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Label: 3d printing

Wednesday 18th November 2015Art for the Blind

3D printing is everywhere in the art world lately, from generating new sculptural techniques to enabling entirely new forms of abstract expressionism, but thanks to a new initiative it's breaking even more new ground. If you've been living under a rock lately, 3D printing is the latest wave of homebrew fabrication technology that allows users to generate 3D models using special software and a printer that uses plastic and resin compounds instead of ink. It gradually builds up the surface layer by layer, allowing for an incredible amount of detail in its constructions. The technology has been around for a few years now, and although it still has to break its way into the mainstream, it's gaining a lot of buzz as the machinery becomes more and more affordable. As the userbase grows, so do the number of artists using it in their work, and new applications are being developed every day.

The latest buzz surrounds a project named 3DPhotoWorks with an ambitious goal: to bring visual art to the blind. In the past the idea may have seemed like a tastelessly cruel joke, but thanks to 3D printing technology, 3DPhotoWorks has been captivating the blind with 3D printings of famous paintings and other traditionally two dimensional work. As it says on their website, "3DPhotoWorks has devoted 7 years to developing a process that allows Blind people to “see” art and photography. Our goal is to make the world’s greatest art and greatest photography available to this deserving audience at every museum, every science center and every cultural institution, first in this country, and then beyond." They're referring to the United States, but as the buzz grows, expect to see more and more museums and galleries around the world show and interest in the work.

Just recently there was an exhibition in Seattle, Washington, put on courtesy of the National Federation for the Blind of Washington, which featured 3D models of The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, The Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh, and a 3D printed map of Washington state. Interestingly enough, the map was just as popular as the other two items despite its more prosaic nature, due to the fact that topography is more of a notional concept to the blind. Actually being able to feel a map and all the spatial relationships it contains is just as (if not more) interesting as some of the greatest works of art!

Posted on November 18th 2015 on 09:44pm

Friday 19th June 2015Reconstructing Lost Artworks

War is a terrible and seeming inescapable part of the world, and we pay uncountable prices for it, both literally and figuratively - but one of the tragically often-ignored prices is in the cultural treasures that are lost along the way. Most notable recently during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when numerous museums and galleries were looted, and unfortunately still occurring today thanks to the constant fighting in many areas of Iraq and neighbouring countries due to the rise of the Islamic State, some treasures are being stolen and sold on the black market, while some are simply being destroyed. Fortunately for the cultural history of the world, some of these priceless artifacts are being reconstructed using an advanced technology known as photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry is a process that takes multiple photos of a different angles of an object and recreates them as a digital 3D file, one that could then be either rendered and viewed on the computer screen, or even put through a 3D printer to create a replica of the original piece. Naturally, these can never replace the value of the lost works, but since most will never see the light of day again, it's the best chance we're likely to have.

One of the most interesting projects to come along that uses these techniques is named Project Mosul, after the now-destroyed Mosul Museum. It's based around a crowdsourcing effort, so that anyone who visited the museum and snapped pictures of the pieces on display can submit their photographs to the project to help refine the 3D models of destroyed artworks. The more source photographs there are, the more detailed the reconstruction can be, as each photograph is typically taken from a slightly different angle, which gives a slightly different description of the 3D surfaces of the object in question.

The founders of Project Mosul, who are entirely volunteer staff, hope to expand the project to cover other destroyed sites around the world, and open up new possibilities for experiencing cultural treasures that have been destroyed. Would that it weren't necessary, but war sadly seems to be one of the most constant phenomenons throughout history - perhaps one day, we'll be able to overcome even that legacy.

Speaking to the BBC, Project Mosul co-founder Matthew Vincent said, "3D printing is really proving to be one of the most valuable assets for heritage that we have today. It's a way to bring them back to life and have a tactile experience with them, even if we can't guarantee that they're exactly as the original would have been.
"Whether it is because of conflict or natural disaster, our heritage is such a delicate and valuable resource, the only way that we can really preserve it is to take the steps to make those digital surrogates, so that we can protect the physical reality of that heritage as well."

