Last year's 3D Print Show Artist of the Year revolutionizes art and architecture
by David Graver in Design on 10 March 2014
At the most recent 3D Printshow in London, artist and architect Isaïe Bloch took top honors as Artist of the Year with his work "Satire." The intricate sculpture is just one of many that illuminates his multidisciplinary mastery, magnetizing vision and critical acclaim. Bloch's company and atelier Ergatory, formed in 2008, produces a dizzying range of visionary works, everything from radical architectural concepts to skeletonized home goods—all with a focus on 3D printing and creative fabrication. Bloch, Belgium-born but based in the UK, also happens to have a masters degree in experimental architecture and a second from the prestigious postgraduate program Excessive, lead by Hernan Diaz Alonso, at Die Angewandte, in Vienna, Austria.
Bloch defines his ongoing design research and exploration of materials as, "the correlation between craftsmanship and additive manufacturing within several creative domains, including architecture, fashion and plastic arts." A pioneer at the forefront of the 3D revolution, he recognizes that it's an altogether new medium with an entirely new set of geometric capacities. According to Bloch, none of his work can be created or replicated outside the world of 3D printing. Whether they're sculptures or housewares or reimagined public structures, the through line to all of Bloch's creations is hyperrealism.
While he acknowledges that his tools are ever-changing and the medium always shifting, Bloch prefers to be considered an artist drawing inspiration from the past rather than a technologist. With "Satire," he suggests the work falls in line with the long tradition of figurative sculpture that came before. Although not technically achievable by way of any traditional artistic methods, it clearly harkens back to Greco-Roman busts. Bloch describes the piece as "more perfect" than the works that inspired it due to its precision, yet the evidence of his own artistic hand outweighs the advanced technology that was called on for production. It is Bloch's vision, his interpretation, on display more so than any technology.
Most recently, Bloch's "Karosta [Kube]"— created in collaboration with Gilles Retsin—won second prize in an architectural competition from the Liepāja City Council in Latvia. A series of renderings outline a futuristic public building set in Karosta, a former military town in the south-west part of the Baltic country. The visuals depict a world almost only imaginable to a science fiction writer, employing custom-made prefabricated concrete paneling mounted on fibrous steel framing. The ensuing cubic structure is rotated around its central axis. For further strength and ornamentation, thin, yellow copper coated rebar concludes the work. It's been designed to avoid fenestration and complement its surroundings, but really it's an unprecedented exploration of design, material and the future.
A brief survey of Bloch's other notable works offers further insight into the artist's unmatched vision. 3D printed from 18K gold, "Cutlery Set" carries as much elegance as it does whimsy—the curves defining the set are both aesthetically pleasing and functional forms. "Chroma Vases" are a 3D-printed amalgamation of a SLS polyamide inner wireframe structure, MDF, PUR, polester putty, and nackre varnish. Once more, chaos matches thoughtful design and the resulting work is both unique and useful. Bloch explains that "these vases/milk jugs deliberately revolve around a certain degree of ornamental saturation which can endure the possibility of a loss in detailing or uneven distribution of the glaze while keeping its precise aesthetic." With "Smudge," a bone-like wall mounted shelf, the artist takes his easily recognizable style and demonstrates the structural integrity of his materials and process. All three of these recent works, which Bloch states are among his favorites, form an integral part of the designer's signature, while also conveying the sheer scope of his imagination. Between technological advances and further collaboration, there's guaranteed to be many more wondrous works in his future.
You can explore more of Bloch's work through his online shop, where many of his houseware items are sold.
Images courtesy of Isaïe Bloch
The artist brings his sculptural LED "light films" to New York, taking over museums, galleries and ballets
While the boundaries between contemporary art and technology have grown increasingly blurry—thanks to everything from biologically-inspired knitted structures to oil that "defies" gravity—there are, surprisingly, only a handful of artists who delve deep into the specs and circuits of light technology. One of them is Jim Campbell. Equipped with a degree in electrical engineering and mathematics from MIT, the San Francisco-based artist employs video, light and other electronic elements to create his sculptural LED installations.
Campbell is well known for works such as "Exploded Views" (2011), commissioned by and premiered at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. When viewed from below, it appears to be random strings of 2,880 flickering LED lights. But for those who take it in from a higher vantage point, it becomes a three-dimensional surface—a kind of movie screen—on which various films containing shadowy figures play out. What was once visual noise turns into cinematic imagery, an analogy for how the human brain tries to interpret more and more data as technology advances. CH has long followed the artist's path, from his early exhibitions at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery to his works that focused on time as journey at the newly renovated Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Campbell's current commissions include a permanent public art piece for the new Central Subway line in San Francisco, expected to be finished by 2017. For the future Union Square/Market Street Station, he's teamed up with Werner Klotz to produce the installation "Reflected Loop," a winding, unified loop of light and ambient reflections.
