A Digital Mediation Studio

Factum Arte
Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation
Madrid, Spain

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The emergence of computers and the opportunities offered by diverse types of digital mediation in C21st required a radical rethinking of the layout of a creative workshop and the studio practice of contemporary artists. Factum Arte is a direct response to this need. Its workshops have developed to create an experimental and open environment to meet the needs of artists from around the world.

Factum Arte has been run since it started by Adam Lowe, a painter trained at Oxford University´s Ruskin School of Drawing and at the Royal College of Art in London. Many elements of these two very different institutions have shaped the radical studio that has emerged in Madrid. The Ruskin´s emphasis on traditional techniques and the stimulating interdisciplinary intellectual community of Oxford prompted an interest in creative processes that intersect science, art and technology. The Bauhaus environment of the Royal College of Art in 1980s mixing painters, sculptors, printmakers, ceramicists, metalworkers, jewellers, silver and goldsmiths, automotive designers, photographers, textile designers, woodworkers, filmmakers compellingly demonstrated the importance of craft work. Curiosity, collaboration, creativity and craftsmanship have come to define Factum Arte, a studio operating with a distinct disregard for the artificial boundaries discipline, materials and techniques.

The entrance to Factum Arte, occuping one city block in Madrid. The workshop is in a dominantly 1960’s cluster of industrial buildings.

The studios that have grown in San Blas, Madrid over the past 18 years are a direct reaction against a heavily compartmentalised model. They are shaped to encourage both digital and physical mediation and focus on intention and the realisation of ideas in various forms - these range from virtual and digital presentations to physical objects and environments. Everything is based on transforming an idea into its optimum form and understanding the mediations that are involved in the digital and the physical world. Over 50 people work together in a space of 8000 sq meters. Their skills are diverse; architects, product designers, scientists, moulders and casters, welders, conservators, fine and applied artists, printers, electrical and physical engineers, machine operators, accountants, photographers, film-makers, 3D scanners, textile specialists, typographers, sculptors and furniture restorers all work together. Teamwork is at the heart of this C21st renaissance and the workshops are only the tip of the iceberg. They connect to precision engineering, CNC milling, foundry work in many materials and at very scale and level of detail, waterjet cutting, laser technologies of various kinds, structural engineering, architecture, museum practice, printing, exhibition design, pioneers in 3D printing, electro-forming and electroplating, wood carving, stone carving, programmers, film-makers, anthropologists, scientists... the list responds to needs.

Factum Arte applies these skills to contemporary artists - Factum Foundation applies many of the same tools to the preservation of the past through high-resolution documentation, sharing information and the creation of exact facsimiles. What has emerged is an atemporal and anachronic approach to art - the past shapes the present and is shaped by it - both shape the future.

The following photo essay is an attempt to present in an ordered form a very flexible and adaptive creative hub that has grown in Madrid. It is a playground for artists where they feel safe to experiment and take risks. Serving as both Factum Arte´s and the Factum Foundation´s headquarters, the studio space was specifically conceived to foster creative thinking, experimental processes and innovative work. The studios can be broken down into several areas but the boundaries are never rigid.

Madrid, Calle de Albarracin, 28

Factum Arte and the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation consist of a team of artists, technicians and conservators dedicated to digital mediation - both in the production of works for contemporary artists and in the documentation of cultural heritage. Within this creative environment the production of facsimiles as part of a coherent approach to innovation, preservation and dissemination -the emphasis is on sharing information and ideas.

Established in 2001, Factum Arte was conceived by its founders Adam Lowe, Manuel Franquelo and Nando Guereta as an interdisciplinary studio where diverse skill-sets collide and collaborate on a daily basis. Artists such as Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor, Maya Lin, El Anatsui, Ahmed Mater, Paula Crown, Wang Yuyang, Marc Quinn, Gillian Wearing, Cornelia Parker, Grayson Perry, Akram Zataari, Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joriege, Rachid Koraichi, Mariko Mori and many others have enjoyed and taken advantage of Factum Arte´s craftsmanship and bespoke technology to create new works of art. There are now spaces in Madrid, London and Milan. More are planned!

