What does art look like in the age of "hacked matter", when anyone can print anything on-demand? That's the question Shane Hope, a California-based visual artist, is trying to answer.
In "Nano-Nonobjective-Oriented Ontographs and Qubit-Built Quilts", his new show at Chelsea's Winkleman Gallery, Hope is showing a collection of amazingly intricate paintings, each containing thousands of individual 3D-printed models.
Hope's chosen medium is "nanofacture", a neologism that describes design at a molecular level. He builds his paintings using a cobbled-together toolkit of hard and softwares, starting with a molecular modelling software called PyMol and ending with a RepRap 3D printer. RepRap, if you'll recall, is an opensource DIY system that can print its own parts, meaning you can make more printers as long as you've got one. Hope has a slew of the things printing parts, like an army of mechanical studio assistants ready to do his bidding.
"Accelerating progress in nanometer-scale science and technology continues to expand the toolkit with which we can eventually assemble things from the atom up," Hope explains in an artist's statement. "This will potentially give rise to nearly costless systems for controlling the structure of matter itself." That's pretty far down the conceptual rabbit hole, but the paintings stand on their own. Each piece is an intricate universe of microscopic forms and generative patterns, woven into the canvas bit by bit. It's hard to describe the level of density and detail — in fact, Hope can't even talk about them without using a 210-word run-on sentence (read it here, but gird your loins).
So how does he know when to stop printing? In an interview with the Institute for Emerging Ethics and Technologies, he revealed his secret: "My pieces are finished when even I myself almost can't look away."