This March 2014, Campbell is taking over NYC with his first solo museum exhibition, Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception, at the Museum of the Moving Image, featuring over 20 works from his 30-year career as well as premiering a new work, "Self Portrait of Jim Campbell (with Disturbances)," 2014. This major retrospective coincides with an exhibition of recent work—aptly titled, "Jim Campbell: New Work"—at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in Chelsea. Campbell's work was also on view at The Armory Show. Capping it all off, "Constellations," a performance by the SF-based Alonzo King LINES Ballet that incorporates a light installation by Campbell and premiered in 2012, will be showing at The Joyce theater.
We managed a sneak peek during the early installation of Campell's pieces at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery—a real feat itself considering all the intricate technology involved, often requiring repairs and troubleshooting. Seven different works will be on exhibit, including one large installation that will greet visitors as soon as they enter the gallery area. Craig Dorety, a fellow artist who also holds a degree in mechanical engineering and who has been Campbell's assistant for the past six years, walked us through what the new work entailed.
"He's done these 'Home Movies' works in the past, but these are now in full color. They used to be just white LEDs," says Dorety. "Jim designs all of the circuitry for his works, including the computers that run the artworks, so it's totally custom from the ground-up—nothing off the shelf."
As for the source material for all the fuzzy shapes and colors on display, Dorety explains, "It's a combination of Jim's personal home movies and also home movies that he's sourced through eBay and other families." Noting our surprise that home movies are sold online, he continues, "Often when older people in the family die, there's just inherent value in the content."
As a 19-year-old, Dorety first saw Campbell's work while installing a piece for a sculptor at the San Jose Museum of Art. "This was in 1996 and I had never seen anything like it before," he says. "While working for that sculptor, we were doing a public piece and he had to hire an engineer to examine the structure to make sure it was safe—and that really inspired me as a young artist. I thought, 'Hey, if I want to do big, complicated artworks, I should study engineering, not art.'"
Campbell's career trajectory is similar—he was originally a filmmaker who became a full-time hardware engineer in Silicon Valley, designing controllers for high-definition display systems like televisions and computers. (He holds more than a dozen patents related to video image processing.) It was Campbell's frustration with the medium of film that made him consider the technology he was working with from a different perspective. "At one point he had a revelation about his art," explains Dorety. "He was working with the highest resolutions possible and they were continuing to get larger and larger—and he thought, well, what is the lowest resolution? How low can you go? So he started to create these small LED boards and he designed the boards so you can cut parts of it off. And so he cut pieces off until he had the smallest number of pixels in which you can recognize moving imagery—and it was 8 by 12." Dorety muses, "He's a progenitor. He was groundbreaking, and he still is groundbreaking, in technology and filmmaking and art, and the conjunction thereof.
We later put it to Campbell directly: what obstacles does he face, whether conceptually or technically, working in his unique medium of electronics, lights and circuits? "I dig my own holes, I guess. It's not an obstacle, but for every kind of new work, it takes me a long time to figure out what imagery would work for that kind of display. Any of the work you saw in the gallery is [a type of] display device." The challenge, Campbell notes, is striking the right chord "emotionally, conceptually and also psycho-perceptually, meaning I'll put a certain image in a certain work and you can't tell what is it due to the low-resolution. But if I put it in another work, you could see exactly what it is."
Back in the gallery, Dorety points to where "Home Movies" projects blurred colors on to the white wall. "You see a child swinging on a swing, right? For me, that brings back memories of my childhood. So I'm suddenly feeling a connection with it because that could be me on that swing, or my sister. There's no detail to recognize faces, so your brain wants to put its own memories in place there, so it has something to perceive."
Gesturing to "Topographic Reconstruction" (2014), in the midst of being installed, Dorety says, "This is generated from a photograph of waves crashing on the beach. We've actually carved that photograph into the resin, and then it will be backlit by moving imagery of waves." Campbell doesn't exclusively use LED lights as his medium; he's interested in the properties of light, such as diffusion, and how it interacts with different materials. In another work, "Untitled Topography" (2014), a cluster of clouds is created by the distance that each LED is from the diffusive Plexiglas.
Light may be the way that we see objects more clearly in reality, but in Campbell's works light is the mechanism that triggers the viewer to see something unique, perhaps something that's been hidden deep down inside, something of a "psychological mirror." You don't necessarily see in "high-def"; Campbell's low-resolution works illuminate how much more is gained when things are stripped down, details taken away.
"Jim Campbell: New Work" is on view at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery from 7 March to 19 April 2014, and features the artist's most recent series of sculptural light installations. His survey exhibition, "Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception," will be on view from 21 March to 15 June 2014 at the Museum of the Moving Image. And performances of "Constellation" by the Alonzo King LINES Ballet will be held from 18-23 March 2014 at The Joyce theater. All venues are located in NYC.
