Richard DuPont is an American artist who primarily practices in sculpture, printing and drawing. His works often focus on the human figure; it’s relationship with the world and identity. DuPont’s sculpture ‘Untitled #5’ (2008), which was exhibited at the Museum of Applied arts and sciences, is dedicated to conveying his thoughts and ideas on ‘self-surveillance’ and the human form. This is done through digital processes materialised into sculpture to play on distortion and perspective. He also focuses on how the body has been mapped throughout history, and incorporates this with use of body, system and process art.
The sculptural artwork, ‘Untitled #5’ (2008), is a 4.5 metre tall distorted work which was created using CNC milling and digital scans of the artist – Richard DuPont’s own – figure. The interpretation of the work upon viewing was that it was a distortion, as it was perceived from different angles there seemed to be new ideas of what it could mean. The sculpture remixes a human figure as a vehicle for DuPont’s ideas of human identity, time and space to be interpreted by an audience in an ambiguous space – this was his intention. (Revolvy, n.d.)
However the artist has mentioned that this may not be the first interpretation by all audiences, as some find it humourous or strange that the figure has distorted genitalia and some also ‘grope’ the sculpture. While I do understand the intention behind the work now I have researched it, my first impression was that it was intended to be humourous, larger than life or ethereal. DuPont has stated that his works are “not visual, but philosophical”, and that it intends to speak on the human existence and it’s relation with space. In the nature that it raises so many questions; this is true and obvious only when the intention is researched further. (THE UNTITLED MAGAZINE, 2013)
Another question was raised when I was studying the materials used in this work, as I initially thought it was plastic until I discovered it was rubber. “Rubber has an elasticity like flesh but also very industrial.” DuPont stated in an interview (Thorne, 2013), this was interesting when juxtaposed with his ideas on the notions of society affected by emerging technology, as he didn’t make the sculptures ‘too human’; they are just a ‘thing.’ The sculptures are versions of Richard DuPont, which could propose questions of narcissism if they weren’t so confronting and distorted to the point where they must mean something else. This prompts the question of, why is it distorted? They are stretched by time and space continuum to varying degrees from barely recognisable to a normal human figure, DuPont has stated. This had provided the answer that the distortion represents how human figures and identities can be distorted by time and space, too. (Sculpture.org, 2008)
Richard DuPont utilises technology as a tool in his works, as something useful – however – not the driving force behind his sculptures, as he prefers to utilise physical materials as opposed to digital. “Using things, whether ideologies, machines or materials how they aren’t meant to be used can be a good way to work,” DuPont has previously stated as an intention behind his methods. (THE UNTITLED MAGAZINE, 2013) The use of his body – an uncommon method in itself – looks at transparencies of power and control in the human figure. (Bollingeratelier.com, 2015) It’s interesting to interpret the correlation between using his body and warping it – almost as though he is scrutinising or warping his ideas of his body which relates to his strong ideologies on self-surveillance.
The use of technology is one that is essential to Richard DuPont’s concept, though the process of creating these sculptures with technology was one that he had to thoroughly research; and it wasn’t easy in the time these were being created. When DuPont was asked if he begun his process with a firm vision or improvisation, he responded that there needed to ‘balance’ simply because it takes so long to make. “You have to stay with the original idea that happened instantly,” or the project may become over-developed and cloud the original meaning and intention. (Thorne, 2013) The sculptures were also based on DuPont’s desire to work with something that already exists – the human body – something that people already know. People respond better to what they know, this is clear due to societies engagements to large-scale advertising and marketing and this was an idea that DuPont kept in mind in his creative process. (Thorne, 2013)
DuPont’s works utilise digital mediums and create a physical object out of them – which sends a peculiar message that we may be moving in a different direction from technology as these artworks are again finalised in a physical manner like so many were before digital art; this is materialising the digital. (Hart Chambers, 2008) He also mentions that during the creative process there are many questions asked, such as how is the work going to become physical? What machines will be used? The machines that are generally used in DuPont’s sculptures are from passed times, with new operating systems customised to what he is printing. The process also involves sampling, testing and mixing until the final product is created in a much more hands on, physical approach that only uses software as an extra tool. (Hart Chambers, 2008)
The practice of creating the distorted sculpture begun with DuPont making a cast of his own body with plaster, however he couldn’t cast his entire body so research ensued for a place he would be able to do that. It was discovered that there were limited places that he could scan his entire body – Hollywood and a military base – curiousity prompted DuPont to decide on the military base, because he was also interested in anthropology, body measurement and biometrics. (Thorne, 2013) Though to use the scanner at the air force base (General dynamics) a fee was paid and DuPont had to participate in an anthropometry study that military personnel had already done. The data on the tests were used for high facility military research and was also sent to merchandising stores – there weren’t many other purposes for full body scanning during the time, which was why finding it was difficult and involved extensive research. (Labaco, n.d.)
