Ron Labaco – Out Of Hand: Materializing The Postdigital


Black Dog Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-1908966230, English, 304 pages, 2013, UK

One commonality in the different definitions of “postdigital” is that it is definitively getting rid of the material/immaterial dichotomy introduced in the early stages of digital. This dichotomy has made space for intertwining between the two dimensions, in a progressively indistinguishable accumulation of different media and meanings. This book is a richly illustrated catalogue of the homonymous exhibition, which turns out to be a compelling anthology of postdigital materiality, which can be aesthetically identified as what the New York Times calls an “algorithmic baroque”. The sculptural quality and the technological aspects of the works of art, design, fashion and architecture is intrinsically (sometimes also very explicitly) digital, but embedded in various degrees of physicality. The eighty works go beyond 3D-printed virtuosity or the often optically engaging structures, revealing how three-dimensional embodiment is permanently installing digital in our surroundings. A crucial “universal” aspect in production is maintained, one not based on irreproducible skilled handicraft but on machines digitally guided from a personal computer. In one of the foreword essays, Christiane Paul remembers the 90s efforts towards “computer sculptures” and the resistance they encountered because of the potential for infinite reproduction, and talks about how today the acceptance of these mechanisms has grown significantly, starting to (finally?) become part of our cultural environment.