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Makerbot At The Met - Is It Real Or Is It ….Stephen Colbert??

posted Jan 30, 2013, 10:00 PM by Ellen Pearlman

Makerbot At The Met - Is It Real Or Is It ….Stephen Colbert??

With the mandate of bringing the art practice of 3D capture and 3D printing to the masses, Makerbot a manufacturer of 3D DIY (do it yourself)  printers was invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to study, capture, and recreate pieces from the Met’s vast collection of art and artifacts. Using the software Autodesk’s 123 Catch they produced various works on their line up of 3D printers calledThe Replicator. Months in the making, this experiment really brings the term appropriation to a new level. Imagine art enthusiasts or others going to a museum, snapping a photo, going home and printing a replica of a priceless art work? If you ever thought roadside stands on back highways selling replicas of high end Greek and Roman sculpture were kitschy, this takes that form to new heights!

Here is a Kneeling Male Attendant (Pair) from the Angkor period, ca. 921-945 from Cambodia and how it became a software mashup.

Captured by David Neff and Matt Griffin using Autodesk 123D Catch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York as a part of the Met MakerBot Hackathon, June 2012.

So the computer let one deconstruct the figure this way:

Next is a marble bust of Luisa Deti (d. 1557)  by Ippolito Buzio (1562-1634). This is a picture of the original from the collection of the Met.

This is how the software renders it on a grid.

To get a sense of the printing process take a look at the classic Leda and the Swan

Leda and the Swan, Jacques Sarazin (French, Noyon 1592-1660 Paris)

and here is the Makerbot version which you could bring home and put on your living room, or even make it a door stop.

In all the Met selected 34 works of art to scan. This process is hailed as “democratizing art” by public school art teachers and the next new creative innovation. It is being lauded everywhere. But this kind of reproduction needs a deeper analysis.

According to Jean Baudrillard, this type of reproduction fits in between his third and fourth stage of his “sign order analysis. It overlaps between the two.

3. The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the simulacrum pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original.Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the “order of sorcery”, a regime ofsemantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth.

4. The fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus asmawkish.

Unglamorized, this is what a replica really looks like.

and here it is being made live time.

and the assembly line of Makerbot thingies.

and the Venus de Wilendorf deconstructed

Below is the lab setup at the Met.

After this strange party Bre Pettis, CEO of Makerbot went on national TV on the Steven Colbert Report to print live time a replica of Colbert’s head.

Colbert even showed how they scanned his head with a laser two days before, which is the red light you can see in the dark

and rendered it the software

and then Colbert’s head closed out the show with a puppet cut out for his mouth.

The idea is to put it up on Thingiverse for others to hack. Does this make Colbert “mawkish” or is he referring to the “hermetic truth?”