Using shadows as sources of entertainment is something we’re all familiar with. Whether it’s making the dog face with your hands on the projection screen when your teacher’s back is turned or watching your own shadow strike monstrous poses on the sidewalk on a sunny day, we’ve all played with the way that postures and positions blocking a light source can create a world quite different than the one we inhabit. Some of my favorite shadow art takes what looks to be absolute garbage but is transformed into a stunningly realistic scene when its shadow is cast, such as the work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster in their 2009 work Wild Mood Swings in which the broken components of two wooden stepladders and other wood scraps were transformed into a pair of seated individuals.
The intricate work of finding ways for cast shadows to convey recognizably ordered imagery was the target of exploration for Swiss design duo Drzach & Suchy in their latest shadow cloud project. For this series, they created 3D printed objects, each of which can cast four independent identities depending on the angle of the object in relationship to the source of light. Each shadow created is a composite of an exploded set of planes brought back together into a two-dimensional image on a screen, that is not easily predicted by examining the 3D object itself. For these works, rather than manipulating compositions in garbage by hand, the design for the pieces is worked out in CAD and then each component perfectly placed by a 3D printer, with 3D printing done by i.materialise.
Previous projects have explored the possibilities for casting representations of various religions, faces of famous people, words, or abstract images. The objects that cast the shadows range in size from a few inches across to a foot or more in diameter.
One of their pieces, created in conjunction with the Swiss Science Center Technorama, can cast three different images: an hourglass, a clock face, and a sundial. The piece, approximately 14 inches in diameter, is entirely 3D printed in polyamide and the magic of it exists in that not only is it impossible to imagine what forms it will create, but the very transition between forms as the piece is rotated provides a dancing shadow show worthy of its own appreciation.
These kinds of creations lend themselves particularly well to 3D printing and 3D design as they require the ability to place on separate planes all of the different shapes in exact relationship to one another that are required to come together to form the final images. This is the kind of precision and three-dimensional thinking that these AM technologies are best at, a sort of native media for these shadow clouds.
“The idea of shadow clouds can be summarized as follows: the shadow cast by flat, thin elements depends on their relation to the direction of illumination: elements perpendicular to illumination cast clear shadows, while the shadows of elements parallel to illumination are practically invisible. Moreover, the elements perpendicular to the illumination can be arbitrary shifted along the illumination without changing the overall shadow cast by all the elements. This allows for a random, cloud-like placement of elements in space,” the designers describe the art.
In addition to the images created, the objects themselves are enjoyable to look at, unlike the trash heaps required by Noble and Webster for their creations, but that’s simply part of the point. 3D printing can do the same messy job that humans have been doing in a neat and precise way. Then, it’s just a matter of figuring out which transformation – garbage to image or pixels to image – you find the most moving. Discuss in the 3D Printed Shadow Clouds forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: i.materialise]