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Fluid Borders:
The Aesthetic Evolution of Digital Sculpture(con't)
                                                                                               
   by Christiane Paul
Digital sculpture -- A Trojan Horse?

Comprising a variety of different forms and activities, the term digital or virtual sculpture (not to mention the terms infosculpture, robosculpture or telesculpture), is particularly encompassing and consequently might be slightly confusing for those who aren't immersed in the digital world.
Taking a look at the respective works of digital sculptors, one immediately recognizes the hybrid nature of the art form. Some of the artists use various digital technologies to create physical objects while others design sculptures that exclusively exist in the virtual realm. Robert Michael Smith feels that "most of us have come to accept that digital sculpture refers to objects manufactured through CAD/CAM, CNC milling and/or Rapid Prototyping processes while virtual sculpture refers to work functioning within various venues, such as cyberspace/Virtual Reality/3D Animation." The boundaries are fluid and Smith is comfortable with the title "digital sculptor" as a shorthand explanation of his experiments with digital technologies for sculpture design, production, presentation, and broadcasting.
I do think it is important to distinguish between work that is strictly "computer-based" (as with any CAD object, VRML, etc.) and is experienced THROUGH the computer screen (Virtual Sculpture) versus objects that have been produced using computer-controlled manufacturing machines (CNC, STL, LOM, FDM, etc.) and are experienced THROUGH the body (Digital Sculpture). - Dan Collins

Most of the sculptors don't feel that the label "digital" distracts from the specifics of the art they are creating -- as Keith Brown points out, "art should, in any case, transcend the medium" -- and seem to understand themselves primarily as sculptors minus classifying additions such as computer, virtual or digital. Smith, for example, sees himself as an object maker who happens to make virtual sculptures for experimental concept/content development, and Michael Rees emphasizes that the minute he would see another valuable way to conduct meaning in his sculpture, he would employ it, be it computer-related or not.

I don't feel that the term digital sculpture, which is still developing associations, has evolved to the point of implying limits to its possible applications. - Derrick Woodham
It may very well be that there is less confusion on the creator than the reception end. Reductionist effects of the label electronic art in general may be traced in the writings of journalists and critics and sometimes lead to confusion in institutions, as Christian Lavigne points out.

Keith Brown

He recounts that his request for support from the French Cultural Ministry for a piece utilizing 3D and rapid prototyping led to a discussion with a friendly delegate who wasn't sure if the Multimedia Committee or the Sculpture Committee would be the responsible department. Lavigne made a convincing argument that he was going to create a physical object -- in his humble opinion, a sculpture. He compares the label "digital sculpture" to a Trojan horse that allows to parade original art works in front of the media or industry which don't fully understand the pieces' depth. Had Einstein resembled Marilyn Monroe, as Lavigne puts it, there would have been more interest in physics in the schools and on television.

I'm no more enthusiastic about the other terms floated in this forum... cybersculpture et al. Each seems too protracted... guilty of a certain "clubbishness" I think we need to avoid. The chief advantage of "digital" is that it connotes something meaningful to most people who read newspapers, watch TV, and surf the Net. - Dan Collins


Michael Rees
As Keith Brown puts it, "technique always has been and probably always will be confused with art," and tendencies to evaluate and define art via the technology employed to create it may lead to diametrically opposed effects. On one end of the critical scale, digital art is occasionally dismissed as "technology on display." On the other end, there is a danger of confusing the "WOW" factor produced by new technologies with a unique artistic vision.

Mix our gullibility with our perennial fascination with widgets, and you begin to understand why so many people have become so fascinated with psychoanalyzing the latest fire that is "technology." - Dan Collins

Any attempt to approach art through technology may be ultimately futile because in today's information-based and technologized societies, it is virtually impossible to separate technology from anything surrounding us -- "we have a frictionless system of information retrieval, display, dissemination, and exchange at our fingertips," as Dan Collins puts it.
Christian Lavigne
Both Smith and Collins find that they have received mostly positive exposure in response to their use of digital technologies, which have the potential to open up the territory of sculpture to a dialog with other art disciplines involved in similar core issues and to encourage a broad interdisciplinary conversation outside of art altogether.
Michael Rees' experiences have led him to emphasize the content issues of his sculptures rather than to talk the revolution of their manufacture (although he is quite taken by it) and Derrick Woodham feels that the reception the technology itself is receiving from some of his peers needs positive modification. He consequently strives to encourage a more constructive engagement by offering support for their involvement.
Dan Collins

I really don't mind that my recent work may be defined, and to an extent determined by others, in relation to the technology that I use. In the end, it's what one does with the technology that counts. In this way it doesn't really differ from any other means by which one might determine, evaluate, or attempt to define art. - Keith Brown


Robert Michael Smith
None of the artists, however, feels that the reception of their art is predominantly defined by the technology they are using. After all, none of them has discovered sculpture through the digital medium -- working outside of the technology for a number of years has already established some reception for their work independently of the reference frame of digital or virtual sculpture.

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