Future Fossils is a multidisciplinary project that includes sculpture, photography, photogrammetry, 3D printing and 3D animation. It examines how geologists and biologists are using 3D tools in the preservation of corals. The process started with creating sculptures by merging dead corals with 3D printed corals that were scanned and made available by the Geological Fabrication Laboratory of the Iowa State University. According to geologists, we are entering the Anthropocene, a new epoch that is defined by the impact of human activities on Earth’s ecosystem. The work questions the use of 3D technology by scientists to tackle environmental degradation.
During the second stage of the project, I converted one sculpture into virtual data using photogrammetry software, which is the same tool that biologists use to monitor corals. Photogrammetry consists of taking 360º photos of an object to transform it into 3D geometry. The stitches where the image merges with the photographs are visible to show the process behind the scientific work. The errors in the mapping process make the texture appear to be melting into the 3D coral; this works as a metaphor for the bleaching process. When corals get stressed by human activity, they lose their vibrant colors and turn white. Most of them never recover and die.
The 3D animation shows the coral spinning in a virtual world full of glitches. As human activities have evolved, the impact of these activities has depleted natural resources. Technological progress is largely responsible for the degradation of coral and is now being used to restore its function in the ecosystems where humans have decided that there is a need to do so. The camera zooms in and out allowing the viewer to observe the errors of this technology. There is an ambiguity in the dizzy pace of the video, and it is not clear if the coral is under construction or if it has been destroyed. The artificial structure of the grid inside the organic shape of a coral represents the workspace of 3D programs that are used in architecture and product design. Human activities have evolved, depleting natural resources, while technological progress has been a major factor in the degradation of corals. We are living in an economic system that knows no limits, strives for exponential growth and has a voracious appetite for trading in the earth’s natural resources.
In addition to this, the virtual coral was brought back to the physical world using 3D printing. This object symbolizes how biologists are replacing extinct coral reefs with 3D printed units in an attempt to regenerate decimated marine environments. The 3D printed reefs could be the last trace of corals because at a certain point, the real ones would be extinct.