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"Bees Were the Original 3-D Printers": Autodesk Has Its First Art Show

No one will take you seriously if your machine is made of cereal boxes.

Nellie Bowles

Autodesk, which makes 3-D modeling software and has been hosting residencies for more than 100 artists over the last three years, opened its first ever art show last night.

Set on the waterfront Embarcadero neighborhood in San Francisco, the Autodesk office at Pier 9 (their main one is downtown) is largely a workshop, packed with enormous 3-D printers and water jet slicers, and the coveted residency program (which lets artists loose with the machines) has been largely a quiet phenomenon.

So last night, around 60 artists stood proudly next to their pieces for the residency program’s first show, which sold out its two-day run in minutes, much to the surprise of organizer Noah Weinstein, who said he had no idea so many people wanted to see this work, and that he’d be finding a bigger space.

A taco truck had pulled up next to the office, and inside people drank margaritas. The only music came from a radiation wind chime by the artist JoeJoe Martin — made with Geiger-Muller tubes and a Rasberry Pi computer, wind chimes played when the piece encountered Beta and Gamma radiation. The revelry mixed with mysterious large-scale machinery gave the space a Santa’s workshop energy.

Three interesting pieces below:

 “The Virgin Queen and the Almond”
“The Virgin Queen and the Almond”
Nellie Bowles

Jennifer Robin Berry, 38, Sausalito, biologist

Piece: “The Virgin Queen and the Almond” made of beeswax, honey, stainless steel, laser-cut acrylic, electronics, CAM software.

“When I came here, I didn’t know how to use the 3D printer, but I knew about bees, and I thought — Bees are 3-D printers. Bees were the original 3-D printers.

“So I spent most of my semester experimenting with the bees and trying to get them to participate and collaborate. I created light boxes, cut the comb, stacked it, and they attached it in places, cut it in others, built passages and reinforced the structure.”

Andreas Bastian, 25, Oakland, artist with a background in 3D printing organs

Loom Printer
Loom Printer

Piece: “Loom Printer”

“These are what I call a loom 3D printer — a printer that has an unbounded build volume. The others are boxes, and this is more of a window.”

“My first effort was made with glorified cereal boxes. One thing I learned is that nobody will take seriously a machine made of cardboard.”

Kyle Machulis, 35, El Cerito, systems engineer at Mozilla

Piece: “Industrial ASMR Stations,” an attempt to evoke ASMR, a sensory phenomenon characterized by a tingling sensation in the head or neck region.

“When I got here, I wasn’t sure I could use the machines to make anything, but I knew they all made sound, so I decided to use the workshop to edit sound. What is the experience of the material as it is being sent through the machine?”

Machulis sent two speakers attached to a piece of metal through the slicer. Then a set of microphones. After the slicing, he reattaches the pieces.

“I was trying to capture the sound of a table saw and then the noise of putting the sound of material back together, which was much harder. So I’ll capture the sound of glue drying.”

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