Did you ever see Captain Jean Luc Picard fumbling with a replicated doll size version of himself while striding down a ubiquitous Enterprise corridor? No. He wouldn’t abuse the replicator for such trivial cause.
Honestly, it seems far more plausible to imagine Enterprise staff would be on the holodeck living out narcissist fantasies or following the prime directive. The replicator is an everyday appliance from Star Trek, which both pre-exists and is the future of the 3D printer — hypothetically. In the series the replicator is more likely to serve you a coffee or dinner, than produce a miniature, proportionately perfect version of yourself. But that’s exactly what you can do at Eye of Gyre gallery in Harajuku over the next 3 months: have your exact likeness replicated by a 3D printer, in sizes ranging from 20g to 200g, and up to 20 cm tall.
It’s a novel way to commission a self-portrait. These days, to a certain degree, we live in the culture of the ‘selfie’ — Instagram self-portraits, photobooth, vlogging and default photos on endless social networks: endless personalising of the everyday.
Recently, on a larger scale, Yayoi Kasuma took over the Selfridges window displays in London, with her signature polka dot remodel. The red and white mottled installation was complete with several life-size versions of herself, including one vastly oversized replica as the focal point. This display was excess: a lavish display in a lavish store. The statuesque self has extravagant connotations that don’t yet meet the simplicity and adaptive qualities of digitized photo ‘selfies’ we find so familiar. The viral nature of this is captured astutely in this quote from Stephen Mayes:
“The digital image is entirely different; it is completely fluid. You think about dialling up the colour balance on the camera, there’s no point at which the image is fixed. That fluidity cascades out from that point – issues of manipulation and adjustments are obvious and rife. More importantly than that, images now live in a digital environment. Given that an image is defined by its context it exists in a perpetually fluid environment in which the context is never fixed. Images’ meanings morph, move and can exist in multiple places and meanings at one time. Fred Ritchin, professor of photography and imaging at NYU describes it as “Quantum imagery.” Digital photography is anything and everything at any single moment; it has contradictory meanings all at once.”
What would be really interesting would be to receive the raw files of one’s self captured in this remarkable digital process, rather than the somewhat tangible form, that seems almost like a booby prize, by comparison.
Even though the implications of 3D printers could revolutionise some everyday processes, their current cost and limitations in production outweighs them being anything other than an expensive novelty. The price of these 3D portraits ranges from just under £165 at the smallest proportions, to just over £650 at the largest.
It’s also an alarmingly labour intensive process to procure a simple likeness: the capturing photo booth requires one to hold pose for 15 minutes and wait around a month for the final product to materialize.
If that wasn’t enough, you can’t even necessarily get recreated in your favourite outfit, since many fabrics and styles are disallowed because they disturb the scanning process. So don’t turn up in mesh, holographic or shiny material, or complex patterns, or even glasses or accessories. Perhaps turning up in all of the above would make for a fascinating abstract portrait.
Despite some reservations and resolution that there are better usages for such technology, maybe it’s actually quite magical and bizarre to hold a tiny version of yourself in your hands.