project director: Simon Yuill
original drawings: Chad McCail
development team:
Ricardo Creemers
Stefan Gartner
Eleonora Oreggia
Simon Yuill
sound design: Mark Vernon


supported by ...

All content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, unless otherwise stated.

[module 0] blueprints
Glasgow, Edinburgh (Scotland), and Brussels (Belgium)
October 2003 - December 2003

The Homeostatic Pencil of Chad McCail
article by Jason Malcolm Herzmark, 1999
(originally published in Edinburgh Art Scene)

Tightening the beam focussed on the artist Chad McCail, they brought the full force of their will to bear. At last he was in their control [1].

His hand moved over the huge paper, in tiny circles, marking out the gravel beneath the floor. Memories stared back at him, he forced his concentration back to the minutiae, the dead fly bodies in the porch light.

He was drawing past events, but the toys were different. Then, shooting their soldiers off the stairs with Siekoden [sic] guns; now, in an attempt to understand, he arranged them on the stairs in a hierarchy of wealth, priviledge and control.

Chad stood back, really proud of his layout [2]. His toys all looked really good; a tiny plastic social microcosm. Now he really felt he could get a sense of social perspective. Then he noticed one of the figures had fallen over. Chad picked it up, instantly another toy took its place, a squabble broke out - some toy police began to move in and a hostile toy crowd was gathering.

Back and forth, back and forth, rolled the toy car in the hand of the boy. His foot slammed down on the accelerator and the car shot forward. Before he could stop it, it was under the sink with the dirt. Edging forward, intent on the car, he passed the twin pink towers, draped in cloth. Curiosity overwhelmed him and he raised up a hand to lift the cleaner's skirt. A hand shot out. Thwack, on the back of his head, he tenses and the moment becomes part of him forever, knotted into his muscles, enmeshed with the fibres of his being - the armour begins to grow [3].

Years later he would laboriously draw the scene in an attempt to understand its implications. The long periods of drawing, sitting in the same position, led to horrenduous tensions - thoughts would creep into the muscles, knotting them - hardening them over time. If left unchecked, he would become subject to them and they a part of him, affecting his stance, his posture and his views. So every night he performed the elaborate series of excercises that would stretch the his sinews and let the muscles give up the ideas, release them before his body became encased in armour and his range of actions thus limited [3].

Some things still worried him, like how come so many of Milgram's dupes had chosen to electrocute the guy in the chair? Is obedience "a prepotent impulse overriding traing in ethics, sympathy and moral conduct."[4], or do people just figure they should stay in with the guy in control. Just doing my job is the shield of the officious when confronted with human suffering, from the Hangman to the Dole Clerk [5]. Can blind obedience excuse evil? Better ask Eichmann. What Milgram shows is how many people are prepared to go way over the line [6]

In the enclosed space of school we learnt brutal lessons about punishment and power. Electric shocks will improve the accuracy of the subject's answers. Fear helps kids to learn at school. The cane sharpens the mind. Threat makes you attentive.

But if the medium is the message then we just learn about fear, pain and power, reproducing the system of punishment in our games and interactions with each other [7]. Until we reach adulthood and it is our finger on the switch - better to be on the side of the guys with the switch. Better to be a prefect than a fag.

So I pushed him from the bus. I had the power. I was in control.

Inflicting pain can cause suffering. This is going to hurt me more than it...

A radio message recieved by the Operators at Central: can I lose control now?

Who if anyone, was in control? Or more relevant, what were the mechanisms of control? How could control be broken down? What would come after control. When the rich men give the land back to the people, and the people build homes and grow food. Unfortunately, optimism seems ironic now.

Surely we learnt to disobey as well? Only if we thought we could get away with it.


1.) medieval artists received art directly from God, they tuned in. To think of themselves as authors was sacreliguous. A medieval storyteller had to state "...that he is not the story's actual source (fons ejus), but only its channel (canalis).",p.86 - The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind, Ivan Illich, Barry Sanders Pelican 1988 ISBN 0-14-022831-4.
return to document

2.) Planetary colonists in bleak hostile enviroments, construct small scale replica layouts of idealised suburban conditions back on Earth, they take drugs so they can enter their layouts, whereupon all the women 'become' Perky Pat and the men, Walt. The communion of cultural synchronisation. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K Dick, 1996 Voyager (Harper Collins) ISBN 0 00 648274 0
return to document

3.) q.v., The Function of the Orgasm, by Wilhelm Reich Souvenir press Ltd 1983 ISBN 0-245-64970-1
return to document

4.) p1, Obedience to authority, Stanley Milgram. ISBN 0-06-1319883-x Harper & Row
return to document

5.) Reich suggests obedience is infantile, a refusal to grow up and take responsibility for ones actions. It is just as everpresent in a liberal democracy as Nazi Germany. The Mass Psychology of Fascism, by Willhelm Reich, Souvenir Press 1972 ISBN 0 285-64701-6
return to document

6.) "With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under to the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe." p.123, Obedience to authority[ibid].
return to document

7.) "The cruelty of many children springs from the cruelty that has been practised on them by adults. You cannot be beaten without wishing to beat someone else. Like the teacher you select someone who is physically weaker than you.", p269, Summerhill, a radical approach to education, A.S.Neill Gollancz 1973 ISBN 0 575 00293 X
return to document