Amy Karle uses the mind, body, science, and technology to create art. Working across a variety of platforms she engages questions about what it means to be human by creating projects on, around, or about the body; it is the subject and the medium. She creates sculptures, garments/wearables, and performance using physiology, consciousness, and technology to create representations of our internal states so that we may study the mind and body and even learn to reprogram it. She often uses 3D printing in her work.
As an artist and designer, Karle is also a provocateur and a futurist, leveraging new technologies to create work that catalytically examines material and spiritual aspects of life and open minds to future visions of how technology could be utilized to support and enhance humanity. Her work can be seen as artifacts of a speculative future where digital, physical and biological systems merge. A few pictures are included in this interview, however, for more information, we invite you to visit her website.
Amy, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
My educational background is in Art & Design and Philosophy. I was traditionally trained in form and function at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. I was on the art side of the school, and the other half is a traditional Ceramics Engineering / Materials Science school. At that time, we didn’t have 3D printing accessible in the ways we see it now, but my education groomed a mindset for using 3D printing and we definitely did a lot of additive manufacturing with clay! I also studied at Cornell University and originally went to school to be a genetic engineer and topologist, however when I understood more about my motivations, I switched to pursue Art & Design and Philosophy.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
The first time I used 3D printing was over a decade after graduation. I was exploring sculpting via parametric CAD (Computer Aided Designs) and wanted to see my designs realized into tangible form. Having something you can hold and view in the real world is so much different than viewing it in digital space – it makes it real. My first piece started simple, packing spheres in a cube. Knowing I would actually execute my design into sculpture pushed me to really refine and articulate my vision to leverage CAD and 3D printing to create something far more complex and precisely detailed than I could create by hand. From this simple sphere packing, I went onto design a complex topology on that form that would have been extremely difficult to sculpt by hand, and 3D powder printed in gypsum and plaster, materials I was extremely comfortable working with by hand.
The process took about a week of full-time work to design, 8 hours to print and 8 hours to clean by hand. From this initial experience, I was hooked – I could glimpse the promise and potentials of adding these digital tools to my traditional toolset to enable me to create work – and think about how to create work – in ways far beyond what I was empowered with before.
What are your main inspirations?
My main inspiration is life itself – the mysteries of life, health, death, the mind/body, the experience of living through our body, identity through our body, our relationship of our self to our body. I’m inspired to use consciousness, the body, and elements of the human condition because it helps us to understand what we’re made of. Art is my way of processing the world and expressing these internal experiences of living in our body. I use tools and technology as a mirror to the self, as a mirror of who we are, who we want to and could become.
When I create my work, I’m working through how to use technology and new media as new opportunities to get in touch with our humanity. I explore future visions of how technology could be utilized to unlock human potential and use that technology in the process of creating my work. My work can be seen as “art”ifacts of a speculative future where digital, physical and biological systems merge. In the process of creation, new ideas of how and what to create arise.
How is 3D Printing and Bioprinting helping you in the process?
Computer Aided processes and related outputs to the real world including additive manufacturing offer new opportunities to create in ways we’ve never been able to create before, and opportunities for healing, enhancing and augmenting the body in ways we’ve never been able to before.
Bioprinting is the most promising use of additive manufacturing because it holds the promise of being able to create organs and replacement parts for individual specification out of a patient’s own genetic material, lowering the risk of rejection. Bioprinting holds great potential for affecting humanity because it is can be used for life extension. Modern medicine has done a fantastic job of keeping us alive to our natural life expectancy – but it hasn’t been able to extend our lives beyond that of a human lifespan. Bioprinting replacement parts hold the potential to revolutionize medicine and extend our lives.
Do you work with other technologies as well? How does the collaboration between technologies work?
Yes, I work across many platforms and use many technologies. The thing that remains constant is my quest to understand what it means to be human and heal and augment the abilities of humans.
Some of my early bioart leveraged biofeedback, where I would connect my body to technology to output image and sound, producing visualizations and sonification of internal, ephemeral states. A simple example of this idea is being connected to a heart rate monitor: wearable probes read a heart beat and turn it into a moving image, a visualization of the “beat” on the screen or a printout. I am interested in leveraging technology in order to show aspects that can’t be so easily measured by scientific devices like our emotional states and spiritual metrics of the human condition.
