Video Work | Photo/Installations | Documentary Projects

Boston Herald, Friday, April 30,1999
Cyberartists mold 'Mind into Matter'

By Joanne Silver

Five interlocking male figures the color of raspberry sherbet dangle from a string in Jim Bredt's "5jimthing." Across the gallery, an elongated hand by Dan Collins reaches into space, balancing a tiny white microscope in its palm.
Bill Jones' lumpy shape the color of dried blood suggests a heart reduced to its barest essentials. In Denise Marika's "In Terra," three rolling tubes filled with pebbles trip miniature crouching women who appear to be dodging the storm of rocks.
None of these pieces would surprise a viewer acquainted with contemporary sculpture. They address such familiar concerns as the human body and the role of the individual within the larger sphere.
What is less readily apparent is the cyber-roots of these sculptures, which are on display at the Computer Museum (through May 15) in the exhibition "Mind into Matter. New Digital Sculpture."
This three-dimensional contribution to the Boston Cyberarts Festival, curated by Francine Koslow Miller and festival organizer George Fifield, features work by eight people who unite an ancient medium with technology barely a decade old.
Rapid prototyping certainly doesn't sound like art. The term hits the feel of cloning or assembly line production, not the idiosyncratic vision of an inspired individual. And yet, cybersmart sculptors around the world are now experimenting with machinery that allows a two-dimensional conception of an object to be transited into a three-dimensional model. If an object can be created on a screen - for example, by computer-aided design (known as CAD) - it can be constructed by this method, which is literally cutting edge.
The term "printing" - once limited to flat surfaces - has expanded into space. Input fed into a 3-D printer, such as the one made by Somerville's Z Corp, comes out in the form of its plastic-looking solid. The artist can choose color, texture and size, along with a number of characteristics that push at the borders of what is imaginable.
"Whatever one can describe, one can build," Sculptor Michael Rees said. His "Ajna" series fuses Hindu mysticism and abstracted images of bodily orifices and other charged symbols.
"The ability to visualize complex structures within structures without the constraints of the properties of those objects is extraordinary. For example, I can't put a tomato inside a rock and see them both. I can only imagine it. In CAD, the tomato is in the rock."
And, in the amber-toned "Ajna 3," a bull's head, a skull and a bouquet of fleshy funnel shapes penetrate each other with topological abandon.
Technological wizardry has the power to dazzle viewers and sometimes cloud their judgment. Not everything made by newfangled means deserves to be considered art, nor does it merit attack. Michael LaForte's hyper-real replicas of a bell, a radiator and a firehouse have a pop charm, but not much else. Christian Lavigne's "Regeneration du Monde," fabricated in resin and aluminum versions, resembles a three-dimensional space-age doodle.
Digital sculpture is in its infancy, the equivalent of photography 150 years ago. This exhibition hints at the greatness of things yet to come.