Technology and the arts have always been united fields, from the chemistry involved in mixing paints to the creation of the loom and the sewing machine. For modern artists, though, the evolution is even more dramatic. From virtual reality to 3-D printing, technology is transforming the culinary arts, furniture and interior design, and even sculpture and drawing, creating a new sense of what’s possible. In the studio and in the kitchen, the future has arrived.
The Robot Artist
Is it really art if it isn’t made by human hands? What if the human inspiration is in the computer code? That’s exactly where the artistry enters in Julian Adenauer and Michael Haas’s Vertwalker, a wall-climbingrobot armed with a paint pen.
Part of what’s exciting about the Vertwalker is the fact that it extends the act of creation. Though it can only run for two to three hours at a time before a battery change, the software in the Vertwalker instructs the robot to follow a certain pattern while alternating through eight colors and overwriting its own work. As artist and developer Haas explains, the Vertwalker makes it so that “the process of creation is ideally endless.” No single artist can do that – create forever.
Futuristic Furniture Arts
It may seem strange, but furniture has always been an innovative field. For example, when Eero Aarnio developed the iconic ball chair in 1966, he challenged the current material models, opting for fiberglass, aluminum, and plastics. This experiment led to what the New York Times declared “the most comfortable forms to hold the human body.” It also led to countless new experiments with plastics for furniture, including creating award-winning chairs of his own and new and exciting works among other designers.
Of course, today Aarnio’s ball chair is unremarkable – it’s par for the course in furniture design. Without Aarnio, though, we wouldn’t have Front Design’s melting table, a seemingly sturdy object that deforms over time due to its peculiar weight distribution. Over the course of a few months, the legs fold in and under, the surface warps, and what was once a table becomes entirely new.
Even mainstream products like Ikea furniture ultimately stem from Aarnio’s innovation. In 2017, Ikea released a line of device charging furniture known as the Home Smart collection. You don’t get this kind of dual-function furniture without someone like Aarnio pushing the limits of synthetic material manipulation.
Thinking In 3-D
3-D printing has become mainstream in the past few years, but these machines generally find their homes in engineering firms and laboratories. As more artists have the opportunity to train on these machines, though, and as more engineers cross over into the arts, 3-D printing has become a standard creative tool, as useful as a pencil or a chisel and unusually flexible.
One of the most exciting ways that 3-D printing is being applied is in the culinary arts, creating dishes that look too good to eat. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), for example, has a food-grade 3-D printer that allows them to print custom cake toppers and unique confections. For the most eye-popping 3-D treats, though, you’ll need to seek out architect-turned-pastry-chef Dinara Kasko.
Dinara Kasko, in collaboration with fellow artist Jose Margulis, creates 3-D printed molds for baked goods, often using simple geometric figures and drawing inspiration from biological forms. Her cakes glisten and surprise, making the bakery a museum and laboratory where the art is edible.
Lights And Illusions
Finally, any discussion of modern artistic innovation would be incomplete without mentioning the use of lasers and virtual reality. The art therapy and neuroscience team of Juliet King and Robert Pascuzzi, for example, have adopted laser-based art in their program for mobility-impaired patients. Individuals with ALS and Parkinson’s – who perhaps can no longer wield a pencil or paintbrush – can interact with and generate images using lasers. This virtual art can help relieve depression and anxiety by channeling patients’ emotions into creative outlets.
Some artists are taking interactive art to the next level using virtual reality goggles to create art you can almost touch. At the Amsterdam-based Studio Drift, for example, visitors can walk through seemingly mundane spaces like the rooms in Concrete Storm while experiencing streaming, space-specific art using the VR goggles. VR art has the ability to reach groups who previously may not have expressed interest in museums or galleries with their stuffy, “don’t touch the art” manners. The difference with VR is that the art doesn’t exist until you’re present with it.
Technology-driven art offers new and exciting experiences, a chance to reshape the world to fit our dreams and create art that changes with us. Whether it’s a robot drawing an endless art piece or melting furniture that changes shape over time, art doesn’t have to be a stagnant painting or motionless sculpture. Artists have a chance to think bigger.
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