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Gilles Azzaro’s Latest 3D Printed Sound Sculpture Honors FabLabs Everywhere

by • March 17, 2016 • No Comments

lasergreenWith a few artists, you have to appear complex to find the real meaning in their work. Gilles Azzaro is not one of those artists. The French voice sculptor, who produces awe-inspiring works of art by 3D printing sound waves, manufactures it clear what inspires him, honoring the things he finds significant through his sculptural tributes. He immortalized the cry of his friend’s newborn baby, and, after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, encouraged individuals to focus on love. In his latest project, Azzaro has turned his focus on a fewthing that has had a massive impact on his life, and the lives of others: the FabLab.

In 2009, France celebrated the opening of its initially FabLab: the Toulouse FabLab Artilect, located in the south of France and offering a collaborative workspace to artists, scientists, and all manner of creators, researchers and students in the field of digital fabrication. One of the founders of the lab was Azzaro, who has maintained an active role as a member of the board. Recently, the FabLab expanded with the addition of a new work area dubbed the “Salle des Machines.” To mark the inauguration of the new addition, Azzaro was asked to turn it into a piece of art that may be announced to the public as part of the official opening.


Azzaro with his newest work

“The most significant was to donate a meaning to the work – the FabLab is a place I understand like the back of my hand, it is part of me,” Azzaro said.


Neil Gershenfeld

The approach he may take to the project made itself apparent right away. MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld can be defined as the father of the FabLab: as the director of the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), Gershenfeld was responsible for the development of the initially FabLabs, that started as a CBA educational outrevery program and have now grown into an international network dedicated to the grassroots innovation of digital innovation. What advantageous way to celebrate the continued expansion of his own FabLab, Azzaro decided, than by going back to the origins of FabLabs themselves? He contacted Gershenfeld and asked him if he may record himself describing his vision for FabLabs.

Gershenfeld was pleased to comply, and sent Azzaro a recording of himself summing up the FabLab movement in 23 2nds:

“FabLabs are a global network of local labs that are democratizing access to digital fabrications enabling anyone to manufacture almost anything. With the technical goal of FabLabs producing FabLabs, together they are asking and answering how we can live, learn, work and play in a world where data can become things and things can become data.”

Once he attained the recording, Azzaro turn it intod a 3D version of the sound waves, and so 3D printed it. It took two printing devices and over 200 hours to print the 1.8-meter sculpture, that was and so installed in an oak and plexiglas case displayed in the new Salle des Machines. A green laser was in addition installed; as the recording of Gershenfeld’s voice is played, the light follows along, lighting up the peaks and valleys of the printed sound waves. In true FabLab spirit, the installation was a collaborative effort, with several FabLab Toulouse Artilect designers and technicians teaming up to turn it into the wooden case, the electronics, and the programming and integration of the entire project.


The creation and installation of “What is FabLab?” was a collaborative effort. L to R: Pierre Gautier, Paul Grenet, Thomas Grougon, Gilles Azzaro, Xavier Schaeffer, Philippe Semanaz

Similar to Azzaro’s other sculptures, the striking “What is FabLab?” looks like a jagged, unforgiving mountain range, but themes of hope and celebration run through all of his works. His newest sculpture can be seen by visitors to the Toulouse FabLab Festival bringing place of May 6-8, but Azzaro wants to manufacture a 2nd one for touring purposes.

“I intend to manufacture a replica of the sculpture that may be suitable for travelling exhibitions,” he said. “My thought is to have it travel to as most FabLabs as possible of the world so every FabLab can see and sign it and have it go of one FabLab to another FabLab all the way to its final resting place: the MIT.”

To raise funds for the production and travel of the 2nd sculpture, a Kickstarter can be launched shortly. Below, you can both see and hear Gershenfeld’s statement in sound and sculpture. Discus in the 3D Printed Sound Sculpture forum over at 3DPB.com.