Front Design [Swedish, est. 2004]
Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier, 2005
33.9 x 31.1 x 27.68 inches
86.1 x 79 x 70.3 cm
Edition of 3
During week 5 we went to the Out of Hand: Materializing the Digital exhibition held at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. This museum presents artworks exploring the ever-present role of digital manufacture in contemporary art, science, fashion, design, and architecture (Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences 2016). Within the gallery there were many works that expressed material discourse of the digital in creation and development of objects. In my exploration of the exhibition I found a work that I had a strong connection to; Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier by FRONT Design (2005). This artwork is one of four created in the series known as Sketch Furniture, however only the Chandelier was displayed at Out of Hand.
Sketch Furniture is a series of artworks which look like fluorescent tubing, 3D printed via a process known as laser sintering (Friedman Benda 2013). Laser sintering (LS) is a type of additive manufacturing, where each section is built through successive layering of powder, fused together by laser heat (Verbelen et al. 2017). LS is more efficient than traditional methods such as injection moulding because it is faster, ultraprecise and is able to produce components with mechanical characteristics that are similar to those made by conventional methods (Kruth et al. 2003). The lighting accompanying this artwork made it seem as if it was glowing from the centre of the loopy mess of pure white material that casts an eerie shadow on the wall behind it. My first impression of Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier was that it appears as if it was materialised from thin air, even otherworldly. There is no indication of its manmade origins, it is as if somebody has materialised their idea from nothing. Beneath the work of art is a name and description plaque and video which depicts the creation process.
Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) is the combination of motion capture technology that records the movement of a pen that is used by the artists, and transfers them into a 3D file that generates a skeleton based upon the lines traced from the pen’s movements. This 3D file is then materialised through laser sintering; a type of 3D printing that uses a laser beam to direct ultraviolet light into a bath of liquid thermoplastic powder. This method creates a 1:1 exact replica of the artists drawing in the bath and solidifies the plastic in the path of this beam (Front Design 2005; Kruth et al. 2003; Verbelen et al. 2017). This artwork is 86.1cm high, 79cm wide and 70.3cm deep. It has been designed so that it may be hung off of a lightbulb where the bulb sits within the centre of the artwork. This element allows for the shadows of the Chandelier to create an artwork in of themselves.
Front Design is a creative group based in Sweden composed of three designers, Anna Lindgren, Charlotte von der Lancken and Sofia Lagerkvist (Front Design 2006). They collaborate to create artwork on a variety of different themes – focussing on less traditional styles. Front Design artworks often convey debates and stories about design, the materiality about it and the immateriality of it (Anna Lindgren & Sofia Lagerkvist 2017). They both share an interest in things that are unusual, magical or technological – often designing pieces which mesh traditional icons with an unusual pairing. A key example of this is their design piece Horse Lamp which imitates a traditional statue of a horse but transforms it into a lamp – a commentary on how animals are now inanimate objects in today’s society (Front Design 2006). Their goal with the Sketch Furniture series was to blend new 3D printing technology with traditional ‘sketching’, allowing the idea of design through spontaneous thought.
The purpose of Sketch Furniture (2005) was to ask a question, “Is it possible to let a first sketch become an object, to design directly onto space?” (Front Design 2016). The artists at Front Design were creating a method to materialise free hand sketches instead of the traditional process of sketching pen and paper before designing the sketch as a 3D file through a computer. This is where they sought the use of motion capture technology to trace the artists pen – therefore eliminating the use of the 2D paper surface. Through this method, Front could materialise the object created from the artist’s sketch through laser sintering without the middle steps of manipulating a design within a computer. A traditional element which would usually be sketched and designed before production is furniture. Front Design has specialised their ethics of cutting out pen and paper through the use of technology and instantaneously skips to the production component instead of the traditional design-production process.
With this combination of motion capture and rapid prototyping, Front Design could create Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005). The video clip supplied with the artwork depicts Lindgren and Lagerkvist drawing the furniture in a 3D space as several motion capture cameras track the movement of the pen. It appears as if a button is pressed on the pen which then activates the tracking within the motion capture program. As the artist draws in the air, the program traces and creates splines off the line art so that it is then printed as a solid object instead of skinny lines. This is then saved and printed as a thermoplastic 3D printed laser sinter – layer by layer.
The coming together of these different elements and materials means that Front Design was virtually able to design in the gallery they were exhibiting in. This approach to materialising the digital and taking away the material aspect of common furniture design is quite unique. Front Design’s question on if it’s possible to design directly into space inherently takes out the middle man of research and development. Equally using laser sintering as a method of materialising means they virtually take the idea right out of the artist’s mind and hand and recording it with 3D motion capture.
Installed in the Out of Hand exhibition, Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier engages the audience in the production and final piece. From a physicality stand point, the audience can generate different perspectives on Front’s take on materialising the digital. Essences of typography and graphic design come to mind, along with aesthetic keys to the human body take shape from the movement of the plastic sculpture. The video supplied allows the audience to digest the immaterial aspects that went into the work. The video editing paints the picture that Front wanted to portray in that the designs were created directly in their space. The enchanting look of the artist’s movements seemingly building the chandelier that is on display presents their argument for their question to the audience.