Posted on June 19th 2015 on 09:15pm

Friday 15th May 20153D Printing Art

It's no secret that 3D printing has been taking the world by storm over the past couple of years. From 3D printing custom mobile phone cases to 3D printing entire houses, it's an entirely new paradigm when it comes to the construction of objects large and small. It's probably no surprise, therefore, that there is a lively and developing community of artists who are taking advantage of the new technology to explore sculpture and modeling in entirely new ways.

Probably the most appealing element of the ongoing 3D printing revolution is the development of different materials that can be printed. Original 3D printers were slow, clunky, and extremely limited in terms of the kind of materials they could construct with. Often, users were limited to one type of plastic, but as the technology has evolved, so too have the materials available to both makers and artists.

The piece shown to the right is actually a 3D printed sculpture executed entirely in sandstone by Swiss architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, entitled Arabesque Wall. It's currently on display in a gallery in Toronto, Canada, as part of an exhibit on 3D printing by the Design Exchange entitled 3DXL: A Large-Scale 3D Printing Exhibition. Not exactly the catchiest title, but the exhibit is part technical showcase and part art exhibit, so perhaps they can be forgiven.

As Design Exchange president Shauna Levy explained to the CBC, “Up until now, 3D printing has been almost behind a veil and has been a mystery to many people.” The exhibit features the work of 3D designers and artists from around the world, and will be on display until August 16 in downtown Toronto.

Visitors can also see 3D printing in action thanks to a working 3D printer that is creating life-sized chairs for an installation that is part of the exhibit. Each chair takes 11 hours to make, so you probably won't have the patience to see one spring to life from nothing while you watch unless you're extremely lazy, but it's still fascinating to watch for a minute or two. When you then compare the relative simplicity of the chair construction to the wildly intricate complexities of Arabesque Wall, you finally begin to truly appreciate the wide range of possibilities that 3D printing provides artists, designers, and makers of all tastes and talents.  

Posted on May 15th 2015 on 03:00pm

Wednesday 11th March 2015DNA Artwork

One of the things we own almost intrinsically is our DNA. Actually, there is some speculation about the legal precedents involved in the situation, but regardless, nothing is more definitively "you" than your DNA. It defines every element of your physical makeup - though fortunately, for all of us, our experiences can still shape who we are as people, but to what extent? How much of our life is defined by our DNA? How much of our identities are defined by our DNA? These are the questions that artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg hopes to explore with her new project, "Stranger Visions", currently on display at the Clocktower Gallery in New York City.

The inspiration for the project struck Dewey-Hagborg as she walked the streets of New York. Despite large improvements over the last few decades, New York is still somewhat dirty, the way any big city is, but a large part of this garbage is a product of human usage - and every single time we touch something, we leave some kind of genetic trace material behind. Whether it's chewing gum, a coffee cup, or a stray hair, we leave our most private genetic information almost everywhere in our wake. Dewey-Hagborg decided to see what could be constructed from these remains, and began collected samples all across the city.

"It's meant to highlight questions of genetic privacy, and also point to questions of how technology like this might be used in the future," Dewey-Hagborg said in an interview with science news blog LiveScience. "I hope that when a viewer comes into the gallery, they question their own genetic privacy and think about the things that inspired me to do this in the first place."

Using genetic sequencing and 3D printing, she has created a series of facial reconstructions that adorn the walls of the gallery space. While it's difficult (or perhaps impossible) to recreate facial morphology perfectly from genetic markers, it's still possible to get a general sense of who these people were. The end result is more of a sketch, despite the realistic expressions that are visible on each face, hence the name of the show. After its stint at the Clocktower, the show will be moving to the Genspace gallery in June, and eventually to Long Island and then on to Mexico City. 

Posted on March 11th 2015 on 05:32pm
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