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Quayola Celebrates Evolving, Incomplete Forms in 'Captives' Digital Sculpture

In Captives (1), a digital sculptures ebbs and flows, while the sound evokes Earth’s tectonic activity.

"Captives (1) - Diptych" by Quayola from Bitforms Gallery


Over the last few years, Quayola (aka Davide Quagliola) has launched a number of solo works, while collaborating with the likes of electronic music producer Jamie xx on Structures and visual artist Memo Akten on Forms. His most recent project, Captives, is an ongoing digital sculpture series, with both physical and virtual forms. Bitforms Gallery recently posted the Captives (1) diptych digital sculpture, which can be seen above.


Similar to 2013’s Matter, with Captives (1) Quayola creates a time-based digital sculpture designed to evoke geological processes. While Matter was a “a celebration of matter itself,” almost perfect in its geometry, Captives (1) is a record of incompleteness. The project is based on Michelangelo’s “Prigioni” statue series, which the Renaissance artist never finished. Acknowledging this, Quayola makes the physical and virtual sculptures imperfect, glitchy, and rough.

“In my mind I always imagined that Michelangelo decided to leave them unfinished on purpose,” says Quayola. “I’d like to think that during the process he realized that the main subject was not the human figure, but the actual articulation of marble and the metamorphosis of matter itself.”

In Captives (1)’s 7-minute diptych video loop form, viewers see different parts of the digital sculpture coming in and out of existence. One moment, the sculptures seem to be surging, and the next they’re collapsing back into chaos. Quayola also makes brilliant use of audio, which variously sounds like glaciers groaning, trees being uprooted, or the deep sounds of Earth’s tectonic plates moving.

According to Bitforms Gallery, Quayola used mathematical functions to “describe endlessly evolving geological formations,” which morph into Michelangelo’s classical figures. “Pure geometric abstraction takes over as he reframes his subjects using a computational method of triangulation, leaving the final work ‘unfinished’.”

Captives - Robotic Milling from Quayola.

To pull this digital sculpture off, Quayola and his team used zBrush, a digital sculpting tool, and VVVV software to build models of the Prigioni sculptures, which were then animated. These videos have a real-time 3D quality in the way they surge and recede.

For the physical sculptures, Quayola’s team used industrial robotic milling to make the forms resemble digital, geometric blocks. In the process, a work of art over 500 years old looks futuristic.