A few months ago I found out that I will become a father soon. The baby gradually grew inside mother's womb and with the help of latest technology, we get to see how she looks from time to time. The images were real but not touchable. We were not patient enough to wait for 10 months until the baby comes out on our arms. As a result of this impatience, we started 3D modeling the baby at least to indirectly experience the creation process that my wife is going through.
And by doing this we questioned: How would it feel to have the fetus on your hand? Is there a way to control the impression in a positive direction?
Just to introduce my daughter, her name is '이설'. 설(雪) means 'snow' in Korean/Chinese letters, since we expect her to come in winter. She was 18 weeks and 1 day old at the time when we decided to build her model.
This was the first rough version of the print, just to see how we feel with it. It was a fascinating experience to 'build' someone who looks like my wife and to bring the baby out from an untouchable sanctuary. We added the egg shell which could be equivalent to the womb - her home - to make her feel safe. Anyways it wouldn't feel normal to touch the baby's tiny vulnerable hands and legs.
Real size of the fetus after 18 weeks and 1 day, compared with an iPhone 4s. We showed it to some colleagues to go through quick responses, and most of them were very excited and kept on saying how cute it is. Nevertheless, followed by 'weird', 'creepy' kind of expressions. From our perception, since people mostly focus on the face of the baby, the 'weirdness' mostly comes from unrealistic size of the body, tiny hands, feet and so on, which anyways look similar to other babies.
According to Japanese robotics Mori Masahiro's "uncanny valley" hypothesis, when human beings see a robot, they are likely to have empathic feelings for the robot only to a certain extend, after which repulsion take over. Even though a fetus cannot be considered as a robot at all, the concept around familiarity and humanlikeness could be helpful to define the criteria to avoid the 'weirdness'. We took area A-B to enumerate the familiarity of the 3D models.
A naked fetus in real size is the creepiest thing to touch, since they are not supposed to be touched. That's why we put a shell around the baby, which apparently wasn't enough. Since the major reason of repulsion could be the size of the body parts, we tried wrapping a blanket around to hide them. Moreover, the surfaces were faceted to be more perceived as an abstract sculpture. The material quality of the print also plays a big role.
The baby printed with metallic plastic. Wrapped with a blanket, faceted.
The result was far more perceived as a sculpture, and also added some preciousness with stone like quality touch. It might not be perfect, but enough to celebrate the sacred, unbelievable process of creating 'life' out of nothing.
Finally, the 'fetus' in hand.
Published on 31st of December, 2014. The last issue of year 2014.