York visual arts professor receives CFI grant to create Digital Sculpture Laboratory

A York University professor has been awarded $201,298 in funding by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to create a ground-breaking laboratory for the study of the convergence of the digital and the physical in art.

Under the direction of Brandon Vickerd, professor of visual zrts in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the CFI funding will be used to establish the Digital Sculpture Laboratory (DSL) at the University, the first laboratory of its type in Canada and one of only a handful worldwide.

Due to recent breakthroughs in technology, the borders between the digital universe and the reality of physical objects are gradually being eliminated and a new range of possibilities is presenting itself to artists and researchers. York’s new laboratory will allow for the translation of digitally designed objects into actuality, which not only represents a new process of creating, but demands a complete rethinking of the way we perceive and relate to physical objects. These works – which would be impossible to sculpt by the human hand – will highlight the new physical possibilities brought on by the digital world.

Vickerd intends to accomplish three main research objectives:

  • To utilize these technologies in the enhancement of already existing sculptural processes (foundry, carving etc.).
  • To explore the possibilities for new conceptual and physical practices that these technologies make possible.
  • To adapt and evolve this technology in a critical environment in order to advance the technology.

Housed in one integrated research facility, in the Godlfarb Centre for Fine Arts, linked to the existing Odette Centre for Sculpture in York’s Visual Arts Department, the DSL will be structured in such a way as to emphasize the research possibilities of translating digital code into physical reality. The central design station, consisting of several computers that will be used to design objects in virtual reality, will essentially serve as the hub, or “brain” of the laboratory. Augmenting this central computer station will be physical work stations where the coded information will be translated into three-dimensional objects in a variety of materials and composites.

“By interfacing these technologies through the central hub, we will be able to substantially advance research in the field by adapting both the software and construction processes in a multifaceted and multidisciplinary environment,” said Vickerd. “It will open doors to an organic process that will evolve and provide the intellectual and material consideration to fuel an entirely new process of creating objects.”

“The development of the DSL at York both reflects and advances the pioneering work of our Visual Arts Department over the years in integrating new technologies into the artmaking process,” said Phillip Silver, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “This cutting-edge research facility will add an exciting new dimension to our sculpture program, opening up wonderful new possibilities for teaching, learning and creative work for both faculty and students.”

“Government investments into university research infrastructure are crucial to sustaining high-quality, globally competitive research programs at York and to retaining and attracting the best researchers and students,” said Stan Shapson, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “The federal government’s ongoing investments through CFI and the matching investments from the Province of Ontario are greatly appreciated,” continued Shapson. “Funding for this project will allow York to continue to be a leader in culture and entertainment research.”

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation is an independent, not-for-profit corporation established by the Government of Canada in 1997 to strengthen the capacity for innovation in Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and other non-profit research institutions.