At the end of last year, I was thrilled to receive a research grant to create a body of work investigating the technological advancement of fabrication methods.
I initially started thinking about this topic in the context of furniture. I was interested in the differences between how hand-made and machine-made furniture was produced and what those differences meant for how long an object would last and how it would be valued in our society.
Usually when working by hand the goal is to remove all evidence of human touch, yet somehow objects that are actually pristine and produced by machines are viewed with far less reverence. I wanted to see if this dichotomy could be translated to forms that were purely sculptural.
As I ran into issues with accuracy and translating the measurements from the model to the laser cutter, I realized that I was still going to have to rely on hand tools and electric saws that have been around for a hundred years. From a distance this work appears to be perfectly manufactured. The presumed straight lines and square edges produce a sense of sterility akin to machine-made objects. But up close, there is clear evidence of my hand as the maker.
At the start of this process, I had wrongly assumed that the utilizing the newest technology would be the most efficient method of creating my sculpture. My mistakes ultimately allowed me to understand the efficiency of fabrication technologies from different eras of history on a spectrum rather than a hierarchy.
Gabrielle Cohen is one of 19 artists included in Figure/Ground, an exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. The exhibition runs through October 30, 2020.