An example is my “Biofeedback Artwork” (2011) where I connected my body to an analog video processor to read my body’s signals and turn it into video, taking the energy from my body and showing it as video art. I performed this work over periods of 5-8 hours, and the durational performance was the artwork as much if not more than the experimental video art output in the process. This work presented the experience and energy of the body in a whole new way, showing internal experiences as visual imagery in ways that we’ve never witnessed before. Reading the body’s information in this way offers the body itself the ability to make a film through the lens of its’ experience. This helps us watch our own stories of what’s going on inside of us and witness ourselves in different ways.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
Just that I’ve been at it for a long time. There are ups and downs, its important to keep going. Keep defining your vision, re-visiting and revising your business plan, keep working towards your goals. Everything builds on itself and leads to a career.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
Interestingly it wasn’t until I was named one of the “most influential women in 3D printing” (https://all3dp.com/20-influential-women-3d-printing/) that I noticed an inequality. A colleague congratulated me and then quickly pointed to the top men in 3D printing. He said, “how many millionaires do you think are on the list”? The men’s list was almost all millionaires and only a small portion of the women’s list. This lit a fierce fire of ambition under me!
Overall, the challenge – or shall I say opportunity – is in the business aspect. This is true whatever your field but especially true in this rapidly growing and relatively young field. The legislation is not yet established – the thinking in many ways is not even yet established. We are still in our infancy of this technology and the ways in which it could be used. There are opportunities for women, minorities, and all types of minds to be leaders in this field. It’s about being dynamic, innovative, flexible and smart… traits that are not about sex or skin tone.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
I’m currently working on a project bioprinting vasculature for the heart, and creating biodesigns, anatomical structures, and art through machine learning and neural networking. I’m super excited about this work for many reasons. It’s my main focus, my passion – I think about it all the time; in technological development, philosophical terms, practical implementation, impact, new ways of creating and recreating ourselves… wow, the potential is far beyond what I alone can imagine.
If you’d like to see my work, I’ll be showing Regenerative Reliquary at Ars Electronica
and participating in the Future Innovators Summit on Artificial Intelligence, “a dynamic think tank to explore new ways of collective brainstorming and creative prototyping on the crucial questions of the future”
Speaking about “Our Role in a Bionic Future” at the 3rd International Interdisciplinary 3D Conference, PTE, Pécs, whose focus this year is “the biomedical use of 3D Printing with respect to maintaining the interdisciplinary pattern”
Next year I’ll be part of the American Arts Incubator through Zero1 and the Department of State, heading to Poland to empower women and girls through STEAM. I’d love to use 3D printing and am working on ideas now, reach out if you have some good ideas for empowering women and girls through teaching them 3D printing, and what would be smart to make. The project proposal is still in development so please reach out if you’d like to be a contributor of donations of tools, materials, and supplies or have suggestions.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Bioprinting is by far the use of 3D printing with the potential for the largest impact on humanity.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
The ability to make custom pieces across so many industries while employing practices that apply to large scale manufacturing at the same time.
I also love the exploration and development that 3D printing offers: a new opportunity for thinking, a new way to reshape what we create, reshape our thoughts and even reshape our bodies in the process.
I love the new ways of thinking and the new aesthetics that come with learning new tools. I see two main ways of approaching new technologies, 3D printing included: merging traditional techniques and older ideas with new tools to create something new beyond what you could make with out the addition of that new tool – and – learning that tool so intimately that your brain starts to work a different way and you come up with totally new ideas and new pieces because of it.
The design thinking that comes with this process is super attractive to me. These 3D fabrication technologies are exciting to me because of their potential of how they can open our minds to a new way of thinking and making.
I am particularly attracted to learning tools that can help me to create pieces that I otherwise could not create. We are in digital times, but staying in the digital realm feels fleeting to me – like the quality of being in a dream. Computer numeric control (CnC), including laser cutters, milling machines, and additive manufacture including 3D printing enable me to carry an artifact of that ephemeral digital realm into the tangible, real world.
Beyond an “art”ifact though, I can also envision and work to develop how this technology can heal and enhance our lives, and positively impact humanity. That is what is most exciting and interesting to me.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
The 3D printing industry is still in its infancy. How I think it will evolve is that even though it will be an industry in itself, it will be spread and integrated across almost every industry, as we use computers now.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Accessibility to try it out in a way that is meaningful to them.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!