Saturday, June 21, 2008

Getting precious abour skateboards

This post is proud to have been syndicated to the Ponoko Blog.

I was clearly too quick off the mark with my previous post on Piotr Woronkowicz's laser engraved skateboards - there are many more out there:

Ionesco's board fro refill 7Steven reported back in August on the refill 7 show with boards from 80 different artists.

Hate to mention them again, but commented on that exhibition that:

"The medium is compelling, the method is pretty but pointless, making the works less skate than art"

while generator-x commented that:

"There doesn’t seem to be any computational pieces, so in that sense the uniquely digital nature of the technology has been passed over."

It does seem that when artists elect for new technologies, they open themselves up to a huge amount of criticism for why and how they are doing so. So in the case of laser engraved skateboards there is some expectation that the artist would have a 'point' to using laser-engraving, or that the content should be in some cases 'computational'. Is this a fair expectation?

It is if you're an industrial designer, because we're constantly hyper-aware of functional matters and taught from the outset to justify every decision. I often think that this hampers me from explorations that I would like to make. I think there's a lot to be said for removing yourself from this mindset in order to simply experience, say, designing for a new technology. I expect in the case of the Refill 7 exhibition, many artists might have learnt a great deal new from trying their hand at a new medium, an education that could easily feed into their future work.

Fingerprint board from customsk8.comIndeed, Wired at the time reported that "photo-quality 1,200-dpi etchings" were achieved, a level of detail that I doubt many industrial designers would be able to exploit fully - perfect however for illustrators. In fact, I would (perhaps lazily) opt for computational methods to generate artwork this detailed, and I was similarly slightly disappointed that none of the Refill 7 pieces seemed to be done this way. It is surely only something that would bother an industrial designer.

One group that might be thinking in a more conceptual vein is Customsk8boards, with their fingerprint board. For $109 you can have your fingerprint blown up and engraved onto your deck, a process that is no doubt eased by computer and laser engraving technology.

If we're designing for customisation we have to accept that those doing the customisation might not hold the same values that we do. Although we might want to push the boundaries of laser etching by generating artwork in a more computational way, others might see the boundaries as being in other areas.

Although many have assumed these boards are for the collector's market, one artist, Ionescu, himself said,

"I'm having a hard time thinking they're going to be ridden and destroyed, but their purpose is to be ridden, so their fate lies with their owners."

His board is shown in detail above. To him, these boards are pretty, but definitely not pointless. Maybe its all about how we choose to value something that is confusingly both beautifully intricate and infinitely reproducible.


via make

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