Inspire Me: Cybersculpture Keith Brown Case Study
Inspire Me: Cybersculpture Keith Brown Case Study


Computers, sculpture and rapid prototyping Keith Brown creates sculptures on the computer that could not be made using traditional methods.


Keith Brown is one of the foremost digital sculptors presently working in Europe. He is principal lecturer and Director of Art & Computing Technologies in the School of Art and Design and MIRIAD (Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art & Design) at The Manchester Metropolitan University. He is an associate member of the world renowned 3D Imaging Technologies Group at De Montfort University, currently exploring the possibilities for true 3D integral projection for sculptural installations and architectural application. He is also involved with developing real-time interactive cybersculpture in true space using integral imaging for broadcast media and the World Wide Web.


His work embraces a wide range of digital activities, both virtual and actual. His main concern is with "Real Virtuality" or "Cyberealism" rather than "Virtual Reality", reversing the order between the cyber and the real. These works present sculptural forms and images that could otherwise not be realized except in the digital and cyber environments thus producing a new order of object, which is made physically manifest in 2D, 3D and 4D media.

His entire body of work is computer based, with his most recent developments involving the synthesis of sculpture and technology continuing to gain recognition worldwide. Using the computer, in a direct way, as the medium, his work is conceived while interacting with the cyber-modeling environment. The work includes time-based-cyber, print, cyberkinetics, 3D Integral Imaging and 3D Printing. His images, objects and dynamic pieces display an innovative and masterful articulation of the medium. Working in a highly intuitive way, the artist has produced some stunning results, appreciated for their entrancing aesthetic and dynamic execution. Embracing a wide range of activities Brown's work continues to break new ground in an area that is destined to largely distinguish the work of this new millennium.

Artists Statement

"The possibilities for computer generated sculpture are obviously immense. As the computer gradually takes its place in the tool chest of the contemporary practitioner, we are inevitably seeing changes that challenge our traditional views and preconceptions about how sculpture is conceived, produced, and experienced. The computer and related technologies, for many, including myself, have become much more than simply a new set of design and production tools. They have presented us with completely new media to explore and no doubt there will be many more to follow. If there is one single influence which will separate the art of this millennium from that of the past, and constitute a paradigm shift of aesthetic and conceptual advancement, of equivalent cultural significance to the first "hand paintings" made in the caves of Paleolithic man, then my calculated guess is that it's going to be, if it is not already, computer generated."

All of the work, 2D and 3D, is made initially with a computer 3D modelling programme called 3D Studio Max. There are many different 3D modelling programmes, some easier to use than others, some are very expensive, others not so expensive. This kind of software is used to make most computer games, special effects in movies, designing cars, and in fact most consumer products are designed in this way these days. The software is not specifically designed for making art works but like many traditional tools it may be used to do so.]

'All of my designs start with a doughnut shape (torus) and by distorting this form, often in extreme ways, I discover wonderful new shapes and forms. The works are not representational and I do not make direct statements through my art. They are not meant to be expressions of emotion, although this is an unavoidable element in the work and I do accept responsibility for this. There are no hidden meanings to be interpreted from the work other than how they may affect you. It is what it is and should be considered for its inherent qualities in their own right. They are not abstract nor are they meaningless. One important aspect in the making of art is originality and another to be inventive.

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All of these works use new technologies and could not have been imagined, or made, without the use of a computer. I see the computer as both a tool and a material. It is in fact many tools and materials and offers lots of possibilities for the artist. The computer doesn't make any decisions in the design of the work, rather like writing poetry with a word processor. The computer is just another way to do things, but it allows you to do things with form that you couldn't do with ordinary sculpture materials like wood, metal, or clay. '

New Machines and Materials

The first machines, to make what is now generally called a rapid prototype, or solid image, used lasers and light (ultraviolet) sensitive resins to build up an object in layers.

There are now 3D printers that are able accept data, from a special programme that divides 3D virtual (computer generated) objects into thin slices (just like a contour map in geography) and then prints the pattern of each layer, sticking one on top of the other, to build up an object in three dimensions. A coil pot is simple example of this additive technique and even a brick wall is built this way, by adding one layer on top of another. In solid imaging the computer does all of the calculations and then builds the object through the output device, which is fully automated.


3D works:

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This was made using a process called fuse deposition modelling (FDM). In this process a nozzle deposits hot plastic to build up the object; a bit like an icing-sugar bag or a hot glue-gun.

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This was made using a wax printer and the finished wax cast into bronze and polished by hand.

The metal sculptures are a stainless steel and bronze alloy. This is a very new technique, where a strong glue is printed into metal powder, one layer at a time. The resulting metal object is then placed in a hydrogen furnace, burning off the glue, making the object porous. Molten bronze is introduced at high temperatures and through capillary action it is absorbed into the porosity to make a 97% dense material.

Integral image

This process is similar to holography but uses incoherent light to achieve the 3D quality.

It is the first artwork ever made using this technique and is a crude prototype from a technique still under development. This piece was produced in conjunction with De Montfort Universities 3D Bio-Imaging Technologies Group. The image is rendered in 3D and passed through vertical lenses, which construct the object in true space. These images can also be projected.

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Curriculum Relevance

Models and modelling is on of the key concepts identified in the ICT across the curriculum pack (iCTAC) for the development of ICT in art and design teaching.

Keith Brown Links

See article 'What is 3D Modelling'? for more information on 3D Modelling