3D Printing and the Loss of Art Culture

The topic that most interested me this week was art in the field of rapid proto-typing, particularly 3D printing practices. 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing has been around since the 1980’s, and is the process of creating three dimensional objects out of digital images via 3D scanning and molding technologies. This practice has numerous industrial advantages for example in the production of cars, computers, clothes or essentially an industrial product. However what I want to focus on is the use of 3D printing in art practices. After doing some research on the web I stumbled across a creative art and manufacturing studio based out of Wilsonville, Oregon called Additive Workshop. Additive’s technology creates exact replicas of artwork of any size and shape, able to generate 8 million bits of information per square inch scanned, that is precise enough to capture something as detailed as a fingerprint. Works that would normally take months or years to create can now be made in a matter hours. The technology begins with a triple light scanner that is used to take 3-D computer models of any piece of art. The scan is then transferred to a 3-D photo rapid prototyping system, which can build the highly detailed 3D models. One of Additive Workshop’s most significant projects was in collaboration with Michael Curry Design, to create the 65-foot Spirit Bear, one of the biggest puppets ever made, that appeared in the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. 2010-winter-olympic-opening-ceremony-e1268306614544 Aside from the ability to rapid produce works of art, this type of 3D printing is also useful in the conservation of art. 3D scanners can be used to capture digital archives of historical monuments and ancient artifacts.

 “Additive Workshop bridges the gap between the real world and the virtual world,” says Mark Ghiglieri, CEO of Additive Workshop. “Our technology allows us to bring pieces of art into the world in an infinite number of ways, and that is why our business is exploding. Everyone from museums to movie studios needs our help to create incredible works of art in a short amount of time.”

This is a link to a Ted talk that discusses in more detail the 3D printing process and its uses. https://www.ted.com/talks/lisa_harouni_a_primer_on_3d_printing#t-521726 While there are clear advantages of 3D printing in art preservation, I question whether the rapid production of art should be seen advantageous. I recently attended a lecture given at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art by the English artist Tacita Dean. Dean experiments with various media, however her particular interest is in film. Through the lecture she showed many of her projects and exhibits that put an emphasis on the connection between the artist and their medium. One that was particularly powerful was her exhibition Film which is an 11-minute silent 35 mm film projected onto a gigantic white monolith standing 13 meters tall at the end of a darkened Turbine Hall. The exhibition was meant to pay homage to a rapidly dying medium, film, which in the age of digital imaging has all but become obsolete. What is particularly fascinating about her work is that she painstakingly edits all her film by hand. This is particularly important for her because she emphasizes the crucial relationship between artist and medium.Her work, said Dean, is both “an act of mourning and an argument for the future.” This beautiful medium, which we invented 125 years ago, is about to go. How long have we got? I hope we’ve got a year left. It’s that critical.” Tacita-Deans-Film-in-the--008 Here is a link to an article about this exhibition if interested 🙂 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/oct/10/tacita-dean-film-turbine-hall I think that 3D printing poses similar threats to art making. In the same way that digital imaging eradicated film, 3D printing is looking to eliminate the manual labors that are essential to the art making process. While 3D printing may be able to recreate art works to fine detail, perhaps even better than any one could do by hand, I worry about the repercussions that the industrialization of art has on art culture. What would differentiate a true artist from anyone that has a good idea? Ideas are only part of producing art, execution and production play equally important roles in creating impactful artworks. 3D printing standardizes art allowing anyone to create anything. How does this affect art culture and the relationship between an artist and their medium? If anyone can create anything, what makes an artist an artist? How does rapid art production devalue art? This resonates with many themes visited throughout the quarter on technological advancement and the notion of doing things because we can, not because we should.

-Lauren Simons


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