In his science fiction novella The Man Who Sold the Moon, Cory Doctorow describes 3D printing as “borderline magic... a process by which an idea becomes a thing, untouched by human hands”. Inbound is the product of an artistic endeavor to complicate that quasi-enchanting description of 3D printing. It stands in-between the living and the dying forces of nature, the organic and the inorganic materials of the earth, and the human ingenuity in the form of plastic arts and the human savagery in the form of industrialized fishing. Not only it embodies the laboriously reiterative process of manufacturing a representative replicate of an intact physical body (a cephalopod, octopus vulgaris), Inbound also evokes an array of human emotions including the desire to return to where we belong but also move forward to where we yearn to reach. On its altar lies a translucent, brooding but also eerie figure that “allow us to see the inside from the perspective of the outside” as Mark Fisher would call it.
Inbound this cephalopod was for a longer aquatic life if it was not caught by the trawling nets of the fishermen somewhere in the Mediterranean. The translucent light arrays refracting through Inbound are components of a relic life in inorganic form as if a transparent veil covers its hollow body. Did a messenger show up deep in the dens of the sea and turn an unknown life form into the sprawling body lying on the altar of Inbound as a holy sacrifice? Or is it that unknown life form itself who was not saved by the long gone, absent messengers; therefore its 3D printed replica rests in a 21st century tomb, uncovered, waiting to be boxed in its sarcophagus? Either way, Inbound is an artefact of mourning manufactured via the means of human-computer interaction but also an evocative object that marks a particular longing for a protector, a being coming towards us that would hold and grasp the turbulent state of the world rather than a grumpy and greedy bull that shakes it on the top of its horns.
Octopus is a material-semiotic figure of different historical periods and its cultural and scientific significance became increasingly visible in many human endeavors. For some it is a potential model organism for developing artificial mind, for others it is a visual metaphor for a diabolical enemy that aims to invade a homeland. Its disproportionate head and multiple suckers and arms are causes of wonder, desire and terror depending on the encounter. It has been featured in documentary film-making of different eras such as The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau but also the very recent My Octopus Teacher. In addition to these male-oriented depictions of it, octopus is a crucial companion for the contemporary feminist thinkers, most famously Donna Haraway and her emphasis on “tentacular thinking”. On similar terms, art curator and writer Chus Martinez, in her essay The Octopus in Love, imagines the octopus to be an inspiration for “decentralized perception” since its “every arm ‘thinks’ as well as ‘senses’ the surrounding world with total autonomy, and yet, each part is part of the animal.” Inbound is the outcome of an undertaking that explores possible translations of tentacular thinking into contemporary human-machine interactions for both cultural and scientific purposes.
In conversation with Morehshin Allahyari’s Material Speculation series that repurposes 3D printing technology for cultural conservation of ancient Mesopotamian statues in danger of being pillaged and/or destroyed due to political violence in the Middle East, Inbound is part of a not so unrealistic science fiction fabulation that imagines a future natural conservation museum composed of the replicates of extinct animals. 3D printing of animal limbs and other anatomical parts is already been practiced by zoologists and wildlife conservationists in different parts of the world (bees, coral reefs, tortoises and rhinoceroses) and taking this technology to further steps has already been part of various science fiction stories of the 20th century including Eric Frank Russell’s The Hobbyist, Michael Crichton’s Westworld and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. What does it mean to reproduce nature using additive manufacturing? The electromagnetically cross-linked resin material Inbound is composed of is stiff but not so heavy to lift and move around, so are the laws of nature and particular techniques humans derive out of them for intended purposes. Without fully embracing the use of 3D printing technology for manufacturing non-human livings of nature either in organic or inorganic terms, Inbound marks the potential practical and ethical limitations of it.
In collaboration with Mehmet Ekinci for Contemporary Istanbul '15 Exhibition. June 2021, Istanbul.
Special thanks to Beta2Shape 3D Druck & Alexandra Bongartz for their generous help.