When artists and engineers collaborate
Diemut Strebe, the artist in residence at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology, gave the conference’s keynote address, describing how art, science and technology interconnect in her works. In Sugababe (2014), Strebe created a living replica of Vincent Van Gogh’s cut-off ear using human tissue and genetic engineering, to explore the implications of “recreating a historical person after death”.
Currently, Strebe is creating works using nano-engineered materials, collaborating with the MIT professor Brian Wardle. In Redemption of Vanity, Strebe has taken a $2m 16-carat yellow diamond, donated by L.J. West Diamonds in New York, and visually negated the surface with a coating of carbon nanotubes, known as the blackest material on earth, which absorb 99.965% of light. The coating makes a 3D object appear “like a flat silhouette. Obviously, this is aesthetically a very interesting material,” Strebe said. By using carbon to devalue a $2m piece of bling—also made of carbon—the work challenges art market assumptions, raising questions about how value is attached to luxury objects.
The project is also a statement against the British artist Anish Kapoor’s 2016 purchase of the exclusive rights to Vantablack, another material made of carbon nanotubes, from the British manufacturer Surrey NanoSystems. “Strebe and Wardle use a different composition of carbon nanotubes, which will be available for any artist to use,” MIT says on its website.