Will 3D printing become a Dodo?

Computer Art went the way of the Dodo. Will 3D printed Art follow? 

The best view in Perth and iced coffee (with ice cream of course), used by the author to untangle the 3D puzzle.

According to Grant D. Taylor in The Machine that Made Science Art: The troubled History of Computer Art 1963-1989 (2004 UWA PhD Philosophy Thesis), computer art quickly became marginalised.  Digital art, its younger nephew, was able to upstage it and has go on to become hip and trending with the art crowd. And still is, sort of.

What's this got to do with 3D ceramic printing?

I'm not exactly sure, but bear with me while I untangle my thinking...

In ceramics, over the last few 40,000 years we've seen it all before.

Take the wheel. Despite small pockets of resistant fighters, studio neo-throwers (neo-romantic throwers?), most ceramic factories completely mechanised the manufacturing of table wear, decades ago.  Human throwers in ceramic factories went the way of the Dodo.  Extinct. Gone to meet their maker. Passed on.  

I remember in the early 1990's visiting the old Australian Fine China factory in Subiaco, and watching a machine cut, compress and spin a lump of clay into a dinner plate, automatically pop it off and quickly begun again.

But even this machine was not fast enough to escape the inevitabile economic rationalisation of the Australian Ceramics industry, once tariff barriers protecting it had been removed.  Cheaper imports, often just as good, were bought by predominately indifferent Australian consumers.  Consequently, in 2006, Australian Fine China relocated its Perth factory to South East Asia in order to remain price competitive.

A small pocket of studio potters in Australia still predominately use the wheel.  But, despite their long hours hunched over their wheels,  few survive completely, depending upon this machine for their sole source of income.  Dig far enough and you'll find another job, sideline, supportive spouse, arts adminstration or teaching job subsiding their studio practice.  Not much different really, to 99 percent of any paintbrush waving fine artist.

Yet the wheel is addictive, is a great party trick, and still pulls the crowds at the local craft fair.

Could the hand on the wheel just be a prolonged physical stroke, or a machine induced meditation.  Perhaps its like driving a farm tractor in ever diminishing squares (a mechanical mandala?)  for 12 hours a day?  For both one must be mentally and physically balanced and able to comfortable hold a position for a prolonged period, with subtle adjustments and corrections?  'Bit like watching a 3D printer create another useless piece of plastic? Round and round, back and forward goes the printer head extruding plastic, or clay. Strangely hypnotic!

But, I digress.

I have just spent a day a week, over the last year at Perth TAFE as an Artist in Resident, hacking a 3D printer so that it would print paper clay.  Read a little about my incremental progress here.

Then a further 6 weeks course learning software to design the objects to be printed.

Since then I've been researching attitudes to computers and art.


Because I was getting a bit of flack from studio potters online and locally.  There seems to be a bit of resistance - it's not really art, is it?

So when else in the past has the arts been critical of new technology, like, recently?

But it's pretty boring research, reading Grant D. Taylor's art theory thesis on computer art.  So I have been tempting myself with iced coffee (with ice cream, of course) and the best 8am view in Perth, a couple of times each week, if I'll just spend two hours in one place reading and writing notes on Computer Art.

And it looks like there might just be something useful in Taylor's writings:  Computer arts have faced the same criticisms I am hearing about 3D printing, which may explain the art crowd's mixed reception:

Taylor sees hostility towards computer art also coming from a

romantic fear that a computerised surrogate had replaced the artist … undermined some of the keystones of modern Western art, such as notions of artistic “genius” and “creativity.” (pIV)

By using technology as the underlying logic, these histories fail to acknowledge the importance of cultural and ideological contexts in the emergence of computer art.” (P6)

Also, because computer art was an international phenomenon, it could not derive any cultural legitimacy from a national art history.  Apart from having no national heritage, there was no centralised location or organising body that could devise a coherent corpus of belief (in contrast to the myriad of other twentieth century art movements that achieved this).  Subsequently, in the early stages, there was no formal attempt by the practitioners to organise themselves socially and politicially around a key idea” (p7)

All good stuff.

(The last bit also sounds a bit like the challenge the paper clay crowd are currently wrestling with.)

And I've only got to page 7...


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