A team comprising scientists and artists are to produce 3D-printed artworks to explore how modern art can be best preserved for future generations.
In an unfamiliar step for scientific research, an artwork has been produced solely for the purpose of scientific experimentation. Researchers from the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage carried out accelerated testing to the artwork. They discovered that many 3D printing technologies use materials that degrade rapidly.
This was seen as a potentially ominous sign for contemporary art of today, much of which is produced using 3D printers and other rapid prototyping methods.
Artist Tom Lomax, formerly an engineer, has designed ‘Out of the Cauldron’, which is an intricate, colourful piece of digital alchemy. The work has been produced using 3D printers and is freely downloadable.
“As an artist I previously had little idea of the conversation threat facing contemporary art – preferring to leave these issues for conservators and focus on the creative process,” Lomax said. “But while working on this project with UCL I began to realise that artists themselves have a crucial role to play.”
How to properly conserve traditional art, typically made of natural materials like wood and stone, is much known. But how to preserve contemporary art, made digitally and from new materials, is not.
The Nanorestart, funded by EU Horizon 2020, could help preserve millions of pieces of modern and contemporary art. It will also provide a pool of data to help develop new methods of conservation, such as a ‘sunblock’-type coating to protect artworks from light degradation. The published artwork will allow researchers across the world to explore better preservation techniques.
“Art is being transformed by fast-changing new technologies and it is therefore vital to pre-empt conservation issues, rather than react to them, if we are to preserve our best contemporary works for future generations,” said Carolien Coon, a researcher at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage. “This research project will benefit both artists and academics alike – but ultimately it is in the best interest of the public that art and science combine to preserve works.”
UCL researchers have critically assessed the most commonly used technologies used to tackle the degradation of materials in a paper entitled ‘Preserving Rapid Prototypes: A Review, published this week in Heritage Science.
In a knowledge exchange project in collaboration between art and design museum V&A and UCL, artists and designers explored issues related to digital art preservation. Design with Heritage was an exciting initiative that played a crucial role in contemporary art conservation.