Hamish Tocher is a senior lecturer at the Wellington Institute of Technology where he organises the Rita Angus Residency, an artist-in-residency programme that examines the interplay between culture and technology. Tocher holds an MFA from RMIT University, Melbourne and his practice uses photographic technology to examine selected images and objects from the history of art, with a particular eye to the ways that those objects have meaning when transferred to the context of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The invention of 3D printing devices and their combination with 3D scanning technology exerts a new pressure on the status of the historical art object. The technology offers an unprecedented democratisation of the art object, as the object can be replicated, studied, touched, and recombined with other objects in ways which offer rich layers of meaning. On the other hand, the object can become contextless, simplified to the point of banality (by clumsy use of imperfect technology), bland in its materiality, or reduced to a universal “desktop” scale that implies an untruthful homogeneity. Benjamin’s critique of mechanical reproduction, initially aimed at photography, seems relevant here too.
In Spectre/Spectator, a work which will be exhibited at Wellington LUX, projections are created by focussing reflected light aimed at a series of 3D-printed recreations of art objects. The objects, in motion on a travelling belt, pass in and out of focus, instantiating themselves as projections, and then disappearing. Large and luminous projections of the objects become visible for a moment, then vanish. The unlimited reproducibility of objects made possible by 3D printing is what enables this particular associative conjunction of objects to occur, but in opposition to that, the projections can only exist if strict physical conditions are created. The object must occupy a space with certain lighting conditions, with a lens at a given distance, for this particular experience of it to occur.
The projections are spectres of the object, existing for a spectator for a brief moment. It is this experience of a physical phenomenon, tied to ineluctable physical rules, created by a combination of new and old technologies, and arranged around a certain grouping of objects, that creates a new meaning which aspires to attain a contingent and temporary authority. Spectre/Spectator creates an immersive environment where the spatial constraints that make the experience of the work possible are articulated and made manifest.