PRISONERS ~ Vatruvian Android
Vatruvian Android
Vatruvian Android

Vatruvian Man The meaning of the word 'vatruvian' is something of a mystery to us. We know it simply as the a word in the title of the image on the right, "Vatruvian Man," drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. Any resemblance to the image on the left is purely intentional.

Vatruvian Man felt like the right place to start when we set out on the search for a graphical representation of PRISONERS. There's a real sense of confinement to it. It's more than mildly ironic that da Vinci's intention was to display the human body's mathematical harmony. Our expectations of humanity, and ourselves, do confine us to a small set of possibilities. Which is among the play's more prominent themes, so the irony suits our intentions.

Moreover, if recollection of high-school art class teachings serves true, the physical proportions of da Vinci's Vatruvian Man have been, shall we say, massaged to fit neatly within the circle and square. A second theme of the play revolves around the flattering self-image we as individuals maintain for ourselves, and how that image distorts what is natural, and beautiful in its own right. Why is it better, or more beautiful, or more compelling for the human form to fit neatly within two geometrical figures? Visually, Vatruvian Man can be viewed as a bit of a square peg thrust into a round hole.

Into these themes we have thrust our protagonist, the play's narrator, an artificial being which has been measured against the expectations of human beings and found to be guilty of sharing some of our more disturbing qualities. As described in the play, it is "an androgeny in glinting grey metal." It is neither male, nor female, though it has qualities of both aspects. So on the image's left side is the right arm and leg of a man, on the other side, the left arm and leg of a woman.

The central conflict for our protagonist is the choice between being human and not being human, which parallels our own human condition. If we define being human as a list of behaviours which the majority of humanity displays under certain conditions, then, perhaps, being human is not good enough even for human beings. The question is, can we transcend the darker side of our humanity? And if so, how?

Which brings us to the final element, balance, in the form of the Daoist symbol for Yin and Yang. Though we've left out the shading, the left side is white, representing Yang, the male, the analytical, the objective while the right side is black, representing Yin, the feminine, the intuitive, the subjective. The being's humanity, both the light and dark of it, radiates from the core, much to the being's distress. Caught in the middle, our hero seeks the balance which will resolve the perceived conflict.

We credit the talents of James Melcher, whose deft pen brought the Vatruvian Android to life.