"Ambiguous Icon #2 Fight," "Exploded View Commuters" and "A Fire A Freeway and a Walk" images courtesy of Sarah Christianson, black and white "Home Movies" image courtesy of Olivia Body, color "Home Movies" image courtesy of Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, "Constellation" performance images courtesy of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, all other photos by Nara Shin
Ken Shindo's sculpture-like amps and pre-amps turn the experience of listening to music into an emotion-packed one
The 2011 documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" at first appears to be a film about an 85-year-old sushi chef and his world-famous dishes, though it's really about a man's lifelong quest to continually make better sushi—to continually strive to master his craft. In the world of hi-fi audio equipment, Jiro's counterpart, if there ever was one, would be fellow countryman Ken Shindo, whose hand-made tube amplifiers have inspired a cult following around the world and are now making waves in the U.S.
Shindo's career began at the electronics maker Matsushita (which changed its national name to unify with its global partner Panasonic in 2008), where he worked as an electrical engineer designing audio circuits and television sets. In 1977, he decided to start his own Shindo Laboratory in Tokyo, with the mission of building amplifiers and pre-amplifiers by hand from vintage and new old stock (NOS) parts. Parts that range from the whimsically-named Sprague capacitors from the '50s and '60s (like the Vitamin Q or the Orange Drop) to increasingly rare vacuum tubes, sourced from such electronic manufacturers as Western Electric, RCA, Mullard, Philips, Siemens, Tungsram, Amperex—you name it. The vacuum tubes are prominently displayed in Shindo's designs and emit a golden glow when they're hard at work. Exposed tubes and the dark bottle green color of the steel body casing—not aluminum, which produces a less than perfect sound—have become a Shindo trademark, accompanied by its elegant swan logo.
Shindo's approach to building gear breaks most conventions. Placing trust in his own listening rather than brand names, he searches for NOS tubes exhibiting unique qualities that catches his refined ear; Shindo then stockpiles them in large numbers. Everything is built to order at his home, with the help of family and a few employees, and everything, by nature of the vintage parts, is limited edition. Thoughtfully, Shindo considers the number of parts that he has stocked and decides beforehand how many amps of a certain model he will make. Surprisingly, a majority of the parts are kept safely tucked away in Shindo Laboratory's warehouse, reserved for repairs and replacements.
There are no stock circuits in any Shindo product; they are all designed individually for each pre-amp and amplifier. It's important to note that Shindo does not design solely around a specific vintage tube, meaning that the tube alone is not the secret to what makes Shindo Laboratory so special. Rather, it's the masterful combination of all the parts. Shindo's goal is not to simply build an amplifier or some machine that has a specific, limited function—it's to let the reproduced music sing with, well, musicality. The result is not just a song that's being played back, but the organic experience of a musician performing with his or her instrument, with emotion. The amps and speakers stay transparent and do not reveal themselves with any audible evidence.
Thus, reviewing and comparing performance and price to other brands—a common practice that any audiophile can't help but indulge in—should be avoided when entering Shindo Lab territory. Just as one cannot objectively "test" the difference between two works of art, two Brâncuși sculptures, say, each Shindo amplifier, preamplifier and pair of speakers is committed to conveying something human.
"Summarizing Shindo is not easy: In one word I would say 'art,'" says Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports, who became the first and only importer and distributor of Shindo products in North America in 2003. "Shindo is rather unique in my experience in the way in which it communicates the intentions of the musicians. The timing, sense of flow and pace, the silences between the notes, the textures, tones and colors. Listening through Shindo, your appreciation for great artists and musicians increases dramatically. Having now lived with a Shindo system for 11 years, I find almost all other systems a chore rather than pleasurable to listen to."
The reason why all of Shindo's models (the Pétrus dual mono preamplifier, the Haut Brion stereo amplifier, the Giscours preamplifier, the list goes on, save for the Western Electric 300B Single Limited amp)—are named after French and Italian wines is not to make them sound more luxurious; they're simply the wines that Shindo himself, quite the connoisseur, enjoyed. It takes art and craft, as well as history, to produce a wine that will leave a legacy, no matter how many technological advances have been made. When tasted, a good wine will reveal its grape, region, climate, process and more; and the best wines are not to be sipped on its own, but alongside good food and conversation. There's no better analogy for Shindo's craftsmanship and artistic approach to designing his amps and preamps—and it takes a "sommelier" to appreciate it. (Funnily enough, a listening session pairing wine with their namesake Shindo product has taken place.)
Sadly, Ken Shindo passed away on 22 January 2014 at the age of 74, but his legacy, and quest for perfection, remain. Shindo Labs will go on as his family—his wife Harumi and youngest son Takashi spent years building products along his side—and loyal employees continue to uphold his mission of creating "The Music Mind." Check out the entire lineup from Shindo Laboratory by visiting their website.
Images courtesy of © Matthew Rotunda of Pitch Perfect Audio