“What would it look like if and after our overclocked-offspring (quicker-thinking posthuman descendants) decide to disassemble everything we know for spare parts?” posits Shane Hope. It’s this bleak vision that inspires the American artist’s work.Hope explores the them through a series of intricately layered sculptural artworks made using his own DIY 3D printers. Each image is representative of this dystopian future, where our every atom can all be manufactured and manipulated.
Meshing 3D printing with nanotechnology and synthetic biology, he builds his works using CAD files generated using algorithms based on molecular models. They draw on information retrieved from Protein Data Bank files (where the structures of proteins and nucleic acids are recorded) and models of bits of DNA or even manmade constructs like sheets of graphene. He then uses PyMOL, an opensource visualisation system which produces high resolution 3D images of molecules, and then runs Python scripts, using algorithms to automatically generate “formal derivations” of the original. Or, as Hope explains rather hyperbolically, to “fractalise aminos off forms to perform generative crystallography, code for crazy carbon chaining”.
Once these mutations are done being transformed, he curates the “code-yielded crops”, picking off the best bits and stitching them back together into what he calls “Qubit-Built Quilts”. He uses 3D mesh processing software MeshLab to further tweak his models, before actually beginning the print process using a RepRap — a low cost opensource 3D printer that can print its own parts. Hope chooses to build his own, rather than use one on the market like MakerBot, because he says it enables you to imbue them with an artistic sensibility they otherwise would not have. It’s a way of instilling craftsmanship in an automated process.