May 14, 2018

Artist Builds 3D Printer That Turns African Tribal Symbols into Sculptures

Detroit-based artist Matthew Angelo Harrison has designed and constructed a large-scale 3D printer that is capable of 3D printing sculptural drawings based on African tribal symbols. 

Due to the increasing adoption of 3D printing across the globe, there have been many instances where culture and technology intersect with one another. Whether it be through replicating historic artifacts or protesting against “Digital Colonialism”, 3D printing has become a premier tool for artists, archaeologists, and others aiming to preserve and celebrate human history and cultural traditions.

Detroit-based artist Matthew Angelo Harrison has been utilizing 3D printing to reinterpret African tribal symbols into sculptures.  Over the past few months, Harrison has been on-site at the University of Michigan Institute for Humanities’ gallery to showcase his time-based performance dubbed Abstract Ancestry: Machine Works on Paper

His exhibit focuses on the cultural expressions of Africanism that have been consumed by the tourism industry. To bring this concept to the art world, Harrison designed and built his own large-scale clay 3D printer to produce his sculptures directly onto a canvas that is hanging on the gallery wall.

Artist Reinvents Textile Patterns From African Culture with 3D Printed Sculptures

Harrison uses textile design programming to reinterpret certain African tribal symbols for 3D printing. The printer extrudes the sculpture in thick lines of clay directly onto a heavily gessoed canvas that is hanging on the wall. By building up layers in a dubious and unrecognizable manner, the artist is able to symbolize the impact that tourism and commerce has had on the ritualistic traditions in Africa.

“A lot of these patterns have had religious or ritual context, but what has happened over time is that they’ve become just part of commerce. The tourist market is super-interesting to me,” Harrison said in a recent interview with Hyperallergic.

The objects used in Harrison’s artwork are all purchased online, rather than sourced directly from regions in Africa. He notes that the relics he acquires are oftentimes sold by colonizer countries rather than their countries of origin, which plays into his concept of commercialized tribal patterns.

The multimedia artist has been stationed at his exhibition to monitor the apparatus about twice a week, equipped with a blue smock that suggests who the man behind the machine truly is.

Currently the 2018 Efroymson Emerging Artist in Residence at the University of Michigan gallery, Harrison has had four solo and nine group shows since 2016. Prior to becoming a full-time artist, he worked at Ford automotive in the clay-modeling department. Now, he’s using 3D printing technology to make a statement about African tribal culture through the unique lens of global commerce and tourism.

Source: Hyperallergic

License: The text of "Artist Builds 3D Printer That Turns African Tribal Symbols into Sculptures" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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