Bees Were the Original 3-D Printers

re/   By Nellie Bowles    January 24, 2015


Autodesk, which makes 3-D modeling software and has been hosting residencies for more than 100 artists over the last three years, opened its first ever art show last night.

Set on the waterfront Embarcadero neighborhood in San Francisco, the Autodesk office at Pier 9 (their main one is downtown) is largely a workshop, packed with enormous 3-D printers and water jet slicers, and the coveted residency program (which lets artists loose with the machines) has been largely a quiet phenomenon.

So last night, around 60 artists stood proudly next to their pieces for the residency program’s first show, which sold out its two-day run in minutes, much to the surprise of organizer Noah Weinstein, who said he had no idea so many people wanted to see this work, and that he’d be finding a bigger space.

A taco truck had pulled up next to the office, and inside people drank margaritas. The only music came from a radiation wind chime by the artist JoeJoe Martin — made with Geiger-Muller tubes and a Rasberry Pi computer, wind chimes played when the piece encountered Beta and Gamma radiation. The revelry mixed with mysterious large-scale machinery gave the space a Santa’s workshop energy.

Jennifer Robin Berry, 38, Sausalito, biologist

Piece: “The Virgin Queen and the Almond” made of beeswax, honey, stainless steel, laser-cut acrylic, electronics, CAM software.

“When I came here, I didn’t know how to use the 3D printer, but I knew about bees, and I thought — Bees are 3-D printers. Bees were the original 3-D printers.

“So I spent most of my semester experimenting with the bees and trying to get them to participate and collaborate. I created light boxes, cut the comb, stacked it, and they attached it in places, cut it in others, built passages and reinforced the structure.”


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