The view of the courtyard space from the painting studio

The Factum Foundation was founded as a non-profit organisation in 2009 by Adam Lowe with the aim of using Factum Arte´s innovative processes and technologies for conservation, education and the development of thought-provoking exhibitions. The Factum Foundation´s approach to conservation has been recognised for its effectiveness and its facsimiles of Veronese´s Wedding at Cana and the tombs of Tutankhamun and Seti I have been widely acclaimed for their forensic accuracy. The Foundation regularly carries out projects and supports the conservation of artworks in institutions such as the British Museum, the Louvre Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museo del Prado, The V&A and the Pinacoteca di Brera. It is running and developing projects in conjunction with the Peri Foundation, Community Jameel, Juma Al Magid centre for conservation and heritage, Iconem, and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. It currently has projects in Egypt, Canada, Lebanon, Russia, Pakistan, Italy, Nigeria, Spain, Chad, Scotland, France, US, England and other places.

The Madrid office, the main studio where artworks and facsimiles are produced, was designed to accommodate the three main activities carried out by both organisations, namely: input (digitisation in 2 and 3 dimensions), processing and archiving data and the re-materialisation of objects and ideas.

1. ORGANISATION
The activity of both organisations is coordinated by an international team of scholars and managers. They ensure information flow and understanding across disciplines and languages.

All logistics and management are coordinated from this office

2. DIGITAL INPUT
There are various types of spaces devoted to digital input that are shared by programmers, engineers, digital modellers, colour specialists, photographers, 3D scanning specialists, digital conservators and technicians. Their interdisciplinary background facilitates the development of technologies such as the Lucida 3D Scanner and the Veronica Choreographic Scanner but also the refinement of techniques and approaches to digital restoration, composite photography, 3D recording and photogrammetry.

Equipment design and Engineering Studio
The work in and out of the studio requires equipment that is not always available commercially. Over the years, Factum Arte´s engineers have designed and built systems to digitise fragile cultural heritage and experiment with materials such as sand and concrete. The systems developed to record the surface, the relief and the texture of objects at the highest possible resolution with non-contact with the original.

Factum Arte´s team of engineers have desgined and built numerous systems including printers, book scanners, face scanners, relief scanners and many more.

Lucida Scanning room. The lucida Laser Scanner, specially designed by Manuel Franquelo to record the surface of paintings and low relief is one of the world leading technologies built by in Factum.

Factum Arte's Manuscript Scanner was specifically designed to record Islamic manuscripts in Daghestan while the Replica 360 scanner was built to digitize the collectiion of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice.

Dwight Perry designed and built for Factum Arte a flatbed printer that overprints and prints in large formats

3D, Photogrammetry and Colour Studio

3D scanning Studio: Structured Light scanning, Lidar Scanning, Photogrammetry and laser scanning all happen in this space

In the color and composite photography lab, digital images are restored or stiched together.

The 3D and Photogrammetry room is where digitized objects become 3D models that can be printed or milled.

The dark room: a space for experimenting with photography and photogrammetry

Digitisation encompasses a series of activities that have expanded the creative process and the possibilities for studying and preserving an object. Factum Arte's digital specialists design and restore objects digitally, and produce applications to visualise data. Most 3D models are produced from drawings and etchings made by artists and from the information of digitised objects. These techniques can be used to create new works of arts, produce accurate facsimiles of existing objects and recover lost works.

3D modelling from 2D images

Shezad Dawood´s sculpture was 3D modelled at Factum Arte

The digital team specializes in digital restoration, colour matching and produces various application for visualizing data

3D animmation produced from etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi

3. DIGITAL OUTPUT
The techniques, technologies and processes of re-materialisation adapt to each project. Many projects involve CNC milling in stone or metal and 3D printing prototypes in polyurethane. These spaces remain flexible and evolve as new technologies become available. The facilities are equipped with five CNC milling machines, a cement printer, a fulgurite printer, a 7-Axis robot, and small 3D printers to make works in stone, sand and polyurethane. Factum Arte relies on a number of local and international companies for specialised process and large-scale projects.