There were issues with this method however, as the military base wouldn’t allow him to take off his pants – therefore he had to plaster the lower half of his body and scan it, as well use of rapid prototyping on his hands and feet to ensure that detail remained. These were then all patched together (Kunitz, 2014). The process of the sculpture also incorporated use of stereo lithography and computerised methods to create the models and make moulds. DuPont compares the CNC milling to editing a photo on Photoshop and adjusting it – much like printing out the model and using the CNC milling to customise (Lombardi, 2011). The sculpture of DuPont’s human frame reduces the body to information, a removal of his identity and instead the sculpture becomes an object that has been distorted and customised with these digital methods for interpretation.
This was an ideology that was carried through into the development process – as the distortion of the model even further stripped the identity of DuPont from the sculpture – something that was intentional and an important step in the process. (M. Sheets, 2013) He is essentially using his body as a raw material before adjusting it so it is no longer himself – only a material. There is complexity in the process and development, and DuPont has said that it is similar to that of photography when proposing the work to an audience. “People took a while to warm up to Photography as an art form, the same goes for digital.” (Webb, 2014) There is almost a resistance to digital methods of creating art to the point where it needs to be disguised. This becomes apparent when viewing the sculpture, as when you look at it from the side it is distorted – allowing the meaning and the digital sources of the work to be perceived – though from the front it is familiar and unchallenging.
‘Untitled #5’ (2008), uses software’s to create an image on the sculpture that is almost an optical illusion when viewed from certain angles, like a reflective surface or a spiral. All of the distortions are specifically on a horizontal axis, as this is the axis of movement and important to the illusion (Thorne, 2013.) The making of the sculpture was done using CNC milling, foam and rubber to create a tall, lifelike frame embedded with silent meaning. There is a physiological approach that DuPont mentions is important to the meaning of the artwork, with emphasis that societies brains are changing to adapt to all the information we receive and whether we should trust that information. DuPont considered if this was something he would explore through the sculpture in a way of defining the space around it. (Thorne, 2013.)
His method involved finding a way to define the space so that the audience were uncertain about the meaning of the work – he wanted to evoke the feeling of not knowing what it is about. DuPont attempted to articulate the anxiety of the public sphere, the euphoria of trying to understand everything going on in the world and how people are always trying to understand things. (Thorne, 2013). “It’s much more interesting if you can disrupt the expectations of what technology can do,” DuPont stated and this has proved to be a prevalent notion throughout the creative process and design of ‘Untitled #5.’ (M. Sheets, 2013) The technique that is used is not, “what can this machine do?” It is, “How can I make this a tool in the path to achieving what I want?” Incorporating existing technologies and experimenting until something new comes from it is something that is familiar in DuPont’s sculptures, as they aren’t exclusively digitalised and a lot of the work is done with manual labour.
The outcome of the final sculpture was a man-like figure made of polyurethane resin, tall and realistic from one angle, and distorted on the other and this was exactly the interpretation that Richard DuPont had hoped for – however the meaning is unintentionally interpretive it only strengthens the work as it still makes comment on space and time and human understanding. (Lombardi, 2011) The exhibition of this sculpture present a movement in the direction of process and material orientated artworks that retain their digital origins. Richard DuPont explores his themes and ideologies through his self-confinement of working on artworks made of his own body scans and presents them to audiences for interpretation of the art form to which he is a pioneer of.
The process of taking a digital method of creating and making a material object is something that is new, and it’s intentional and crucial to the meaning behind DuPont’s art. There is change in information and the known way of doing things and he explores the contradiction of using a digital starting point and coming out with something no longer digital (Thorne, 2013). Somebody is always doing the work, whether it be a machine or a person – therefore believes the contradiction between ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ is misleading. In his case, he does most of the work with ‘digital methods’ purely as a tool to do distortions and manipulation. DuPont cleverly utilises digital methods of creating art and makes something new from it, a physical and aesthetically intriguing sculpture that works as a vehicle of messages to be interpreted by an audience. Richard DuPont’s earlier works explore themes of surveillance through technology, while his newer pieces – including ‘Untitled #5’ (2008) – explore self-surveillance, self-scrutiny and distortion and becoming aware of the space and information in the world. (Lombardi, 2011)
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