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Fluid Borders:
The Aesthetic Evolution of Digital Sculpture(con't)
     by Christiane Paul
Status and Value

There is no doubt that new tools for visualization and modeling, ranging from 3D to rapid prototyping, have changed the construction and perception of 3-dimensional experience and broadened the creative possibilities of sculptors.
In Michael Rees' opinion, digital technology has made his intention for his work more transparent than it has ever been. Admitting that his statement implies contradictory aspects, he contends that the issue of how a sculpture is made has diminished, the issue of what the sculpture is about has enlarged. Indeed, digital technologies may currently draw attention to their use in the modeling or production process of a sculpture because they are still relatively new but ultimately, they may take the meaning of sculpture to new levels -- beyond the known limits of form, scale, gravity and space. As Rees rightly points out, this development cannot be ascribed to the presence of the computer alone -- significant credit has to be given to Art and Language, and conceptual art in general.
Obviously, digital sculpture has -- or at least should have -- a status and value equivalent to any other form of sculpture. The use of information and machines for the creation of objects is, as Christian Lavigne points out, nothing but the logical consequence of an evolution that goes back to the Neolithic age when human beings decided to take their fates into their hands and started "to create." The ultimate goal would be to construct the visible and "real" by means of the single force of thought. According to Lavigne, digital and virtual sculpture (la sculpture numérique) is a thought and "writing" that materializes itself.
Even if it's possible to establish a long art-historical tradition for digital sculpture, it nevertheless entails radically new elements that require a reconsideration of previous values. It's easy to agree with Dan Collins opinion that, in terms of artworld credibility, the "status" of digital sculpture remains low and that there still is a need for educating the critics, curators, connoisseurs, and collectors who define terms for the artificially "closed shop" of the professional art world.

Christian Lavigne

It won't be the first time that the "artworld" is behind the curve in terms of appreciating a new medium (witness the slow acceptance of photography, printmaking, video, and other "technological" art forms.) - Dan Collins

A major reason for the resistance and suspicion on the side of the traditional art world is the possibility of the infinite reproduction of digital work, which ultimately raises the question of the copy and the original. The art market is still to a large extent based on an economic model that equates value with scarcity and the notion of the original, although one would have expected that the acceptance of photography and video as art forms had expanded this model.

Collins recounts that even numerous invocations of the ghost of Walter Benjamin (whose essay "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by now has become a kind of manifesto) still left people wondering at the wisdom of collecting art that was, in theory, infinitely reproducible.Christian Lavigne also characterizes the attitude of collectors and the majority of the art market towards the electronic arts as rather hostile -- which he attributes partly to ignorance regarding the nature of the art and partly to a perpetuation of a form of cannibalism that consumes the soul of artists rather than playing with the mystery of their works.
Despite the possible resistance of the art market, there is no doubt that the field of digital sculpture is expanding and Smith believes that "it's the only newborn on the sculpture block that promises to mutate several healthy generations of aesthetic evolution." Derrick Woodham points out that in the US, higher education has played an important role in the acceleration of digital sculpture's production. The interest of educational institutions in the development and application of new computer technology has made the means more accessible and has encouraged the proliferation of practitioners and their works by providing a context that is less restrained by financial requirements.

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