Today the advent of digital technology has brought about ground-breaking changes and discoveries in various fields of art, science and humanities. Digital technology includes all types of electronic equipment and applications. It further helps in digital prototyping and sculpting to check the feasibility of using various software. 

Sculptures have been viewed as 2D and 3D representative or abstract forms made using various shaping techniques. We perceive them as a mass that is carved out or often as objects having a mythical association especially in the context of India. 

Anish Kapoor was first recognized for his geometric/ biomorphic structures. He works within the roots of 20thcentury modernism blurring the lines between art and sculptures. As part of the New British Sculpture movement, he broke away from minimalism and post-minimalism in an effort to expose the true essence of the artwork rather than the form and features which were considered to be what made up these sculptures. 

The aim behind his installations is to have an experiential relationship with the objects to evoke a multiplicity of imaginations. For the same, he often stays silent about his work to let the users evoke their own feelings. This ‘experience ‘is possible only because he uses technologies in unconventional ways. Hence digital technology has had a direct effect on the kinds of works Anish Kapoor has produced is contrary to the perception of the installation just emerging out of thought evoking some feelings of the users. I also believe that this has also enabled him to blur the lines between art and architecture such that these sculptures are not just art pieces installed for you to see and walk past or just experience the tactility of materials but create spaces that have their own genius loci.

Manifestation of an Experience

Digital technology in Anish Kapoor’s works is the stepping stone or bridge actually from the journey of abstraction to physicality and reality. 

Taking a look at ‘1000 names ‘made in 1980, its inspired by the Indian outlook of opposite forces creating something in between a painting and a sculpture. Pigments of primary colors and white were given various forms and placed near to each other in no apparent placement pattern to evoke an experience of duality outside material concerns, manipulating the viewer’s perception of space and form. The experience was to be achieved by viewing the art form. 

Now if we take a look at ‘Dirty Corner’, it’s a 60 m long rusted steel tunnel surrounded by excavations and stones. Similar to the previous work of art it seeks to create an experience evoking uncertainty and a subtle hint of liberation. The experience is achieved by walking through the massive tunnel.

Lastly, we have Into yourself, fall ‘in which similar physical experiences as above via a virtual journey have been created. Exploring materiality in a virtual realm. It’s in the form of a video where the viewer is taken upon a journey inside the human body with a number of vertigo moments.

Hence digital technology has converted ‘physicality‘ as an experience that has transcended from form to a space to an intangible occurrence. This case is not only an example of how technology has helped manifest the experience as the same experience was plausible in various other ways as can be seen in the previously mentioned works. The question is testing the limits of what technology can do. Where technology is not just seen as a means but an end too, using it as a resource to the best of one’s ability as can be seen in the VR installation where one experiences the technology itself too.

But how is creating a virtual reality installation better or more advanced or contemporary as we perceive it? If it’s serving the same purpose and providing the same experience how has the effect of digital technology made it simpler or better?

The answer to this lies in the question itself. The same purpose is served in the absence of physical space and that is what technology does for us. One doesn’t require their physical presence to experience the artwork in Fabriccain Milan or the Millennium park, it can be seen on screen at home with earphones or while riding a subway or in a rural area. The absence of a requirement of a physical space to ‘host’ an artwork increases its reach to the masses across the world.

It’s also in accord with the idea of Minimalism as part of the modernist movement where the fewest elements create the maximum effect. While others strive to decrease ornamentation or materials; through digital technology, it can be achieved in absence of elements yet serving the purpose for which it was created.

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1000 names – experience through viewing the art form ©
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Dirty Corner – experience through walking in the tunnel ©
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Into Yourself, Fall – experience in the virtual realm ©           

Cloud Gate

‘Cloud Gate’ is one of the most famous works by Anish Kapoor. It’s expressed as the purity of polished form. It invites one to engage with the smooth surface as well as see the reflections of the self and the city skyline. As one only sees it as a sculpted form, the complex technological systems remain unseen.

