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Sculpture, October 1999
By Denise Carvalho
The first Boston Cyberarts Festival combined a variety of art forms, including electronic art, music, dance, painting, photography, sculpture, and weaving, shown at a variety of institutions across the area. The festival exhibited many technology-influenced art languages, only a few of which made critical points about the relationship between aesthetics and technology.
In the Computer Museum the highlights were mostly technological, particularly a "SensAble' product consisting of a Windows NT-based software and a haptic device called PHANTOM. The software, FreeForm is a virtual metaphor for clay, allowing the user to create a sculptural piece without actually touching it. After designing a 3-D piece, the user will print it with the help of a 3-D printer. "Mind into Matter: The New Digital Sculpture," shown at the Museum, featured works by Michael Rees, Michael LaForte, Christian Lavigne, Denise Marika, Bill Jones, Dan Collins, Jim Bredt, and Tim Anderson. Most of these works seemed too involved with technology, too quickly finished, and not inquisitive enough in the process, with a sterile sense of beauty. The use of rapid prototyping (RP) is fundamental for artists interested in technical precision in their work. For Michael Rees, the exploitation of a new medium is vital to his concepts. Prototyping and building 3-0 models automatically from computer aided design (CAD) files "are powerful modeling tools for sculpture," says Rees; they allow the artist to reveal what is inside, such as an organ inside the body, or a specific tissue inside an organ inside the body. Rees's work explores a juxtaposition between real and imagined organs in the body.
The intrinsic reality of the object, once functional and now as object of display, is nothing new in aesthetic language. However, in the context of this exhibition, in which most of the sculptures are made of 3-D printed resin, and where almost every work is primarily a technological experiment, Michael LaForte's work spoke of fascination with the object's historical and utilitarian memory. His work, also made of resin and following the same computer process, included functional objects such as a fire hose and a bell, now serving only as decorative objects, creating a discrepancy between meaning and image. LaForte's work comments on the importance of reconnecting with history and the perils of embracing technology without caution.
Denise Marika's multimedia installations synthesize artistic practice and technology, perhaps because she personalizes her work by using her own body as an element of aesthetic language, while addressing issues of power, vulnerability, and control. One of her pieces involved a number of Plexiglas cylinders filled with sand. Each of these cylinders contained a small resin sculpture of the artist portrayed nude in a crouching position; the figures became covered by sand as the viewer rotated the cylinders. In a video shown at Howard Yezerski Gallery, Marika's nude and crouching body was projected onto a four-foot-diameter metal disk. She tries to protect herself as she is pelted by hard objects (replicas of herself in the same position) that break on impact.
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As the Cyberarts Festival takes on the form of a biennial, as it is expected to do starting in the year 2001, it will become a challenging venue for a variety of multimedia and electronic languages, questioning important aspects of the relationship between art and technology, especially as technological studios (as they call some high tech corporations) become one with artistic production.