Eric Paulos Receives Seed Grant for Making of Unmaking

07 Jul, 2016

Eric Paulos Receives Seed Grant for Making of Unmaking

This year the Berkeley Center for New Media offered four faculty research grants to seed ambitious academic projects in the field. Our alumni voted on the applications and awarded $10,000 to Eric Paulos to design The Making of Un-making. Read more about the project below!

The emerging ubiquity of low cost digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing have disrupted the economic production and creative innovation of new objects in powerful and positive ways. While great attention has been paid to how these tools and techniques enable fascinating new methods of object creation and the democratization of making itself, the focus has been on the modeling process, production techniques, and final static object. From idea to instantiation, designers, tinkerers, and engineers are primarily concerned with the function of their works.

Not so Eric Paulos. Inspired by the artwork of Gustav Metzger and his Auto-Destructive Art Movement, including his symposium on Destruction in Art and the destructive artistic gesture embedded in John Baldessari’s act of burning all of his paintings in 1970, Eric proposes to enable the design of not just how an object is made but how it will be un-made — how it will fail, decay, corrode, fracture, or deteriorate over time.

Eric and his team have already developed several techniques to allow designers to “design” within the inside geometry of objects to create various feel aesthetics such as texture, center of mass, and compliance. They have also developed new design tools that allow individuals to “design with data” to explore how object “aura” can make objects more personal and unique. Now, they seek to further develop this creative set of design tools to allow individuals to “design in” the auto-destructive elements of an object and embed these futures within the item’s final form.

Technically, the project will develop a new design tool that enables points of failure, decay, or wear to be foregrounded as part of the create effort of digital fabrication and design. Using new multi-material printing processes, Eric’s team will be able to embed materials, chemicals, and organic elements that, over time, will break down, deform, grow, collapse, and corrode digitally fabricated objects into newly celebrated broken, deformed, and failed artifacts. The novelty is that the designer will be co-author in creating the failure. Similarly, the creator can choose to reveal or hide the failure. A lamp that bends over several months and fails after a year. A cup that begins to leak in a specific location and shape after two years or after 100 uses. A bracelet that will fall off after a week. A memento of a loved one that will dissolve after five years.

The primary enabling technologies come from their approach in using multi-material printing techniques, direct inclusion of inline passive electrical components into the fabrication process, ability to control the interior design, geometry, mass, and deformation properties, and exterior focus on texture and affordances. These new design capacities enable the creation of a new ecosystem of objects. They also present new opportunities for social commentary that can shift the focus of discussion on 3D printing away from solely making into designing with an awareness of an object’s obsolescence and eventual degradation.

Eric and his team expect these technologies to be low-cost, accessible, and provide new opportunities for education, participation, and personalization by other non-experts into a novel making technique focused on function, technology, and creative unmaking. They also hope to develop a more artistic framing and participation around these emerging technologies and tools to inspire creativity.