ur work speaks to the interaction between viewer and object and the materiality of artifacts, as digital processes allow for an ever greater oscillation between dematerialization and rematerialization, realizing both the transformation of an object into a 3D digital object, and the corresponding possibility of printing such objects or projection mapping them back into real spaces. These possibilities raise questions about authenticity and reproducibility, and scientific imagery versus artistic representation, among others. What emerges of specific interest is how the original object works in relation to its representations, to the point at which it is primarily understood through its multiple copies, and sometimes only through such facsimiles.
Michael D. Carrasco with Joshua D. Englehardt and Chase Van Tilburg
The Possibilities of Digital Restoration
We present a range of images that has emerged from our documentary fieldwork for the Mesoamerican Corpus of Formative Period Art and Writing (supported through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities) and research on FSU’s John and Mary Carter Collection of Andean and Central American ceramics and textiles. Each image is composed of multiple photographs – from as few as 40 to as many as 150. Secondary processes create 3D models through photogrammetry or relightable images using Reflectance Transformation Imaging.
In presenting this selection, we examine the relationships among research, scientific imaging, and the aesthetic dimensions of such images in their own right. Digital restoration can augment the original, while allowing the viewer to move through different constructions or, theoretically, through the datasets that support specific interpretations. In this instance, digital mediation allows for a greater understanding of the physical qualities of the original even when the original is degraded or destroyed. When the copy is used in tandem with the original object, the original functions like a relic—providing authenticity to the various copies—which allows the viewer to experience both the “aura” of the original as well as the manipulability of the copy and how these different modalities fold into one another.
At another level, these images themselves present a kind of spectacle. We normally do not see multiple views of an object simultaneously, as we can, for example, in the depiction of the Tenaspi Egg. Viewers are often forced to see objects under particular lighting or from a single perspective. Reflectance Transformation Imagery and 3D scans allow relighting and movement that are nearly impossible in static displays. The possibilities increase when the images are brought into real spaces through 3D printing and projection mapping. These possibilities return agency to the viewer, allowing for a more intimate experience and helping to engender the kind of wonder that one might gain through manipulation of the real object. Their interaction with the image/object becomes an act of play more than one of static viewership. We hope that this perspective on this material will reflect the paradox that a more disembodied image may allow for a more phenomenologically-rich engagement with the subject than what is possible with the real one.