Virtual spaces are still a relatively new dimension for humans, and navigating them distorts our perception. Time is unmoored as space itself is pulverized into nothingness by virtue of instant communication technology, and any notion of what constitutes an original in relation to a copy—when everything is always already both in any number of ways—is fraught with problems.
The digital world may be an orderly one, made up of grids, patterns, and mathematical algorithms, and yet in daily use it often feels chaotic. Noa Raviv, a 26-year-old fashion designer based in Tel Aviv, makes clothing for this realm.
Raviv's latest collection, Hard Copy, blends the virtual and physical into works of chaotic beauty. The pieces were first designed in a 3D rendering program, where Raviv entered what she describes as "impossible commands"—basically fuck-ups that break the program and result in visually explosive designs. She then 3D printed the materials she needed to bring the bafflingly fragmented and fluid pieces to life.
"I think in our world, sometimes things get mixed. You don't always know what's the copy and what's the source," Raviv said. "It's often confusing, so I wanted to create this confusion between the 2D and 3D, and the real and the virtual."
Raviv drew inspiration from classical Greek sculptures in their familiarly aged and ruinous form—an arm lopped off here, a leg missing there—to create the pieces. For her, the endless copies, reproductions, façades, and rip-offs that Greek sculpture has spawned throughout the centuries point to some salient reality about the digital domain.
"Those sculptures were copied and reproduced many times throughout history: first in the Roman era and then later in the classical, and again and again and again until it became something that's even a bit kitsch," Raviv said. "And then I started thinking about our culture and digital production, digital copies."
3D printing was the perfect way to not only make her virtual designs a reality, but to further comment on the nature of digital reproduction and authenticity. Theoretically, any one with the design templates for the 3D-printed portions of her designs could manufacture her clothes.
However, Raviv said, it's important to note that the thorough intertwining of high-tech, repeatable manufacturing processes and nuanced handiwork in putting the final product together ultimately serves to further complicate the relationship between the digital and physical on display in her pieces.
"The garments, even though there are a lot of things that are digital inside them, at the end they are made through very traditional means. A lot of hand stitching, very little machine stitch, lots of draping," Raviv explained. "That's maybe some kind of a paradox, because even though it could theoretically be reproduced, it cannot. Even I cannot recreate exactly the same pieces because of the draping and hand stitching."
Just by looking at Raviv's pieces, I can feel a kind of tension bubbling up. The clothes are fundamentally disjunctive but seem to flow by their own logic, one that is somehow beyond our own. In this way, the collection mirrors the lived experience of the digital: everything moves at light speed as millions of tweets, statuses, and photos circulate, unbound by physicality. It's overwhelming.
Indeed, it can sometimes be difficult to tease meaning out of this digital mess, as truth and falsehood often seem to be less in competition than in some sort of weird symbiosis. For Raviv, this confused state is an invitation to see beauty.