Saturday, 22 June 2013

Taking 3D Printed Artwork Seriously

Over the last few weeks, I've had problems coming to terms with accepting much of what is labelled '3D Printed Art' as art. There are many complicated reasons for the objections - all of which illustrate serious changes and developments in art (historical) vocabulary and terms of concept. Notions of objecthood, craft and skill, along with originality and replication all seem to be questioned by the introduction of a creative application of this new industrial production technology; it is interesting but scary at the same time.
In an attempt to get to grips with these complex changes, I'm going to look at and try to think about different 3D print 'artists' and their work from an art historical perspective - if possible. I'm going to try and makes links between this new, ambitious area of creative production and the kind of work I feel familiar with and comfortable discussing. In this way, I hope not only to discover and appreciate a group of art-makers that are new to me, but to somehow manage to work them into my own art-historical understanding alongside every other different creative media.

My initial problem with 3D printed 'art' is precisely that I'm not sure that it is art at all. What I mean when I say this is that the intention for making doesn't always seem to be artistic; much of the beautiful 3D printed work that I've recently come across seems to have its academic roots in either architecture or design, and for this reason, the 'sculpture' outcome often looks like an investigation of form or a prototype rather than a discrete piece of art in itself.
With this in mind, my other problem with the work is that it all falls under a stereotyped visual - that is to say that it so obviously looks 3D printed as it conforms to a very particular aesthetic. Mostly, this aesthetic is 'the organic': studies into naturally occurring structures such as coral, feathers, bones, crystals, sand dunes and other organic forms are used as the formal basis of the work - the creations of Daniel Widrig (below) are a good example.

As a result, it is hard to know what original ideas the work can possibly investigate. Suddenly, this category of artistic making seems incredibly limited: if 3D printing relies on its three dimensional form as a specific characteristic of the 'genre', how can an artist create a fully original shape?

It is clear that there are many serious problems for the artist -maker and the art historian to work through as a result of this exciting new technology.