Categories · MEDA · Media Arts Workshop

Critical Analysis: Materialising the Digital




The artist’s intention in this work is, to my knowledge, to show the viewer that there is artistic purpose behind computer generated work. I may think this because my understanding of procedurally generated ‘things’ is limited to the role it plays in video games and thus my understanding and predisposition towards procedurally generated things is that often they are created with the intention of being beautiful, but lose their beauty in their vastness. To explain further an immediate example I can think of that demonstrates why I think this is the game “No Man’s Sky” where players travel across the galaxy discovering new worlds, new flora and fauna and generally discovering what they can. The game boasts that it is nearly infinite, that no one player could go to every planet in the fictional galaxy and discover all there is to be seen, this is due to how the game has been procedurally generated. Before release of the game, potential players were excited at this prospect, and that the game looked aesthetically pleasing while being extremely vast. However, very shortly after release most players boycotted the game with one key complaint, genericity. Players got bored of seeing procedurally generated organisms, their ‘unsculpted’ nature become uninteresting.



The process this artist used in his work was not talked about in detail, however it was mentioned that the layers in the tower were individually laser cut. The procedurally generated nature of the layers however was not explained. However at the risk of speculating, I would guess that the entire object was created in some kind of 3D modelling software in which the artist input his procedural generation algorithm and then using a large 3D printer print the whole thing in parts, gluing segments together since an object that large could not be printed in one go.



Since the quality of the outcome is subjective, I will talk about the physical qualities this process has produced. The 3D printing process usually creates quite jagged looking edges, and in some cases very ‘spiney’ looking structures, however in this case it seems to be that the 3D printing process has been done at such a speed that the edges are rounded or at higher quality than usual, or that a second process, like an acetone bath was used to treat the object after the printing stage. However it is unclear without visually inspecting the object again to determine exactly which process was used. It’s even possible that a solid 3D object like this could be sanded afterwards, however without touching (which I did not) the object it’s difficult to tell whether it’s solid or not. It seems unlikely given the incredible amount of material required to print a solid object of that size.


Central ideas the designer is exploring

There are a few key central ideas that I believe the designer is exploring in this work. The large vertical physical aspect, or it’s ‘tower-like’ properties in general seem to point towards some kind of authoritative imagery, since the object itself looks incredibly aggressive due to the harsh lines, points, and angles. However from a purely objective standpoint the tower could be a modern representation of an architectural pillar, the patterns and illusion of symmetry also back up this point.


Experimenting with new technologies

The artist here has experimented with the emerging/developing technology 3D printing, however due to the object’s large size it can be inferred that the 3D printer used was industrial grade, as my research has found there are no consumer grade 3D printers that print larger than about 25cm x 25cm. However usually when dealing with an industrial grade process the outcome is well established, this is another point that points to an acetone bath used in the process at some point.



Considering the fact that this object is 3D printed, I would guess that the material used is ABS. After some careful consideration of other more industrially available materials available materials which can be used with a 3D printer I would conclude that ABS is the most likely of materials, unless it’s



The technology used to create this piece is fairly limited in scope, but quite advanced. First and most notable of all is the process of creating a procedurally generated 3D object, this must have been done in some sort of computer programming language, to my knowledge there are a few ways to go about achieving this, a plugin for a 3D modelling program like Maya or Cinema4D, or alternatively a visual programming language like Java or Processing and then outputting points (x,y coordinates) to a 3D modelling program.


Nature of the processes used

The nature of 3D printing is getting more established as the technology becomes more and more widely used. What is known about the process is that the more solid and angular the object being printed, the “better” the results, which I think can be defined as a more accurate representation of the object being printed. For example, attached is an image of two owls, the one on the right has just been printed at the highest quality (bear in mind this sculpture is about 6cm high) and solid (not hollow). One can observe that the owl on the right is considerably more

Speculate decision making

To speculate on why the artist made the decisions he did about the piece, I’ll start with the form. I believe the artist chose to explore procedurally generated art because of the innate nature of procedurally generated things, they are interesting, to a point. Most of the time procedurally generated items seem to have an attractive nature about them as the viewers first starts exploring the piece, but then after a while the patterns and repetition of the generated work makes the work boring, lacking any detail and finesse. This work on the other hand has both factors working in it’s favour. It is not expansive, so as to show off it’s randomness, but it also includes enough data to appreciate the procedurally generated nature of the work. The work is itself a juxtaposition of the kind of work it is. Like making a blank page interesting without altering it. It is for this exact reason I personally find the work interesting.


How well does it work out?

Production wise, I believe the quality of the print came out superbly. If the work has had an acetone bath it was not for long enough to dull the detailed edges of the patterns, but did blend the work enough to create a very high quality looking piece. Alternatively, if the object was just a straight, unaltered print, I still believe it turned out very well, as it’s impossible to see the joins in segments, and the print itself looks like one giant 3D printed sculpture, with every detail supposed to be there.


Humanic side of digitally created things. For example he could have tried to use a completely randomly generated art but that would have created art that has no human elements, no sense of sculpture. This is important as


The artist could have chosen to sculpt this 3D sculpture, and create a fully human designed piece, with only the production side of it being digital in nature. However I think this would have been the opposite of what the artist is trying to achieve. 3D printing is constantly used to create objects and items that humans have previously made and that we want made a different way, however it is very rare for a procedurally generated object to be created physically. It’s this fact that makes the piece interesting, because we as viewers are not accustomed to seeing what is usually limited to software in the physical realm. To go to the other extreme, the artist could have chosen to 3D print, or physicalize in any way, a randomly generated artwork, but if you analyse the nature of randomly generated art, it is very overdone. Usually the work is interesting to view once, or to view a part of, but the random nature of computer generated work usually loses it’s interesting factor after viewing



In conclusion, I believe the ideas and processes used and incorporated into this work make it as interesting conceptually as it is visually. The detailed nature of the work create lots of imagery for the different contexts the work could have been created in, and the computational ‘random’ nature of the work makes it interesting conceptually in that the viewer wonders if the sculpture has been molded to the artist’s will, and that perhaps some parts were designed, or if this is just completely computer driven, in which case the work becomes more interesting to analyse, to see if the viewer can discern any pattern in the generation of the work by comparing one slice of the tower to the next slice up or down. The process in which the work was created, in this case 3D printing, to me is irrelevant to the design of the work. It could have been a silicone mold and if the output was the same I believe the significance of the work would not have been lost. However, that said, the 3D printing process does outline the ‘layers’ in the work, and that helps the viewer compare one slice of the tower to another, which, if they were analysing the procedural nature of the work, would be important. Whether this is the intended effect of the process from the artist is unclear.



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