The Aesthetic Evolution of Digital Sculpture(con't)
Developments, Access and Availability
For all of the sculptors, the possibility of designing
and creating sculptures that couldn't be realized with traditional practices
is the primary reason for their use of digital technologies. The exploration
of the extent to which computing technologies may give rise to new possibilities
of thinking about and producing sculpture is the major factor in Keith
's work. As Dan Collins
puts it, the technology is too precious, too time-consuming and too learning-intensive
to expect anything less than the creation of work that couldn't be accomplished
in any other way.
In terms of aesthetic growth it has felt like stepping off a scooter
and climbing into the cockpit of a supersonic jet that hits Mach10.
I work rapidly through innumerable permutations of new concepts to
build many forms that I would not have had the time to conceive otherwise.
- Robert Michael Smith
The technological developments over the past couple of
years have made it possible to control the kind and degree of distortion
imposed on a given object or data set, as Dan
sums it up. Scaling operations, proportional shifts, eccentric
vantage points, morphing processes, and 3D montage are some of the techniques
his body of work explores. Keith Brown
finds new developments in Layer Manufacturing techniques and the introduction
of wider ranges of material have been of particular importance.
For Derrick Woodham
the "mutual reality" environment provided by Active Worlds constitutes
a technological development that will affect his work in the most profound
way. He is still gathering the pieces of his experience in DAAP, negotiating
the extent of his engagement with the present and future capabilities
of the application, and feels that it is too early to step back and objectively
Over the past couple of years, the availability of technological
tools has definitely improved; there are now more companies that build
data capture and output devices, which has lowered unit costs, and there
have been consistent improvements and cost reductions in all CAD/3D animation
programs and related hardware.
his colleagues set out to build a fully capable lab at Arizona State University
in 1994 and now that PRISM functions as a working prototype - equipped
with state of the art computers, laser scanners, and several output devices
-- he feels that he is only beginning to get started. Keith
also sees a generally democratizing effect when it comes
to costs. He is eagerly waiting for the affordable 3D desktop printer,
(which will supposedly be available in two years) and Robert
is convinced that the day of the 3D Kinko's is imminent.
Million-dollar visualization technology has become available to even the
grassroots digital sculptor for well under a thousand dollars, as Smith
Although there have been significant advances in Rapid
Prototyping processes, Smith points out that availability still is a major
problem because of very high production costs -- an experience that is
shared by Michael Rees
who states that
all the access he received has been won at great effort on his part and
feels that artists are largely left out of the mix.
Robert Michael Smith
|Availability and access aren't only
a matter of technological developments and lower costs but of a cultural
climate that supports venues of access. As of yet, there are no art schools
dedicated to the discipline of digital/virtual sculpture and labs such as
PRISM are still an exception. Christian
Lavigne finds that the transdisciplinary character of digital sculptors'
activity tends to disturb systems that are used to separating individuals
|Since 1988, he has proposed the creation
of an international research and teaching center for sculpture (Centre International
de Recherche et d'Enseignement de la Sculpture -- project CIRES) that would
allow sculptors, architects and designers to learn about new techniques
and materials as well as to produce works relevant to new object technologies.
|Access to the technology and integration
into the art market are still two of the major problems for digital sculptors.
Lavigne believes that the situation is in some respects improving because
the industry has become more and more interested in novel productions that
validate their market image -- however, these potential sponsors are not
prevalent enough yet.
|Although most of the artists are
users rather than creators of the technology they employ, they certainly
have an impact on its development. The creation of new hardware and software
is not only a matter of a hands-on implementation and programming -- the
process of conceptualizing, envisioning and employing it towards new goals
also is of crucial importance.
|As co-director of an interdisciplinary
lab, Dan Collins feels that he
has a least "a whisper of an influence" on the projects that pass through
the lab's doors. His contribution may often be more conceptual and aesthetic
than technological, but he considers himself to be part of a process. He
sees his most fundamental contribution to the "technology" in the coordination
of clusters of machines and human resources that previously had not been
utilized together in the same space.
I have about as much involvement with developing digital tools as
most sculptors with their chisels or a fighter pilot with his jet.
I fly these machines exceptionally well but rarely get my hands greasy
in the engine turbines. - Robert Michael Smith
Michael Smith states that he hasn't created much of the technology
but he has agreed to Alpha-test a prototype 3D input device -- intended
to simulate manual clay modeling of computer wireframe meshes -- and has
occasionally been a software Beta tester. His work on the CD-ROM game "Millennium
Auction" was, at the time, groundbreaking for the introduction of low-polygon
count 3D virtual actors and aesthetically credible sets.
Robert Michael Smith
Rees, who has worked with one software company to implement ideas
in their product, has been striving to contribute by lobbying for certain
technological developments -- most notably the use of color in RP. He has
published and lectured widely about it and it has by now become a more significant
issue in the rapid prototyping world.
|Most of the time, the implementation
of ideas regarding technological developments would require to stop the
practice as an artist and commit to the technology side, which most artists
aren't willing to do.Keith Brown also
feels that understanding the problems of the technology is enough for him.
He has brought up a few unresolved problems in hardware and software situations
which are now addressed by engineers.
|The relationship between art and
technology has always been a dialectical one, as Christian
Lavigne puts it, and the productivity of their relation ideally
requires equal funding for artistic and scientific/industrial research and
a continuous exchange between these realms. An understanding of the technique
and means of creation is an important factor in this process. Lavigne quotes
Picasso, who, contemplating an African statuette, once said: "I don't know
what it wants to say but I know how it wants to say it."
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