Oliver Laric is a great admirer of glyptotheques and plaster-cast collections, and so his exhibition ‘Photoplastik’ transforms the Secession’s main hall into a sculpture display. The show assembles his adaptations of works ranging from antiquity to the present, combining them with objects drawn from popular culture and the natural sciences. Designed specifically for the Secession, it consists entirely of new pieces, most of them 3D prints, a technology that has been central to the artist’s work in the past few years. The selection of sculptures may seem baffling at first, but when it is read along lines indicated by the key concepts of form, technology, politics, and law, it unfolds as a narrative about art and technology.
With seeming ease, Laric combines and transfers qualities from the digital domain such as convenient reproducibility, endless variability, and rapid dissemination into physical space. His sculptures are based on scans of works of art and other objects — for this exhibition, he worked in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Albertina, the University of Vienna’s Institut für Klassische Archäologie, and various public locations—before subjecting the resulting data to a time-consuming 3D modeling process and preparing them for “printing.”
The executed sculptures are merely one of several components that function independently of each other and together make up the exhibition project. Another, no less vital component consists of the data derived from the sculptures on view in the show and many others, which the artist has released into the public domain and made available for download at threedscans.com. The widely noted project Laric undertook in cooperation with a museum in Lincoln, England, in 2012 (see lincoln3dscans.co.uk) marked the beginning of a larger endeavor: collaborating with a series of prominent museums, Laric has worked to build a publicly accessible 3D archive of works of art and everyday objects. In the past few years, the negotiations over universal access to the objects in their collections in the form of data published for free use and editing have inevitably become an integral part of his artistic practice. His efforts to disseminate art objects held by museums across geographical, social, and cultural boundaries by making 3D data available to an increasingly digital society represent a challenge to many museums; unresolved questions concerning copyright and usage rights further complicate the issue. A recent attempt by the EU to abolish the freedom of panorama—the general right to take and publish photographs of everything located in the public sphere without infringing on any copyright, which is currently the law in some but not all EU member states—is merely a symptom of how the prevailing political and economic systems are overwhelmed by the task of managing today’s rapid technological advances.