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Fluid Borders:
The Aesthetic Evolution of Digital Sculpture(con't)
                 by Christiane Paul
Form and Space -- New Dimensions

Digital media have translated the notion of 3-dimensional space into a virtual, networked realm and have thus opened up new dimensions for the relation between form and space. Tangibility, which has been a major characteristic of the concept of "sculpture," now isn't necessarily a defining quality any more. All of these developments beg the question in which specific respects the computer has expanded and changed traditional notions of sculpture.
Tracing back the view into the virtual world that has been opened up by the computer to Alberti's invention of perspective as a "primary technology," Michael Rees comes to the conclusion that there is a refinement and an acceleration of the original system of perspective and the representation and manufacture of form. However, he finds that the speed of realizing physical representation hasn't necessarily led to a different experience of physical laws. Since cyperspace potentially transcends physical laws, it may be restricting to even try to apply them to the virtual world.

Most of what I am aware of being produced under the rubric of "digital sculpture" merely mimics the formal strategies of traditional sculpture -- bound as it is in an "upright universe" dependent on gravity, the material limits of particular media, and the scale of the human body. Even the sculpture parks dedicated to a "virtual" sculptural experience to a large extent maintain the phenomenological constraints of traditional sculpture. - Dan Collins

As Keith Brown puts it, the transphysical aspect of the cyber environment provides new possibilities for sculpture and radically changes traditional modes of experience that were defined by gravity, scale, material etc. Sculptors are now free to build forms that defy natural laws. New developments in manufacturing processes and materials have also extended the possibilities for the physically manifest sculptural object.

I find it even more compelling/challenging to explore various means to introduce virtual sculptures into the physical world. The interface between the Actual and the Virtual is significant content within my new sculpture work. - Robert Michael Smith

There seems to be an obvious tendency among digital sculptors to explore the interface between the virtual and the physical and to experiment with output methods that let the sculptures materialize in the physical world. Digital sculpture seldom seems to exist solely in the virtual realm.
Robert Michael Smith, who accepts cyberspace as a viable and credible new world in which to exhibit, experiments with various means to physically manufacture forms originally developed as virtual sculptures, and Derrick Woodham and Dan Collins are equally interested in bridging the gap between the virtual space of the computer and the tangibility of sculptural objects. Mainly due to financial factors, Michael Rees' next project will combine traditional and computer-generated practices.
It will be a kind of sculptural essay that visualizes his convictions about text/image/object and might take the form of permutational system in which each of the objects, which can be combined into various forms, functions like a word or like a sentence in order emphasize the language or library or taxonomic aspect of the sculptures. Rees points out that the lower visibility of the computer generation in the final state of the work isn't meant to make the work more palatable but allows him to concentrate more directly on the balance of the sculpture.

Robert Michael Smith
Christian Lavigne believes that digital technologies can produce objects that are true to these objects' virtual representations, no matter how complex they are. For him, information and computer technologies constitute supplementary tools of creation that allow the artist to conceive new forms and means of expression -- but what counts before everything else still is inherent necessity, the artistic depth of the envisioned results.
This orientation towards the physical object may ultimately also have historical roots. Dan Collins points out that historically, the body has been a reference point of traditional sculpture and that the domain created by new technologies extends from nano-scaled structures to cosmic macro structures "given form" by devices such as radio telemetry.
Keith Brown
According to Collins, appreciation of these forms depends on the interface between the body and a given set of impulses "felt" by the sensorium; tuning the interface now allows us to get feedback from "scales" heretofore inaccessible to the sensing body. PRISM Lab's work with its research partners in nanotechnology, for example, makes it now possible to "touch" a red blood cell or get tactile feedback from a chromosome.
To challenge traditional notions of sculpture, and at best to overtake them, has of course always been the mission of some sculptors and digital sculptors in particular, as Derrick Woodham states. He finds that digital media have profoundly affected his most recent work by inspiring him to explore more challenging design solutions, by changing social references (in terms of the interests or values reflected in the public or uncopyrighted domain and in the accumulated product of computer-based model making) and by challenging his assumptions about his future audience, which has become dramatically younger. As Woodham sums it up, the record of sculptures that stylistically accommodate the capabilities of new technologies confirms that change is inevitable.
Derrick Woodham

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