membrane is made from the same substance as the world. The human body does not end with its skin, but it is invisibly expanding into space. The hidden membrane is something between our body and our environment. We enter this invisible micro level with a microscope and then enlarge it with design.”
In 2012 she was awarded with the Outstanding Artist Award Experimental Design, for the project Textile Anatomy, from the BMUKK Federal Ministry for Education,
Art and Culture of Vienna. Her work has been exhibited internationally in Ars
Electronica Center (AT), Anthology Film Archives New York (USA); MAK Museum of Applied Arts (AT); Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (TW), Museum of Natural
History Vienna (AT) or ZKM Center for Art and Media (DE). Her Textured Self project is in the permanent collection of the Textielmuseum in Tilburg in the Netherlands. Her works have also been the basic impact for documentary films (ORF/ARTE: BioArt - Kunst aus dem Labor; Servus TV_Terra Mater: Wir sind Planeten) to which she actively contributed. She is co-founder of the Dunbar's Number collective (2011), member of Pavillion35 (2012) collective based in Vienna, and of the WNDRLUST (2013) collective based in Amsterdam.
Sonja is currently heading the Jewellery Department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, as well as lecturing and giving workshops at various academies and universities in the world.
Graduation project, 2009