Through Essence of Reminiscence, we wanted to explore an application of 3D printing to aid research, learning and teaching in history. We modeled and fabricated an artifact from the Indus Valley Civilization, documented the process and characterized the changes we experienced in our perception and understanding of it. We feel that this is a new way to experience history through the revival of art and artifacts and ownership of the process and the product. I think, the key here is to take ownership of the process of building something oneself, to engage with it at a deeper level. It can be used in the classroom and possibly bring forth a new genre of contemporary art as a part of the maker culture/ movement.
Some thoughts and motivations about this:
“If you fire a gun at history, you fire a cannon at the future”, read the introductory lines of a certain article published in the Abu Dhabi based news daily ‘The National’ . Titled “Aleppo, and Arab History, is burning”, the article discusses the damage being done to Syria’s architectural heritage due to the ongoing Syrian conflict. Quoting from the article, “In Aleppo, every ancient brick tells a story – and every shattered brick threatens the loss of that story for future generations.” History is the analysis and interpretation of the human past that enables us to study continuity and change over time. The different interpretations of the past help us understand why current societies are shaped the way they are shaped. But how do we analyze cause and effect in History? How can we feel it as collective experience and memory,
appreciate the details, the context? What does it mean to learn from the past or about the past and what can it mean to an individual? Have powerful ideas been disempowered because of how we were taught history in school? We can look at the murals on the wall, rock paintings in caves,
listen to what the poets have to say or gaze at the sculptures that were carved out years ago. These are exclusively works of art and literature.
Another interesting way to understand history is to look at all the artifacts it tosses up. These artifacts are different from artwork. Their intention is hardly ever to serve the future generations in deciphering the societies of past. Artifacts are selected, fashioned, designed, crafted, developed, and stylized as instruments facilitating the accomplishment of existential objectives, essentially solving collective problems, that emerge in/into routine social practices—they become inextricable elements of activity structures . They connect people of the present to the past, bringing us face to face with methods and manners adopted by early societies to carry out regular chores. Artifacts help us evaluate the evolution of our present day-to-day items, many of which we take for granted.
In this project, we attempt to recreate an ancient artifact in all its closeness to the original object using the technology of digital fabrication. Through this project we want to encourage students, artists, culture buffs to reproduce artifacts from the past. Our attempt is to make these artifacts more available, in kind of an open source way to enthusiasts who want to study, work and deduce facts or just appreciate the past and to encourage people to go through the process of creating an artifact themselves to get immersed in its details and reflect upon what it means to them.
Also, this project is an attempt at beginning to create historically and culturally relevant designs and motifs as readily available and share-able design files. As much as there is importance in creating more engineering related designs like gears and mechanical linkages and distribute them on sites like Thingiverse, we believe that having a similarly large set of objects that are of cultural and historical significance will ensure more people, especially
children downloading them, modifying them, playing around with them, forming stories around them and giving deeper thought to them, just as to other objects today.
Some of the understandings from building the model:
In the case of Indus Valley, the oxen led to the conclusion that the Indus Valley people had managed to domesticate. The final Harappa toy recreated animals. Few of the toy carts had roofs, which implied that bullock carts intended for utility had roofs too. Also, interestingly, about a tenth of the artifacts found at the site were toys, an anomaly when compared to the excavations
of other ancient civilizations, giving us a notion that the Indus valley people cared about ‘play’.
When models are shared on 3D-sharing sites like the Thingiverse, they become ”social objects.” “Social objects are the engines of socially networked experiences, the content around which
conversation happens”. The transformation of a collection object into a social object allows access to a wider and more diverse audience. “And when we do it right, this approach brings
people together across social division towards something approaching understanding and mutual respect”. We have seen how this sharing of objects and blueprints has facilitated in tweaking of designs and learning though the process of creating. We strongly believe that with a further addition of culturally and historically relevant designs and motifs to these, created by enthusiasts with little resources and access, there will be a similar surge in appreciation and exploration of these areas. On one hand, reviving past cultures might have positive outcomes within classrooms. When kids try to make models for printing, they will experience art somewhat closer to how the artist must’ve experienced it. They will have to take care of different physical properties as they attempt to imitate something that they might only possibly ever see as photos. This will give rise to a different sort of appreciation and will serve well the knowledge acquired about the art and the artist. Digital fabrication will also allow for
make and debug and make again approach.
With enough experience, confidence and intuition, one will begin experimenting through manipulation and that will lead to this new genre of art that will take advantage of a whole new toolset and will be representative of the frame of mind of someone who’s experienced this whole process. For instance, Artist Tom Burtonwood mashed up Mastiff (Tomb Figurine), Eastern Han
dynasty (A.D. 25–220) with Architectural Brick with Ogre Mask (Tang dynasty (A.D. 618–907), both from the Art Institute of Chicago, to create Ogre Puppy, 2012 . The current makerculture can draw from these past artifacts to teach students better and differently; it might borrow the elements of past civilizations to shape parts of its art culture. The possibilities, once
democratized, are endless.