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Impossible Beauty deals with beauty as a phenomena informed by the patterns and design of the natural world. Technology strives towards beauty, emulating its symmetric lines and patterns. As we use technology to shape our environments, and when technology falters, mistakes become absorbed into our idea of beauty.

Feb. 2020

The wall piece you see at the top is a sculpted feather appearing between two curving acrylic plates. A space between the plates makes it possible to view the inside of the hollow sculpture.

The making was part of a material experimentation process, researching how microstructures in surfaces influence light reflection and refraction. My attention was drawn to the microstructural surface of feathers. By sculpting the layers of sublayers this work imitates the patterns from the research. The result is a sculpture that exists in different modes of scale and share light characteristics with real feathers.

The sculpting process was realized by digital sculpting and CNC(Computern Numeric Control)-routing. The CNC-router is a type of machine also known for its robotic arms in the assembly lines producing cars. It is build for industrial mass production that requires high precision. Depending on the type of work the technical settings variate greatly. The challenges for its manufacturing of acrylic glass is known to either melt or splinter. The optimal setting is by industry standards in the middle of the two.

Yet, when I encountered the failed test of a splintered surface, I decided that the chaotic but yet repetitive pattern would serve as an ideal method to imitate the natural variations of the microstructural patterns in the feather. By systemizing splintered acrylic glass, Impossible Beauty re-incorporates mistakes into our understanding of beauty. Existing on the threshold between failed and not, and moving between digital and analogue languages, the work positions itself into the unending transaction between the natural and the manmade.

Photo of the CNC-router engraving in acrylic glass.