 

External Contractors

Large-scale precision engineering

Robot polishing

Water jet cut

Laser cutting

Stone cutting saw

Large-scale stone lathe

Wire cutting stone

Large painting chamber

Materializing mammoth SLS printer

Laser sintering

Elevated printing technology developped by Océ

Cement Casting

Centrifugal Casting

4. PRINTING AREA
Factum Arte´s Dwight Perry designed and built a flatbed printer that prints in multiple supports and formats, adding layers of colour progressively. This cutting-edge digital printing technology co-exists with a traditional printing press used for mezzotint and intaglio printing. Traditional and disused techniques such as Woodburytypes are reinvigorated by the possibilities for plate making with CNC machines.

 

Printing one of the panels of the tomb of Seti I with Factum's flatbed printer

Printing Caravaggio's Nativity in Factum's workshop

Printing one of the panels of the Griffoni Polyptych with Factum's flatbed printer

Printing and re-creating Monet's Water Lilies as part of the seven-part television series Mystery of the Lost Paintings

Factum's engineering team building a new flatbed printer

Factum's engineering team building a new flatbed printer

The structure of Factum's new in-house built flatbed printer under construction

 

Recently, new technologies have reivigorated traditional techniques such as intaglio, woodburytypes and cyanotypes

Exploring possibilities in print-making with CNC milled plates

The wet coating area-- this is where primers and special print materials processes are prepared

Studio for stretching and preparing supports for digital printing

 

5. THE WORKSHOPS
A number of spaces have been designated for craft work. The 'dirty workshop' is for moulding and sculpting in materials such as fibreglass, resin, scagliola, wood and gesso. This space is large and various projects are carried out simultaneously. In this area, different teams work on different projects.

General view of one of Factum's workshops

General view of one of Factum's workshops

The workshop for mould-making and casting

Work with materials such as fiberglass, gesso, wood and resin

A big space to carry out various projects simulataneously

In this space, different teams carry out different processes

Preparing Jenny Holzer´s Bilingual Creation Myth for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in Factum Arte´s workshop in Coslada

Factum's craftsmen working on small and big scale contemporary art pieces

 

The 'clean studio' specialises in metal assembly, glass works and special projects requiring precision.

The ´clean workshop´ is a space where to work with delicate materials such as Murano crystals

 

Metal studio
Two areas have been designated for heavy-duty and precise work with metals.

Metal work studio for fabricating works in metal

6. TEXTILE STUDIOS
This space is used by textile conservators for creating tapestries for contemporary artists made using the latest technologies and for restoring and preserving textiles. Factum has always focussed on the history of digital technology and the Jacquard Loom plays an important role.

Factum Arte works with artists to push the boundaries of this versatile medium by researching new formats, fabrics and fibers

7. FRAME STUDIO

The frame-making studio

The frame-making studio

8. PAINTING AND CONSERVATION STUDIOS
The transfer of data between image and form means we often depend on painting and manual work as well as printing.

The conservation studio

The workshop also contains a pressurised heated painting chamber for special paintings finishes.

The painting studio

A studio for large scale painting

9. MULTIPURPOSE SPACES
This section of the studio is reserved for special activities requiring a large and quiet space. This area is often used to mount exhibitions or to teach special workshops about art techniques and recording technology.

Multipuropose space used for preparing exhibitions and teaching courses

10. LOGISTICS

On site installation: Installation in Milan

On site installation: Installation in the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Installing a pair of Assyrian winged lions at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden

11. PROCESSES
Casting

Casting

Stainless Steel

Brass

Flexible alloys

Bronze

Aluminium

Corten

Silver

Glass

Concrete

Salt

Lava

Fiberglass

Scagliola

Casting synthetic marble

Material transformation

Laser engraving glass

Electroplating

Micro CNC milling and gold plating

Electro formed silver

 

CNC mezzotint burnishing

CNC milled woodburytype mould

3D large-scale lythographic printing

FOR MORE INFORMATION

VISIT
Factum Arte web
Factum Foundation web

READ
2016 Factum Foundation report
2014 The complex relationship between image and skin (text by Adam Lowe)

VIDEO
2019 CBS News on the re-materialisation of the tomb of Seti I
2018 Patek Philippe video
2017 PBS news report
2016 The Veronica Scanner

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