FADE : AHRC 08-09

FADE (Fine Art in the Digital Environment) was a research cluster at UAL (University of the Arts London) under the direction of Prof. Paul Coldwell with Dr. Barbara Rauch. FADE was awarded a large grant from the AHRC for a project “The Personalized Surface within Fine Art Digital Printmaking”, and I was invited to participate as one of the “case studies”. Dr. Angie Geary prepared the scan of my head. Ben Knezevic produced the rapid prototype objects at Central Saint Martins. John Nicoll directed the bronze casting at the foundry at Chelsea College of Art and Design where I was Fellow in Residence during the project.

An exhibition and conference was held at the ICA, London in November 2008 and a symposium at the V&A Museum in April 2009. Here are some excerpts from a paper I gave at the symposium, published in “The Personalized Surface, New Approaches to Digital Printmaking” (FADE, 2009).

From Paradox and Polarity

… In 3D digital modelling, surface is ambiguous: it is represented mathematically through polygons, facets, meshes and splines; and you can’t touch it. This surface is permeable and the objects it describes are like ghosts that can intersect, pass through one another, and inhabit simultaneously the same (virtual) space. This ghost-like quality encourages me to think of the digital workspace, not in terms of a Cartesian xyz coordinate system, but as a world of dream and generation.

… Surface is ever present to perception. Because of this pervasiveness, surface gets taken for granted: it gets over-looked. And as such, it is also a liminal field, the place between one environment and another, between inside and outside for example, which opens us to fundamentals of difference. Earlier I said that digitally modelled surfaces were ambiguous. Perhaps all surfaces are.

… “Bruce dreams the tortoise and hare” continues the on-going series “Festina lente: make haste slowly”, concerned with the conundrums of the digital and material. The work makes connection with the Renaissance interest in emblem/narrative and paradox. I use the fable of the race between the tortoise and hare, where our expectations of speed, time and triumph are inverted, to explore the relation between the virtual and material.

… Through the FADE project and its focus on surface I revisited this work and “Bruce dreams…” is the result, juxtaposing differently derived surfaces: rapid prototyped hare, unfold technique for the tortoise, and life-cast head of the dreamer, all fused together through intersections.

“As Medusa”, comes directly out of my participation in the FADE project. I used the opportunity to have my head scanned and rapid prototyped. I also had a life cast of my head made and “spliced” two alternate halves together. Skin and surface. The striations of the “digital signature” of the scan/rapid prototyping also refer to the numerous sculptures of other cultures which represent scarification. The knots and snakey twirls which make up the headdress are also a combination of the digital and hand made. The bronze material refers to the long tradition of the portrait bust as well as issues of replication. Also, I began looking at the tremendous variety of sculptural techniques used to represent hair. Do we think of it as a surface? In a sculpture, it surely is. Make what you will of the fact that I am bald.

Part of the Medusa myth involves the fact that she had the power to turn into stone those whose gaze met hers, to turn you into a sculpture. The working process both in the scan and the life cast of my head required me to keep my eyes closed. So, there is no danger when you look at “As Medusa” of that fate befalling you, though I like to think that this potential lurks playfully “under the surface”.