Clement Valla’s Surface Proxy presents digital recreations of physical objects through the process of image mapping, inkjet printing, and CNC milling. The images he captures focus on historical artifacts such as those from the old town of Cluny, the former center of Roman Catholic power, and can be found displayed in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum and the Cloisters in New York. The 3D scanned objects are transformed and displayed as 2D images on canvas via inkjet printer. Valla furthers the digital transformation by draping the printed canvas over a CNC milled recreation of the artifact. Through this method, Valla explores the intrinsic losses of information and limitations surrounding image mapping techniques. Since he cannot remove the artifacts from the museum, Valla effectively chooses to present these concepts through 3D scanned objects, such as a plants. In its natural state, the plant is full bodied, a deep green with highlights and shading providing depth. The 2D scan is mounted above the plant on a wall in the background view of the gallery. The image contains the same greens, however, the physical shape of the plant is lost and instead resembles a kaleidoscope type pattern. Not only does the gallery display physical objects their respective 2D prints, it also contains the draped recreations of the architectural ornaments found in the museums. Although the recreations clearly represent their original form, it is clear there is a loss of information. In Valla’s words, they are:
This is conveyed through the unconventional smooth edges which are not consistent with the jagged nature of broken rocks. There is a common excess of shadowing and the occasional misalignment of visual detail overlaid on the physical structure. Furthermore, the gallery presents the art in a well-lit, modern, museum like atmosphere, similar to the fashion in which the original artifacts would be displayed in a museum.
Surface Proxy invokes thoughts pertaining to the limitations of a digital world and reveals the diversity of digital image representations. In an article written by Marie-José Mondzain, she makes a profound statement, saying that Valla’s work combines:
Valla brings this concept to fruition with his display of 3D scanned image files which are printed onto canvas. The true “invisible image” is the one gone unseen in the 2D recreation. For example, Valla explicitly presents this with the plant and its 2D image mounted behind it. It is not clear that the canvas depicts the scan of the plant, however, in conjunction with the other artifacts displayed in the gallery, it is apparent that the image is likely a digitally unwrapped version of the plant.
Clement Valla tends to focus most of his artwork in consideration that:
In an earlier work, titled Surface Survey, Valla explores similar concepts by utilizing software which transforms photographs into 3D models. The exhibit is comprised of the 2D images which have been processed by the software, as well as the 3D printed objects which indicated how the software attempted to recreate the original. The results are typically fragmented and geometric in nature which illustrates the complex ways the algorithms identify and interpret the natural shapes and colors found in the 2D images.
Further parallels of Valla’s work can be explored through David Hall’s Anamorphic Architecture. In this work, Hall uses modeling software to develop 3D polyhedron structures which he then transposes into 2D via image mapping so it can be printed and reconstructed in a physical environment. Then he projects different images, patterns, and textures onto the polyhedron in attempt to create a variety of different objects on a single platform. This approach is, in a sense, the exact opposite of Valla’s. Instead of seeking out objects to recreate, Hall creates the objects and attempts to given them meaning and value through projecting his desired images onto it. This inspires thoughts and it questions about what the true value and importance of digital vs. physical representations. While Valla’s work highlights the intrinsic losses of a digital world, Hall explores the potential for creation and preservation of our analog world.