Slovenian artist Saso Sedlacek has a long history of creating sculpture, installation and video art pieces with a radically anti-capitalist slant. His latest project, Docle Far Niente (Delicious Idleness) incorporates 3D printing into the mix, though Sedlacek’s adoption of the technology is not meant as a ringing endorsement of its creative possibilities.
The centre of the project is a collection of chocolate pieces, each one shaped like what Sedlacek considers to be a victim of the socio-economic division in post-recession Europe. Amongst the pieces are a beggar on his knees, a woman swinging from a noose, a forlorn accordion bending busker and a puckering prostitute blowing a kiss. You certainly don’t get those in a box of Roses.
As the artist explains:
The consequences of the economic crisis are shaking up the illusion of the wealthy West and the changing iconography of everyday European life – something which, until recently, we in the Western world have taken for granted. The images of poverty, despair, protests, people under pressure… are scenes that are not at all new. What is new is both their frequency and their proximity.
To create the collection, the artist 3D printed a gypsum version of each shape, before using it to craft a silicon mould. The moulds were then filled with chocolate (artisan, Brooklyn, hipster chocolate, no less). Once the chocolate cooled, each socialist sweetie was individually wrapped in its own elegant package, ready to be snapped up for €20 a pop (that’s about 15 quid per capitalism-demolishing delicacy) from Sedlacek’s website.
Sedlacek wanted 3D printing to be part of the process to underline his concerns about how increased automation and rapid manufacturing techniques are placing even greater financial strain upon an already pressurised working class. As he puts it:
3D modelling and 3D printing… symbolically shows the potential pitfalls of technological development that, while promoting many positive innovations, within the new regime of economic commodity exchange, merely hide the danger of unemployment for an entire class of people.
While the irony of selling a luxury product as a protest against economic disparity is intentional on Sedlacek’s part, it doesn’t mask the triteness of the iconography being used. Certainly, those involved in the increasingly vocal sex worker’s rights movement might have a few things to say about their business being bracketed with begging and suicide in Sedlacek’s blunt game of victimhood top trumps.
Yet that is not to say there isn’t something profound in Dolce Far Niente’s vision, particularly when it comes to technology’s role in the slow, steady eradication of traditional working class jobs from the Western economy.
While here at Top 4 3D Printing, we continue to be enraptured, astounded and moved by the extraordinary possibilities of new manufacturing techniques, even we have to admit callousness is evident in the community.
When Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, the man behind Contour Crafting, which could one day see entire buildings printed in less than a day, was asked if he had any concerns about his extraordinary innovations destroying the construction industry, he curtly responded that modern construction is “wasteful and emission causing and corruption prone. And the cost is always over budget.”
While Khoshnevis’ advancements are quite breathtaking, his lack of concern at the potential elimination of millions of working class jobs across the globe speaks to a certain coldness in the minds of those piloting technological innovation.
When used for manufacturing products, as opposed to prototypes, 3D printing will, necessarily, cut down on the number of workers involved in the process. Therefore, the traditional concept of innovations in technology leading to more employment do not definitely apply.
So, while Dolce Far Niente may not be the most potent attack on economic iniquity that’s appeared since capitalism hit the wall in 2008, it still raises questions about the morality of Atlas Shrugged-ish, innovate-at-all-costs attitudes that are too uncomfortable to be completely ignored.