Using computer technology, i.e. 3-D modeling softwares, 168 stainless steel pieces were modeled, cut, placed together like a puzzle and welded. To achieve the required form, the plates had to be prefabricated to get accurate measurements and the curvature. Originally the whole structure was planned to be fabricated and assembled off-site. Three years were spent in making CAD drawings, models using 3D printing techniques to explore different ways to achieve the form and select the most viable one. For each plate, a rib system framework was formed and fabricated. It’s an example of how the mediums used by artists and sculptors have evolved dramatically from paints, clay and easels to use of advanced methods of computer-assisted production i.e. digital fabrication. The process is illustrated below:

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3D models and forms for exploration ©
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Form study and digital modeling ©
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Form study and digital modeling ©
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Process of steel plates attached to the framework–model ©
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Process of steel plates attached to the framework–model ©
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Process of steel plates attached to the framework–model ©
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CAD drawing ©
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Making of the rib framework ©
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Placing the steel plates ©
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Cloud gate ©

Art to Architecture

We fail to realize that the installations we see are standing today because of the various technologies employed. They may not be visible when an art piece is installed but are prevalent yet silent. It makes up the inside or the core of the sculpture such that it can serve its purpose from the outside. Without digital technology, his works are just thoughts on paper. It is the manifestation of the physicality that Anish Kapoor wants the users to experience.

The advent of technology further helped him delve into architecture. He has always been sensitive to the surroundings in which the installation is placed. As many of his artworks were placed inside buildings he understands how they can change the existing spaces to assume newer meanings.

When he designed Cloud gate it was to be a form but through the help of 3D modeling, when he created Ark Nova it is an inflatable form but can be utilized from the inside as a concert hall made such due to the context being earthquake-prone. Similarly, we have ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’ made using 600 prefabricated star-like nodes. The whole process was digitized and members for construction were manufactured accordingly providing feasibility to experiment such a form where architecture meets sculpture.

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ArcelorMittal Orbit ©
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Ark Nova ©
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Ark Nova ©
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Ark Nova ©

This advent of digital technology clearly shows a simultaneous interaction between synthesis, construction and production modes of representation. Each step in this ‘approach’ is linked to the other wherein change in one leads to a change in the other.

It has helped in the integration of various fields and the recent works as mentioned above by Anish Kapoor are clear examples of how this overlap can result in never seen or experienced before masterpieces bringing something new to offer to the world.

The presence of digital technology gives freedom to people to think big, build large scale works which challenge the viewers and defy easy definition, resonating with mythic sensibility. In the very works of Anish Kapoor with newer technology, we see a change in the scale of projects as well. In the absence of this technology, these installations would be mere objects providing a visual experience exhibited in galleries. But we have options now of motion, of virtual realities and much more. They can be exhibited at a global scale spreading across messages.

‘Work grows out of other work and there are very few Eureka moments.’

Anish Kapoor once said this and it makes one realize how each of his works is so multi-faceted. It is a product of various interdependent factors that come together to make us see what we see, digital technology being one of them. Hence advancement in one factor can lead to greater discoveries contributing to the final display.

Thus most of his works depend critically on good engineering employing various technologies hence he has collaborated with various technicians in the past.

‘The naïve understanding of a piece’s construction is a falsehood layered over the true engineered solution.’

Hence digital technology has had a massive effect on Anish Kapoor’s works. It’s an inspiration for us how an idea and technology can be exploited to its best to create a parallel reality. Sometimes it’s in the limelight and sometimes it’s hidden behind veils of materials and experiences yet its presence is felt the strongest; resonating through all these layers binding them together for its utility and functionality; assuming newer meanings and providing ‘spaces ‘to the users.


Rajshri Jain is a final year architecture student and you will usually find her devouring books and poetry in cafes over warm cups of coffees and conversations. She is always wondering and wandering about spaces, places and cities and its relation with memories, cultures, history and people.