An Artist Attempts To 3-D Copy And Print Herself

In her series Replicants, Lorna Barnshaw challenges various technologies to duplicate herself.

Most sculptors might cite the work of masters ranging from Donatello to Brancusi. But Lorna Barnshaw admits she’s been shamelessly influenced by dystopian sci-fi. It was movies like Blade Runner and shows like Black Mirror that inspired her series Replicants, a trio of 3-D-printed self-portraits developed through different digital processes, each exploring the nature of human identity as flesh continues on its course to digitization.


“Technology is my absolute passion but I fear it will also be my demise,” Barnshaw tells Co.Design. And its from this perspective that she turned cameras, scanners, and code on her own visage.

She began with free software from Autodesk called 123D Catch that stitched together 40 photos into a Barnshaw copy. The result was a bit low fidelity but by all means flattering, resembling a classical oil painting on a curved surface. Next she tried the website Cubify, which transforms video into a 3-D model. Her figure grew dark and distorted, like a monster rendered in cubes. And the final portrait was generated by an actual 3-D scanner. It’s by all means the most accurate rendition of her form. Yet in coming so close to a human a la the uncanny valley, its flaws are almost more noticeable and disturbing.

“The replicants are successful because not only are they recognizably human but also very inhuman,” she writes. “However, they also illustrate that technology is flawed. It is so close to mimicking reality but isn’t quite there yet.”

Barnshaw likens the computers’ glitches to human error. “Unwanted and unpredictable,” they both impart the “human-esque yet artificial” qualities that make the work repulsively fascinating, and seem to pinpoint a tangible cause and motive behind a darker, less human future to come. In Replicants, Barnshaw has, in essence, nailed down why a Blade Runner could really come to be: Machines could hurt us, not because they’re evil, but because they’re incapable of caring about their mistakes.

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[Hat tip: designboom]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.