Turku: The art bit

For the past three weeks I’ve been in Turku, in the studio of Gallery Titanik, whacking away at the RepRap Mendel Prusa 3D printer. I’ve been kept so busy toiling with this that I’ve lost sight of the grander scheme of things, like why I’ve been building the printer in the first place. I’ve been putting off communicating what I’m doing not because I don’t think it’s worthwhile, but rather because the more immediate problems of finding screws or getting the electronics to work seemed so much more pressing; and besides, it ought to be obvious what I’m doing, no?

Then again, every once in a while it’s good to remind oneself that one of the few telling differences between an artist and a crazy person is that an artist at least nominally does her stuff for an audience, while the crazy keeps to herself or only occasionally performs for medical personnel.

If the Work of art in the age of reproduction spoke about the disappearance of aura, of authenticity and a direct interaction between any one artist and her audience, the means of reproduction through RepRaps and similar DIY machines reintroduce at least the authenticity of the machine — or its configuration, parts and calibration — into the object.

There are things about fabbing which sets it apart from traditional reproduction, as for example there is no original on which any copy is modeled but only a digital model created to exist in a different medium from that of any physical copy. Any artworks which are printed from a CAD file are originally only ever mathematical descriptions in a 3D-file format on computer storage. So although the printed object isn’t unrelated to the artwork, it certainly has a random element to it, a stutter in its materiality.

Historically art was about creating objects which based on esthetics and social function were considered “artistic,” then around the time of Fountain it became explicitly about an artistic aura, and then fluxus removed even the “work” part of “art work” which after post-modernism left us with the free-for-all shit buffet we’re at today. Perhaps fabbing could at least offer a lifesaver?

With fabbing, we have the possibility of having art which is highly conceptual, but which manifests itself physically not by the mediation of the initial artist, but rather through printers — machines and their operators — which exist in a DIY sphere and so are all different, temperamental, uneven; In another word, they are unique. But just as we don’t give artistic merit to the assembly-line worker who manufactures the printer with which we print our photographs, we are unlikely to attribute artistic merit to whomever assembled the printer which prints our CAD-models.

Rather, an actualized 3D-print might be the artwork of an artist, but it’ll have the aura of the machine, or rather the aura of the DIY home fabrication process of building and tuning the machines; If movements can impart aura, it’s an aura of industry dependent on craft, an inversion of industrialization, transforming engineers into cottage industry artisans churning out other peoples art objects.

nathan7: and I want a good print
nathan7: a really good print
nathan7: without overhangs ruining things
nathan7: it’s about the end result here

From a discussion on IRC #RepRap

The idea of personal fabrication is positioned to affect the manifestation and appreciation of art as soon as some critical mass and manufacturing capacity is reached: The result will be analogue objects bearing the likeness of art; not simulacrum or simulation, but a second order relation to the artwork, twinned with the aura of machine. Perhaps fabbing can be a disruptive enough technology to change the artists role into something new, something interesting, something other than making artworks.

Fabbing: Been there, done that, made a copy of the copy.

I’m putting together a project description of a workshop I’d like to run. The people I’ve pitched to are enthusiastic, but putting the course into academic-speak is difficult. It’s about 3D printing and other rapid manufacturing technologies, so I’m trying to get my bearings on the state of the art.

I don’t know how I missed the Rhizome article on the subject, Means of Production: Fabbing and Digital Art, as it’s a good primer on how radpid manufacturing is used in modern art. To sum it up: There isn’t much happening and what is happening is mostly concerned with sculptural works.

(Then again, there are trials with printing living cells, so your kids might soon be able to not only pull the legs off spiders, but design and manufacture better legs as replacement…)

Fabbaloo links to a 2001 presentation by Marshall Burns and James Howison which pretty well sums up what I tried to express in the pirate ebay post, when it comes to how our relationship to the object might change:

As in other cases where revenues are in doubt, designers and manufacturers will have to ask themselves what business they are in. In other words, what is it that people will pay them for, what will be their value proposition? Clearly, it will become harder to get paid for the physical arrangement of atoms in a product because that will be too easy for fabbers to make. Even the creative content (“intellectual property”) of a design fades in monetary value because it is too easily duplicated. Link

But now I do have to stop. I simply must. I must put away the Red Bull cans, and stop clicking and typing. I have to stop, so I can print my bed. I have to print my bed, so that I can lie in it.

→ IconEye, Bruce Sterling: The hypersurface of this decade (Via Fabbaloo)

Cornucopia is a concept design for a personal food factory that brings the versatility of the digital world to the realm of cooking. In essence, it is a three dimensional printer for food, which works by storing, precisely mixing, depositing and cooking layers of ingredients.

