A Digital Mediation Studio
Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation Madrid, Spain
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 way that contemporary artists work. 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 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 demonstrated the importance of communication across disciplines.
The studios that have grown in San Blas, Madrid over the past 18 years are a direct reaction against a heavily compartmentalised model. Digital mediation has changed how people work together and divisions based on materials are being replaced by a different approach to mediation, transformation, and making. Curiosity, collaboration, innovation and application have come to define Factum Arte´s working spaces that have been set up to maximise artists intentions. 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 (at every scale and level of detail), waterjet cutting, laser technologies of various kinds, structural engineering, architecture, museum collaborations, printing, exhibition design, 3D printing, electro-forming and electroplating, wood carving, stone carving, computer programming, film-making, anthropology, scientific innovation... the list responds to needs. The aim has been to create a ‘playground’ for artists who can work supported by skilled and creative digital artisans.
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.
Paula Crown, Spiral - From the Universal Symbols series 2019. Stereolithographic printing, electroplating with copper and nickel encouraging additional growths to form at the extremities of each piece.
The ‘techne’ shelves for Madame de Pompadour in the Frame at Waddesdon Manor May to October 2019. These shelves contain fragments and samples from a range of projects using diverse materials and processes.
A team finishing the facsimile of the Sarcophagus of Seti I. The 3D recording took place at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, the CNC milling happened in the north of Spain and the Océ elevated printing was done in Venlo, Holland. All other work to prepare the files and make the facsimile happened at Factum Arte.
Jean Nouvel inspecting Jenny Holzer’s installation at Abu Dhabi Louvre
New CNC routed works for Marina Abramović near completion prior to display at Wilde Gallery during Art Basel 2019.
New experiments in rustication by Charlotte Skene Catling and Adam Lowe designed to introduce light and shadow into the surface of buildings.
Working with Venetian Heritage, Factum Foundation recorded, made and installed a facsimile of the ceiling painting by Salviati into its original location in Palazzo Grimani in April 2019.
Factum Arte have worked with Anish Kapoor since the workshops opened. The concrete printing machine was designed and built at Factum Arte and operated in Anish’s London studio for many years.
[L] The Virgen de las Nieves, from Santa Cruz de la Palma, at different stages of the production of a facsimile and a protective casing to prevent damage to the 12th century sculpture when it is dressed and paraded through the streets.
Installing the bronze olive tree into Mercado del Duomo in Milan, 2015. The 7 meter sculpture of an olive tree and its roots was made in collaboration with the Italian architect and designer Michele de Lucchi.
Jordi Pons doing the final retouching for the colour reproduction of Murillo´s Miracle of the loaves and fishes from the Hospital de la Caridad, Seville.
Factum Arte consists of a team of artists, technicians and conservators dedicated to digital mediation - The main focus is on the production of works for contemporary artists and to the application of new technologies to the creation of objectively accurate facsimiles that are part of a coherent approach understand and read the importance of material evidence. The emphasis is on cross-disciplinary communication, innovation and sharing information and ideas. The goal is to demonstrate what can happen when technology is developed and applied by creative thinkers and where the line between the digital and the physical no longer exists.
All logistics and management are coordinated from this office.
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 on a daily basis. Artists such as Marina Abramovic´, 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, Abdulnasser Gharem, Manal AlDowayan, Hrair Sarkissian, Shezad Dawood, Sarah Sze, Subodh Gupta, Michael Hansmeyer, Jenny Holzer 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 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 preservation, education and the development of thought-provoking exhibitions. Factum Foundation´s approach is effective and its facsimiles of Veronese´s Wedding at Cana and the tombs of Thutmosis III, Tutankhamun and Seti I have been widely acclaimed for their forensic accuracy. The Foundation regularly carries out projects and supports the documentation 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 Majid centre for Conservation and Heritage, Iconem, and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. It currently has projects in Egypt, Canada, Russia, Pakistan, Italy, Nigeria, Spain, Chad, Scotland, France, US, England, Saudi Arabia, and many other parts of the world.
