How an artist uses 3D scanning to reproduce sculptures from museums

Oliver Laric, a Berlin-based artist, is challenging traditional stereotypes by using 3D technology to reproduce sculptures from museums around the world.

by Basil Pristouris

Oliver Laric at the Archaeological Collection at the Institute of Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna, November 2015. © Iris Ranzinger

The first time that Oliver Laric came across the technique of photo-sculpture was when he read the publication, Photoplastic.

There a Viennese art historian was describing the processes that revolve around the production of sculptures through the means of photography.

“Photo-sculpture is an invention from 1860 by a French photographer called François Willème. He developed the process that would allow the reproduction of a person by using 24 photographs taken at the same time and translating the silhouettes into slices that are put together in a circumference, and then create a life-like reproduction,” he says.

Then, in 2007, Laric had the ambition to reproduce a sculpture but hiring someone to do the 3D scanning was too expensive.

Installation view, ‘Photoplastik’, Secession, 2016

“The first time I had the ambition to reproduce a sculpture, I didn’t have the financial means to hire somebody for the 3D scanning. So I sent photographs to a 3D modeller who replicated the sculpture based on his objective interpretation. A year later, I found a company in Holland that could scan a relief in a church in Utrecht and since then I’ve been continuously doing this,” Laric adds.

However, his project didn’t stop there. After the scanning of the sculptures, he started uploading the reproductions on his website, Three D Scans. There, people can go and download the scans for free and use them in different ways.

But, in order to have access inside and scan sculptures from the private collections of the museums, he and his lawyers are trying to find the loopholes that will allow them to overcome the copyright restrictions.

“Generally the scanning part isn’t the hard part; releasing data is the hard part. So it’s kind of a common fear from many museums to let the audience have these scans and that’s the part where negotiations go on for a longer period of time,” he says.

For his exhibition, Photoplastik, Laric uses different types of material to create light objects that don’t rely on the aura of the materiality but are more of an ephemeral performance of a score.

By creating his own rules, he challenges copyrights and the stereotypical way of producing art. With his own process, he is able to create a narrative where the sculptures lead the visitors to witness a new expression of the art of the future.

Basil Pristouris is a broadcast journalist based in Brussels. He worked for the BBC before pursuing a traineeship at the Audiovisual Unit of the European Parliament. He speaks English and Greek; a contemporary art addict and an eternal optimist.

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