→ MIT, Fluid Interfaces Group: Cornucopia, Digital gastronomy (Via Shapeways)

On the moon, a research station is being constructed by robots.On top of a gantry, in place of the usual lifting hoist, an automatic arm extends downwards over the station. At the end of this arm, a nozzle squirts a concrete-like material onto the half-built walls like a mechanical hand icing an implausibly large cake. At the same time, computer-controlled trowels shape and smooth the concrete so that it’s flush with the wall below. The whole assembly moves back and forth to build up internal and external walls in layers. Further robotic arms are positioning services inside the building and lifting lintels onto the walls in order to make the roof. In just 24 hours, the house will be complete.

→ Craft, Lee Hasler: A giant leap for a brickie (pdf)

For some reason I start thinking about the space gel ant colony, where the hapless ants are allowed to burrow in 3D space, and out of a solid material create space. When diving last summer the thought struck me that we lack a model of envisioning architecture as a three dimensional space — not strange since we can’t fly, nor swim through the air — except maybe for the astronauts in space, for whom “up” is an arbitrary concept. (Or the IDF soldiers in Gaza, as BLDGBLOG pointed out recently)

Lets assume that 1) we’re extracting space out of matter, not building spaces, but extruding them out of something; destroying material. 2) And into this shapely void which we have made, we introduce objects that we desire – and we don’t build them, or assemble them, but rather extrude them. Need a table? Extrude it. Need somewhere to place the table? Extrude it.

Human will as a metaphor of a factory; Of a digging, burrowing animal, constantly crawling through strata, leaving tunnels behind, filled with the debris of time, want and need, manifested in ABS plastic.

Hey kids, let’s consider terrorism!

What with the climate summit in Copenhagen bringing back memories of my own trips to large meetings of important people, I’ve been thinking over the merits of action, and more particularly, the benefits of terrorism.

If we know with n% certainty that an 1°C rise in temperature would cause huge changes to our environment — causing human misery along with extinction of biotopes and what have you — and we are equally certain that it’s our own carbon emissions that are the main culprit behind the rise, there seems to be little room to wiggle out of actaully doing something. I don’t follow everyday politics, so very little noise has reached me about what action is being taken to remedy global warming, but let’s assume that it’s “not enough,” shall we?

So even thought there are humans who are affected now — or will likely be affected in the future — by changes in the temperature and subsequent changes in their living conditions, these changes are all mediated through the planet, and blame is easy to shift. When 6.5 billion people are shitting in the same river, it’s hard to tell whose corn you got stuck between your teeth.



Maybe it would be simpler to see the environment as something with class interests but with no representation?

I’m depressingly convinced that positive change usually comes about only if there’s a threat of a popular uprising or other such change of power distribution. Power is never given, only taken by force — implied or otherwise. This force doesn’t have to be violent as such, but holding vigils and giving out flowers is what happens after the actual fight; It’s not that which initiates the struggle but that which kisses and makes up.

So what is a concerned citizen with a global pathos to do? Where can your limited energy and time be spent and still have an effect? Might I suggest that terrorism offers most bang for your buck? “Terrorism” is just another word for “non-governmental” after all, so besides having to carry the burden of proof you could have the moral high ground; Especially in the eyes of a hopefully grateful posterity.

But whom to terrorise, using what means and for what particular ends? No-one likes vehicles which run on petrol, but hydrogen cars aren’t much better, and who’s going to deliver the food to the store, not to mention drive me to the airport when I’m going on vacation and hey look I pooped in the river again!

Ought you to follow in the footsteps of ELF or Earth First! by burning urban sprawl or logging machinery, spiking and/or climbing trees? The slogan “No compromise in defence of Mother Earth” is alluring but doesn’t make much of a plan. The Unabomber had a plan, albeit a haphazard one, but I don’t know if he brought about any positive change; Does anyone remember much except that scraggly beard?

Perhaps we just ought to think more spectacularly: bigger, better, badder, boom; Chaïm Nissim gave the following reason for firing five rockets at a nuclear powerplant:

These terrorist attacks were part of a movement and each little piece has its importance. People fired rockets, myself for instance. We had found a bazooka by German terrorists and we fired it. We failed, as the closest rocket missed the important part that we targeted by one metre. It was nevertheless quite beautiful. And, symbolically, it was a token contribution to the larger movement. Via Wikipedia

As Chaïm writes, such spectacular action is mostly symbolic (except the actual damage to property, if you’re inclined to take offence at that) but might have a positive long term debate — setting the stage for diplomacy — but make it spectacular enough and the backlash will be awesome.


