The Pompidou Center was created as a venue for the exhibition of cutting edge artistic explorations. The building itself was an act of pushing the envelope of architectural expression as the architects, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, decided to place all of the mechanical components, the functional pieces of a building that are usually hidden beneath a presentation worthy façade, on full display. Given the ground-breaking nature of its design, it was, needless to say, not universally loved at first. It has since gone on to become a Paris icon and is widely recognized for the brilliant creation that it is.
Such is the story of many of the works that are displayed within its galleries. The Pompidou strives to expand the boundaries of the public mind through a series of exhibitions that rest sometimes only just beyond and sometimes quite farther from what has been accepted as art. Now, with 40 years under its belt, it continues to keep itself young by embracing the new, not for its own sake, but rather as a harbinger of the future. As such, the center’s President, Serge Lasvignes, has worked to craft an event appropriate to a celebration of its past and a demonstration of its continued practice, stating:
And, as you may have already guessed, 3D printing plays a central role in this event, with an exhibition entitled “Printing the World” (Imprimer le monde) that will run from March 15 to June 19. For this exhibit, 40 artists have been brought together to explore the myriad ways in which 3D printing has integrated itself into every facet of contemporary existence. Even the absence of 3D printing is seen as a manifestation of a critique, thereby leaving no part of the world wholly untouched. The message being that the use of the technology has not only permeated every aspect of production, from architectural models to the production of skin, but has also raised more questions that it has answered.
“In view of this history, I wanted the Centre Pompidou to launch a new event entitled ‘“Mutations/Créations’ in 2017, the year of its 40th anniversary. This new exhibition will be a critical observatory of the very latest creation linked with digital technologies, and an idea incubator that nurtures the forward-looking spirit of the Centre Pompidou more than ever. For this is where design dialogues with scientific and technological innovation, and all artistic disciplines cross paths, mutually nourishing each other with shared experiences.”
Rather than being an uncritical heralding of the brilliance of advanced manufacturing, Mutations/Creations contains works that raise questions about what it means to produce anything in this digital era, questions which have never been satisfactorily resolved since the days when computing first reared its revolutionary head. What does it mean to try to produce unique objects in the context of a technology designed to ably repeat, if not infinitely, then near enough? What magic is there in an object produced in this mechanized manner? How does this change the status of the creator when the machine can be seen as the source of the work? What value is held in the creation or preservation of historical artifacts destroyed by war or natural disaster?
The discourse is not dissimilar to that which has either plagued or prodded photography since its development in the 19th century. Is something captured and created by a machine still art? Has it democratized production or simply made it easier for valueless stuff to be produced? What is an original when infinite, or nearly so, reproductions are possible? Now, with these questions having hounded photographers for 150 years or so, the lesson here is not to be impatient for their resolution – quite possibly to never expect it all. If you are looking for answers, then you will be disappointed. Art is a visual philosophy in which the primary goal is the creation of better questions rather than the resolution to closure.
The exhibit includes works by Morehshin Allahyari whose pieces recreate the memories of historical monuments destroyed in Syria, the sustainable practice of 3D printing is explored in the objects of Dirk van der Kooij are presented in contrast with the newest in synthetic materials as utilized by Neri Oxman, and the very process of the creator is the subject of pieces by François Brument and Sonia Laugier. An immersive environment created through a series of projection screens in a space populated by 3D printed objects called The Garden of Eden (Jardin d’Eden) has been produced by artists Raphael Thibault and Hyun-Hwa Cho.
The event reads as a who’s who but also as a what’s what of exploration in 3D printing. Its as if Howard Carter, Robert Peary, Martha Graham, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, have all been assembled to assess not the state of 3D printing, but the excitement and desire of what it might ever be. All of this set in a space that was itself an exploration of the future within a Paris in Springtime. Discuss in the Centre Pompidou forum at 3DPB.com.