It’s one thing to algorithmically push pixels around, or even thermoplastic and such for that matter, but it’ll be quite another thing altogether when it’s atoms. Much of my recent artwork can be considered an oblique form of future studies. It’s from contemporary technoprogressive, transhumanist, H+, hard sci-fi and singularitarian ideas that I’m filtering-out fodder for forward-looking visual responses. Future studies led to looking into atomic-precise manufacturing, that is, speculations surrounding how we might eventually assemble things from the atom up and give rise to nearabout costless systems for controlling the structure of matter itself. As an outreach effort, I set out to increase awareness of this imminent object-shock of sorts and provide viewers a sense of how hacking matter happens. So I started repurposing the representational rubics of molecular modeling software tools to make art.
As a smartmatter of nanofacture, I sculpt virtual molecular models, atom by amino. I also appropriate Protein Data Bank files, theoretical nanomachine components, junk DNA sculptural origami and novel inorganic material models such as sheets of graphene, bucky-balls, and nanotubes, etc. I overprocess or ornamentally-challenge models by writing Python scripts to algorithmically-automate alternative formal derivations, fractalize aminos off forms to perform generative crystallography, code for crazy carbon chaining, supersaturate all-of-the-above style color palettes, deform meshes, glitch render modes and ray tracings. I curate thereafter, selecting for the most nuanced nano-novelty, so to speak, and compose 2D or lenticular pigment prints I call Qubit-Built-Quilts or Mol-Mods: painterly plans for playborground ball-pits of pure-operationality all about an all over the above all atomic admin access-privs picturesque.
Species-Tool-Beings, Nano-Nonobjective-Oriented-Ontographs, Free-Range Femtofacture-Lures, Speculativernacular Signage and Transubstrationality Tool-Being-Chains:
3D printing is a gateway drug. That in mind, I’ve been hand-hobbling together from scratch since 2009 a bunch of Arduino-based, RepRap-oriented, 3D printers; built not only to materialize my modded molecular models, but also to exhibit expressionistic potential and misbehave more like my painting assistants. I feel it’s especially important to problematize prototyping at this point to expose that which ain’t yet exhausted or collapsed into fully exploitable usability in an overly functionalist sense.
I don’t use 3D printers… I play 3D printers. I joke that I juggle prints like turntablists juggle records. To convert molecular models into decoy brushstrokes, I tweak g-code generation and manipulate m-codes to print more like painting (prainting?), flirt with epic-print-fails, and allow irregular parts likely to all but muck up my printers. In the language of media theory / platform studies, my goal generally is to glean artifacts that aesthetically accentuate how hot-mess molecular modeling and 3D printing translate one another with tensions that overheat both media.
Ok, color. I directly interact with ongoing print-jobs in order to make real-time palette decisions. Colorization occurs mostly by way of two strategies: literally swapping filament to establish base-tones and generating gradients via indelible markers. For feasibility sake, I’ve had to hack my direct-drive extruders to both reduce the time it takes to switch filaments and also to avoid jams caused by the accumulation of pen pigments. I redesigned my bearing arms to hold tension against the drive-pulleys with a basic folder clip, so I can pause printjobs and swap strands of filament in less than 5 seconds flat. To quicken coloration, I’ve sandpapered grooves into all my marker felt-tips so I can speedily lay-down plenty of pigment. To eliminate clogging, I’ve run PTFE tubing from just below the drive-pulley all the way down through the whole hotend halfway into the nozzle.
From the butterfly flap you choose, emerges the superstorm you deserve. While they may not finally look the part, which is partly the point, my artworks do really require a lot of manual assembly. I foresee future fabrication technologies ultimately rendering the difference between building and growing next to indistinguishable. It so follows that my particular practice of making pictures has already begun to premeditatedly conflate that building / growing binary. Some of my part-strokes are printed small-scale-sculpturally akin to misshapen mosaic tiles, while others are printed impasto-painterly right up to the edges of my build-platforms.
The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. After amassing bags or bins full of sundry sized prints, I meticulously melt the molecular models together into textured tectonic-like plays of parts with the use of a standard low-temp soldering iron. There’s still a tad bit of paint involved in my process too, but only as underpainting. I use traditional pigment dispersions and acrylic binders to make my paint from scratch as well, which then serves to affix my 3D printed, melt-welded, sub-compositions onto wood panels. I refer to the resultant fully-assembled praintings as Species-Tool-Beings: nano-nonobjective oriented ontographs.
Things will work out, or things will work out. Anywhen, how do I speculatively see 3D printing playing-out? Real-time instantiation of at-will thought-forms will become a freedom of expression issue real quick. Accelerating printability of anythingyness means we won’t just be saying stuff, we’ll be saying with, in, or into stuff itself. I like to think this’ll be like thinking in, on, across objecthoods or musing more like manipulating materiality. This will certainly come into conflict with that which we consider constitutes life. Indeed, I claim it could come-to-pass that what we print is how we’ll process what we are. I coined the term “transubstrational” in some measure to help handle this breadth of built-being. Transubstrationality is meant to be inclusive of transitional states of transgressive living across sundry subtler substrates. It’s not about leveling-up. It’s about leveling-across.