Humanity is treating this impending environmental doom as a fait accompli and our own future is suffering the Genovese syndrome. I don’t know what would entice me to stick my neck out even though I know it might be the right thing to do, so I can’t for the life of me come up with a plan of action here. Tell me, good people, what ten buildings or industries or people or symbols do we attack — with what force — to what good purpose? What would you be willing to do, to what cost to yourself or others? Do we puncture the tires of cars or give people bikes? Is knocking out powerplants a way forward or forcefully installing micro wind turbines better? Burn buildings to reduce sprawl or occupy land by force and start a new land distribution reform?

Wroom wroom!

Treating the whole thing as a rather poor leveling game, I’m burning through all available apps for getting a drivers license. The theory isn’t all that difficult, but my math skillz leave something to be desired. (i.e. How much does your total break time increase if you travel 90km/h instead of 60km/h)

Drivers license app

Still have no experience driving, and it is with dread I see myself behind a ton and a half of lusty murdering machine. Might want to meditate on that. Oh, and I might want to meditate on getting an El Camino.


I tried to distill the motivation I have for The Boy with Half a Pinky, and arrived at these three paragraphs:

A project to measure the load-carrying capacity of text, an attempt at outright lying without speaking falsely and an illustration of automatic, biological narrative.

How far can one stretch the imagination to accomodate for ones beliefs in the face of contradictory (or inconclusive) evidence, and what is the quality of succesful propaganda (both the quality of the propaganda and the quality of our reaction to it, as well as the mechanisms that bridge the gap between what is presented and our internalisation of a message)?

Where exactly are you lost in the transition between presupposed understanding (unselfreflecting knowledge) and the rest of the world?

The galleries webpage is located here, where you’ll find more info about the exhibition.

Work in progress…

I’m working along the lines of the title The Boy with Half a Pinky and this photoshop is one way to pull it off.

Here’s the idea, as it is:

* The boy with half a pinky is an image of a young man sitting and smoking and looking slightly miserable. It’s blurry, except for the hand that holds the cigarette & which doesn’t miss any digits. Looking at the other hand you can’t really tell, because of the angle.

* What would be the point of this?

* This might look like an excercise in stearing the viewer, but it’s such an obvious point to make. Look, if I tell you that an image is about one thing, you’re gonna interpret or at least look at the image in relationship to what I’ve told you. And if I lead you on by saying something that either is

1) not verifiable
2) not verifiable & an outright lie

You’re not going to get anything true out of looking at the image, and it might actually make your perception of the image, and thereby your grasp on reality, slightly more false than you’d like. Of course, we’re constantly reminded of that others lie to us, or are otherwise not in a position to communicate anything un-false to us (how few and far between are the experiences of understanding, anyway?) and maybe we’re aware of this well enough.

* Basically, the above line of reasoning could lead one to believe that I’m just taking a piss and want to annoy any viewer, while at the same time creating an argument based on the falsehood of images and making a Descartian demon out of myself; An imbecile sitting by the roadside giving false directions to passersby, chuckling under my breath.

Ugh. But maybe that’s good enough? Or maybe good isn’t the right word to use. Maybe it’s plausable enough? The good part might come in if someone gets anything from looking at this while it’s hanging in a gallery, eat a breadstick and between munches says “uhm, this was nice. I’d say it’s even good.” That’s where the good part comes in?

I can’t seem to stear clear of the obvious trap here – I tend to treat what I’m doing as riddles that I have to reverse-engineer in order to figure out the true meaning of. Darn it. Darn it to heck.

One way to make clear that this image doesn’t matter in the slightest is this:

The second image is a heavily rasterised version of the one on the left. You can’t really make out any details unless you back a few steps away. Both images are made up of smaller parts – they’re stapled to the wall, taped with duct tape on the back, i.e. not being cared for very much.

There’s something fun about putting so many hours into a work that you finally decide to staple the shit out of. This might actually come as close to release as I’ll get on this side of legalised prostitution.

* Just had a smoke break with Mark, and he asked me the unwelcomed question I don’t see what you’re getting at, especially with the rasterised image.


So, what we end up with are a bunch of negative descriptions; Things that i’d like to point out that are wrong, but without offering an exit or a way out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since I just need to offer a way in, but, well, anyway. Nevermind. I’ll just prep the image for printing (it’s gonna come out on four sheets) and go home and eat soup.

Soup is good for you,
Soup is good for me,
and when you eat soup together
the company is free.