Made in Space, a contractor for NASA, have created a 3D printer that can work in zero gravity; now they want to make art with it. They approached Eyal Gever, the renowned contemporary artist and successful tech entrepreneur to collaborate on the project. Eyal will use his iOS app #Laugh, created specifically for the project, to crowd-source the best design. The app (available at the app store now) creates unique 3D digital visualisations made from recordings that people have submitted of their own laughter. On 31st December the most liked recording will then be sent to the International Space Station, where it will be printed. The sculpture will then be released into orbit. We caught up with Eyal to talk about his latest venture.
Midway through our conversation Eyal provides a neat simplification of his own method: by ‘letting an input of data into an ecosystem of code which has very accurate physical simulation capabilities’ he creates simulations of which snapshots can be printed using 3D printers. But Eyal’s work is not created through a scientific process devoid of creativity; when asked about whether his work fits within the remit of a ‘creative technologist’ Eyal seems unsure. He says that just as Cezanne’s palette consisted of paints, his palette is code and data. Reflecting more broadly on the concept of art Eyal explains that an artist ‘is trying to tell a story that nobody really needs but it’s very vital to us as humans.’ He goes on to further differentiate his work from the field of scientific research by clarifying that art ‘hits you emotionally and makes you look at the world and life in ways you haven’t thought before’. This idea of what is vital gains greater significance when discussing a project that seeks to create an artwork in space, where resources are both expensive and limited. Which is why #Laugh resonates so much; because it captures the unique position that art holds within our lives. Unlike air, water and light it is clearly not a vital requirement for survival and yet, as Eyal puts in, ‘people need art’.
Eyal made his name as an artist by pioneering 3D printing techniques in an attempt to freeze moments of chaos, with the aim of exploring their destructive beauty. Using bespoke computer simulation software he has studied everything from explosions to collisions, black waterfalls as motifs for oil-related greed to the violence of kickboxing, examining the the duality of destruction and beauty. But for #Laugh, historic as the first 3D sculpture printed in space, Eyal chose a different viewpoint. He explains that though he is aware that ‘we are a very mean animal’ he also sees us as ‘beautiful, emotional and smart’. It is this positivity that the piece harnesses; it is ‘a celebration of humanity’.
Discussing ‘the past 24 months’ Eyal cites ‘the war in Iraq, the war in Syria, the whole situation in Europe, then it continued to the Brits [with Brexit]’ as examples of the terrible things that 2016 ushered in, describing Trump’s election as ‘the grand finale for everybody’. But #Laugh isn’t a coy allusion to the despairing, hysterical shriek that 2016’s overwhelming number of grievances might elicit. When asked about why he chose laughter as the focal point for the sculpture, Eyal explains that he ‘was trying to find the common denominator, putting aside all the disagreement’.
Whilst researching the project Eyal went ‘very deep into the short history of humanity’, aided by conversations with people such as Professor Yuval Hurari, who specialises in macro-historical theories such as how homo sapiens have reached their current condition. Although the piece will be the first 3D printed sculpture in space, it is inward looking, ‘instead of thinking about space, my point of view changed and I ended up thinking a lot more about art and our condition.’ Reminiscent of the 1977 Voyager Golden Records (phonograph records that were included aboard the Voyager spacecraft launched that contained songs, speeches and various other cultural tidbits), the piece’s message is as much from humanity as it is to it. Seeking the strand that connects us all it has a global resonance which is the fulcrum of the piece: laughter is an innate ‘pre-programmed ability’ that is found in all of us. Eyal concedes that ‘we have a tendency to push our borders, we’re hungry for more’ and this leads to people ‘stepping on each other’s toes’. However, with #Laugh, Eyal is looking ‘elevate the most deserving aspects of our humanity’
This ethos of using the ‘universal language’ is carried out through the project’s use of crowdsourcing. Whilst maintaining his dedication to using the most current technologies to create art Eyal has decided that social media is the fairest and most appropriate way to create a piece of art that transcends politics and nationhood and is representative of humanity as a whole. When asked about his potential fears about the uncertainty of crowdfunding (in light of the Boat McBoatface palava) Eyal remains positive, explaining that is it the variety and playfulness of public response that he enjoys. His relaxed outlook on the public’s ability to influence and possibly derail a project continues through to his musings on the art world as a whole. In spite of the art market elite’s tendency to ‘push prices’ and ‘reap social treasure in a very controlled business marketplace’, Eyal maintains an optimistic viewpoint that it will be ‘remodelled’. With social media creating infinite and immediate ways to access new, attentive audience’s Eyal sees the ‘economical solution between the collector and the artist’ as outdated. Again, moving the conversation to broad, existential terms he states that ‘art is much bigger than all of them [the art world elite]; it is much bigger than all of us’.
If you want to see you laughter in space, you can download #Laugh from the App store now. Deadline for submissions is 31st December.