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We Talked to the Artist Behind Space's First Native Sculpture

It's one small step for an artist, one giant leap for artist-kind.

by Beckett Mufson
Dec 6 2016, 8:15pm

Image courtesy NASA. All images courtesy the artist unless otherwise noted

Space, the final frontier, is about to get its first native artwork. Israeli artist Eyal Gever (previously, previously) tests the boundaries between physical and digital objects, and now he's gearing up take a giant leap for artist-kind in the International Space Station. 

Gever recently teamed up with The Creators Project to launch #Laugh, a crowdsourced audio sculpture using NASA's new zero gravity 3D printer. By downloading an accompanying app, users can record their own laughter and post it to a social media network where others can vote on the file they want sent to space. "The wisdom of the crowd will choose which laughter they want to send to space to represent humanity," Gever says in our documentary Zero-Gravity Space Art | The Process. His custom software will then turn the audio into a 3D sculpture that NASA and zero g-oriented 3D printing company Made in Space will print on board the ISS. 

"Eyal Gever does this amazing art that is in some ways already inspired by zero gravity," says Jason Dunn, co-founder and CTO of Made in Space, in another segment of the documentary. He combines familar shapes, such as the human form, with the visual language of computer graphics. Think a dancer made from overflowing water, or a vase suspended in thin air. "It's hard to believe it can even exist," Dunn adds. We caught up with Gever to learn more about #Laugh and the future of art in space.

Eyal Gever, Piece of Ocean, 2014, 3D Print in VeroWhite [Stratasys Objet1000™ Multi-material 3D Production System], 996 x 796 x 149 mm

The Creators Project: Did you pitch this project to NASA and Made in Space, or did they choose you?

Eyal Gever: They chose me.

What is the hardest part about designing for NASA's zero gravity 3D printer?

Like an Earth-bound 3D printer, the device on the ISS uses an additive manufacturing method to print objects in layers of plastics, metals, and other materials. However, space presents some unique challenges to 3D printing—NASA has extremely high standards for health and safety conditions for any hardware or material certified for delivery and use in space as well as for the 3D printed models. 

We had to make sure that the sculpture don't have sharp edges, as well as able to be printed in a limited time frame due to limited energy/electricity consumption. These are some of the things relating to the health requirements, and we've accounted for them.

Eyal Gever, Sphere Pop, 2015, 3D Print in VeroWhite [Stratasys Objet1000™ Multi-material 3D Production System], 940 x 841 x 707 mm

What makes for good space art?

The survival of art as a language of expression! Throughout history technology has provided artists with new tools. As new technologies become available, artists learned to use them and traditional means of expression were transformed or entirely new means of expression were developed. Art is timeless and doesn't fade away with the latest tools/trends. It has been proven through history that art will change, and new styles of artistic expression only enhance the art language as a whole. The camera did not eliminate realistic painting, and technology will not eliminate the traditions of fine art (i.e., paintings, sculptures, etc.).

The same phenomenon of transcendence occurs in art, which may properly be regarded as another form of human technology. When wood, varnishes, and strings are assembled in just the right way, the result is wondrous: a violin, a piano. When such a device is manipulated in just the right way, there is magic of another sort: music. Music goes beyond mere sound. It evokes a response—cognitive, emotional, perhaps spiritual—in the listener, another form of transcendence. All of the arts share the same goal: of communicating from artist to audience. The communication is not of unadorned data, but of the more important items in the phenomenological garden: feelings, ideas, experiences, longings. The Greek meaning of tekhne logia includes art as a key manifestation of technology.

Its about the meaning of the art works that will make it great—the technology to make it is just the enabler.

WATERDANCER (2015) Description Light projection on water wall Medium Water Projection Size 5 x 10 meters

Why is the milestone of the first artwork in space important for artists?

As we know throughout history, art's unique value is its creative and visionary expression. The new, the original, and the didactic are needed to make a great piece of art. The concepts or ideas involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. True creativity endures as one of the last eternal scarcities!

My understanding of the primary function of art implied when audiences are looking at an artwork, is to convey a meaning, an idea, message through seeing. The old definitions of art became obsolete. Today, art is an evolving and global concept, open to new interpretation!

Whats so great is when looking at art history we've seen that there were no limits to a creative mind implementing new technologies and tools (Oil colors, Photography, etc). As technology/computer software and hardware continue to progress, there will always be those who will experiment and create new art, pushing the envelope of what has been seen before. The boundaries are limitless.

Exactly as the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist said when he was asked about future trends in art: “I don’t think we can predict nor prescribe the future of art. It is the famous Etonnez Moi of Diaghilev and Cocteau, great art always surprises us, takes us where we expect it least.”

Eyal Gever, Nuclear Explosion, 2012, 10 Multilayered images, UV LED, prints and acrylic, 1510 x 1800 x 600 mm

What's next? Are you and NASA planning the second collaboration?

Yes. We want to make art in the deepest most remote place on Earth! we know more about space then we know about the inside of mother earth. These conditions will lead me to think about pressure and the continuous physical force exerted on or against an object by something in contact with it for example.

#Laugh will be 3D printed aboard the ISS in March. Download the app and submit your giggles here, and follow Eyal Gever's work on his website.

Related:

Zero-Gravity Space Art | The Process

Eyal Gever Captures Moments of Amazement in Massive, 3D-Printed Sculptures

A Kick To The Chest Gets Frozen As A 3D-Printed Motion Sculpture