1. 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, designed by Manuel Franquelo, and the Veronica Choreographic Scanner, designed by Manuel Franquelo Junior with Factum´s team, 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. Different systems have been developed to record the surface, relief and texture of objects at the highest possible resolution. All systems are 100% non-contact and work with specially written open source software.
Digitisation encompasses a series of activities that have expanded the creative process and the possibilities for making, studying and preserving works or art. Factum Arte’s digital specialists are using these technologies to restore objects digitally and produce applications to visualise data. The move from physical object or idea to digital data and back into the physical world requires new skill sets and a different way of thinking that is transforming the way artists work and the way cultural heritage is preserved and shared.
The technologies are being used to create new works of arts, produce accurate facsimiles of existing objects and to recover and re-imagine lost works based on available records.
Carlos Bayod, Teresa Casado and Óscar Parasiego recording Fra Angelico´s The Annunciation in the Museo del Prado using the Lucida Scanner.
2. DIGITAL OUTPUT IN FACTUM´S WORKSHOPS
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 nylon, resin and plastics. These spaces remain flexible and evolve as new technologies become available. The facilities are equipped with six CNC milling machines, a cement printer, a fulgurite printer, a 7-Axis robot, and small 3D printers. Factum Arte relies on a number of local and international companies for specialised process and large-scale 3D printing.
One part of the digital output area.
DIGITAL OUTPUTS WITH SUB-CONRACTORS
3. PRINTING AREA: DIGITAL STUDIO
The digital printing area is at the heart of studios and plays a central role in Factum’s approach to the relationship between tone and form. It has been developed around a flatbed printer designed by Dwight Perry. A new version of this printer is currently being developed by Quinner Baird. Both systems enable Rafa Rachewsky, Jordi Pons and Eduardo López to print onto diverse surfaces (coated in house) by building up layers of colour. This approach has created new possibilities for artists and facilitated the creation of exact facsimiles of paintings.
The coating room where gesso, gelatine and other materials are applied to different surfaces
PRINTING AREA: PHOTOGRAPHIC AND INTAGLIO STUDIO
The cutting-edge digital printing technology co-exists with a traditional printing presses making intaglio and relief prints. Traditional techniques such as mezzotint and woodburytype are being reinvigorated by the possibilities for plate making with CNC machines. Cyanotype is another process that has benefitted from the ability to print large scale negatives. Historical photographic process are also in use.
4. 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 diverse projects.
The ‘clean studio’ specializes in metal assembly, glass works and special projects requiring precision. The ‘metal studio’ is composed of two designated areas, one for large complex fabrication and the other for precise work with metals. Other spaces are used for experimentation and innovation.
Experiments with resin and electricity are taking place both in Factum´s studios and in Chicago.
5. TEXTILE STUDIOS
The textile studio is used for the design and preparation of all digital stages involved in Jacquard weaving. Factum doesnt have a loom and works with craftsmen in Belgium to weave the tapestries. All finishing and assembly is done in Madrid. The Textile Studio is also involved in making replica tapestries and fabrics for museums and historic buildings where the fragile original materials can no longer be exhibited. Handtufting and embroidary is also carried out under the supervision of Blanca Nieto and Isabel Fernández.
6. FRAME STUDIO 3D
3D scanning and printing are leading to new innovations in frame making that depend on both new technology and traditional skill.
7. CONSERVATION STUDIOS
While Factum Arte never restores original objects, many traditional conservation skills are used to finish the works that are being made in the workshops.
Working on the re-creation of paintings destroyed in the C20th for the Sky Arts series Lost Paintings.
8. PAINTING STUDIOS
The transfer of data between image and form means we often depend on painting and manual work as well as printing.
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.
11. CASTING PROCESS IN DIVERSE MATERIALS
Glass: Canova’s Paulina Borghese cast in glass by Giberto Arrivabene, Venice.
Silver: Piranesi’s coffeepot cast in silver cast at Pangolin, UK.
12. MATERIAL TRANSFORMATION
[L] THE ARTS OF PIRANESI: ARCHITECT, ENGRAVER, ANTIQUARIAN, VEDUTISTA, DESIGNER. THE EXHIBITION. Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, 2010
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