Front Design generates ideas and perceptions of magic, they are drawn to it in their creative practice. In Out of Hand: Materialising the Digitality we are brought an iteration of this coming together of immaterial perceptions and material development. Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) brings forward discourse about how we perceive the interaction between the digital and virtual worlds, and questions current design methods and ideas.
A critical component of artwork is how the world around it shapes its creation and how the artwork itself shapes the world in turn. In this way, the artists can interact with the world around them through expressing their ideas materially. Usually, this means that they will design their thoughts on pen and paper before transforming these thoughts into a material object. These objects carry the artist’s potential, the immaterial elements, however within Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) there is discourse created from this culmination of the elements.
Front Design’s ideas derive from their fascination with magic. This motive to keep with other-worldly and intriguing design has drawn them to the path of furniture and interior design. This influence is what has shaped their design making method, by using animals, computers and machines. Horse Light (Front Design 2006) is an artwork by Front Design that expresses this conversation with magic and design that is vivid in other works. The 2.4m tall black PVC horse with functional lamp is a slightly clearer visual aid for Front Designs argument on materialising the digitality. It, much like Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005), expresses the blur between digital and virtual realities that is created from modern technologies.
Front Design [Swedish, est. 2004]
Horse Lamp, 2006
PVC viscose laminate shade, metal frame structure and polyester Horse
240 x 230 cm
Another artwork that holds similar ideas and debate on the subject at hand is Alfrim I (1966) that was created by artist James Turnell. It is a sculpture that uses projected light to create the visual image of a 3D cube. Turnell’s work engages with its audience by amplifying their perception creating false ideas on the physicality of the work using this technique. Alfrum I (1966) relies on perspective to express this concept, the same can be said for Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) as Front Design uses the material aesthetic from laser sintering to create this discourse. Aesthetically they create an other-worldly phenomena, Alfrum I (1966) using lighting to distort with the audiences perspective, and Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) using 3D motion capture and laser sintering to question the audiences perspective.
Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) is shaped by the world around it because it is created through a modern technology. The advent of computers, motion-capture programs, wireless peripherals and cameras which can communicate flawlessly with each other allows for 3D space drawing to occur and be saved digitally. Without the 3D process of laser sintering, the artwork would not have the aesthetic that Front Design were intending. This being said, the artwork is a direct form of discourse that challenges the current mechanisms of production. What is perceived within Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) is this potential for how we perceive our ideas. This experiment in design engages with the world around it; it develops a rift between reality and imagination. By pushing the boundaries of the gap between thoughts and the material world we live in, Front Design has created the series Sketch Furniture to illustrate that the gap is becoming smaller and smaller.
Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier (2005) by Front Design is an artwork that engages with the idea of Materialising the Digitality. It’s engagement with 3D motion capture and laser sintering generates discourse. This argument brings the audience in to question how we perceive design and equally the boundaries between the digital and the virtual. Through the sharp movements from the artist’s hand to the silky-smooth texture of the melted thermoplastic powder, we are able to perceive Front Design’s answer to their own question;
Is it entirely possible to design directly onto space?
(Front Design 2016)
Anna Lindgren & Sofia Lagerkvist 2017, Front Design; about page, <http://www.frontdesign.se/about/>.
Friedman Benda 2013, My Brain is in my Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process, <http://www.friedmanbenda.com/museum-exhibitions/past/my-brain-is-in-my-inkstand-drawing-as-thinking-and-process/3>.
Front Design 2017, Friedman Brenda, viewed 20/04/2017, <http://www.friedmanbenda.com/>.
Front Design 2005, Prototype for Materialized Sketch of a Chandelier, 3 edn, 86.1 x 79 x 70.3 cm, Out of Hand: Materializing the Digital exhibition, Sculpture.
Front Design 2006, Horse Lamp, 240 x 230 cm Moooi, https://www.moooi.com/products/horse-lamp.
Front Design 2016, Sketch Furniture Performance Design Project, viewed 20/04 2017, <http://www.frontdesign.se/sketch-furniture-performance-design-project>.
frontfilm 2007, Sketch Furniture by FRONT, 20/04/2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zP1em1dg5k.
Kruth, JP, Wang, X, Laoui, T & Froyen, L 2003, ‘Lasers and materials in selective lasersintering’, Assembly Automation, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 357-71.
Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences 2016, Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital, viewed 20/04 2017, <https://maas.museum/event/out-of-hand-materialising-the-digital/>.
Spector, N 2017, James Turrell, Afrum I (White), viewed 20/04 2017, <https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/4084>.
Turrell, J 1967, Afrum I (White), dimensions variable, Projected light
Verbelen, L, Dadbakhsh, S, Van den Eynde, M, Strobbe, D, Kruth, J-P, Goderis, B & Van Puyvelde, P 2017, ‘Full Length Article: Analysis of the material properties involved in laser sintering of thermoplastic polyurethane’, Additive Manufacturing, vol. 15, pp. 12-9.