Dangerous Perceptions Part 2
In my previous Contours article I explored the potential problems with the advent of CNC machines and their possible impact on an artist who is trying to secure a future in the art market. This article takes a look at another budding technology that in my opinion reinforces the dangerous perception of what art is. Even more disturbing to me is that these new technologies are re-defining who and what an artist is.
Technology and all it’s ramifications and perceptions is moving at a speed no one could have imagined 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. One form of this new technology that has ‘risen from the ashes’ the new ‘Phoenix’, although not from ashes but initially from polycarbonates, and more recently metal, or any substrate is 3D printing.
Three Dimensional Printing, in my opinion will forever change the way we produce just about everything. Automobiles, actual human body parts, tools, and equipment are now being produced via 3D printers. Three-dimensional artistic works, ie, sculpture are now included in that list.
I was appalled at the number of guests who approached me at the last AFAS Exhibit at Pebble Beach and inquired if my sculptures were printed on a 3D printer. At first I was taken aback by these questions, that is, until I walked over to the exhibit area of the students from the Art Center Collage of Design. I was dumbfounded by not only the creativity of these students but the fact that these students had totally grasped the technology of 3D printing and created some extraordinary three-dimensional automotive designs. The attention to detail, and the absolute precision of these pieces was amazing. I could not fault the surface quality, the different textures of the various parts of each creation, or the assembly of the finished product. It gave me pause as I then understood why I had been asked so many times if my work was also done on a 3D printer. These ‘sculptures’ were done on a CAD program with a computer and 3D printer. They were every bit as involved as my hand made sculptures.
Herein then begs the question, who will be able to earn a living in the future creating sculpture with one’s own hands when anyone with a computer and 3D printer can scan a photo, and print their own sculpture to view and enjoy? Of course, there will be artists and maybe including myself who will use this new technology to push their creative envelope even further. I can also see that it might be a possibility that only the wealthy will purchase works that are actually made by the artist. To the ‘person on the street’ this technology will make everyone an artist. I am not against personal expression or artistic creativity, but if one wishes to make his/her profession as an artist, the future just got a lot harder.
Since 3D printing allows the user to create an object out of virtually anything from common starch, to synthetics, to hazardous materials, what is the ‘shelf life’ of the piece? Where and what is the value of such work? How do you determine a value of the object when the actual substrate itself is not disclosed? And since this ‘art’ will exist on a computer program and can be produced in unlimited amounts how do you determine value? Will ‘art’ become a disposable artifact of human existence, with no lasting value because of the materials and the manner in which it is constructed and produced? How do you market your work when ‘everyone’ can call oneself an artist?
I believe the answer to that is persistence. If one is persistent, never gives up, and pursues all avenues open to him/her then eventually one can rise above the tide-of-technology. I believe we, as artists, must develop our own style. Use the technologies that are available to you, but not to the extent it overwhelms the human traits of creativity, passion, desire and love of art.