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The Future is Now: Share a Sense with Cyborgs

In the Smithsonian are 3D printed sculptures of Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas designed, created and produced by Budmen Industries.

May 24, 2022Art + Technology

Smithsonian To Present Major Exhibition Of Works By World’s Leading Innovators and Artists.

For its 175th Anniversary the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building is showcasing an immersive exhibit called FUTURES, welcoming “all dreamers, makers, and changers of tomorrow to imagine a more exciting, equitable, and sustainable future.” Museum-goers are invited to explore awe-inspiring objects, ideas, prototypes and installations that fuse art, technology, design and history, shaping our collective tomorrows in the largest future-focused exhibition ever staged on the National Mall.

The Smithsonian’s second oldest building, the Arts and Industries Building, has introduced millions to wonders of the world for over 120 years—Edison’s lightbulb, the first telephone, and the Apollo rockets. Also known as the “Palace of Wonders” and “Mother of Museums,” the Arts and Industries Building closed to the public in 2004. FUTURES is a milestone first step in the long-term plan to renovate and permanently reopen this landmark space.

Inventors and artists Isaac and Stephanie Budmen push the boundaries of digital technology and additive manufacturing. The husband and wife team are best known for leading the global PPE manufacturing revolution in 2020, but they have also pioneered edible 3D printed food, virtual reality 3D printed furniture, augmented reality for the classroom, as well as manufacturing an award winning desktop 3D printer and one of the largest 3D printers in the Americas.

On view until July 6, 2022, two 3D printed interactive sculptures form the centerpiece of the FUTURES Play Lab, inviting visitors for a cyborg sensory experience.

Neil Harbisson is the world's first legally recognized cyborg and the world's first cyborg artist. The implanted cybernetic antennae allows him to hear color. Moon Ribas is a Catalan avant-garde artist and cyborg activist with implanted seismic sensors allowing her to feel earthquakes through vibrations. Together they run the Cyborg Foundation in order to help humans become cyborgs, defend the rights of cyborgs and promote cyborg art. Harbisson and Ribas collaborated with Budmen to produce innovative interactive sculptures.

One sculpture is a bronze 3D printed bust of Harbisson, the other is a bronze 3D printed arm of Ribas. Both sculptures are interactive and life-sized, containing the same cybernetic sensors that Harbisson and Ribas have. Harbisson’s cybernetic sense allows him to sense a color and translate it into a sound. Ribas’ cybernetic sense allows her to sense vibrations and translate it to seismic activity. Visitors interact with the sculptures: they hear what colors sound like to Neil and they feel the seismic power of earthquakes on Moon’s arm.

Photo: Budmen Industries

Each cyborg sculpture starts with a 3D scan, thousands of images capturing the subject's dimensions. That scan is then 3D printed on the Budmen Buildini. After embedding the same cybernetic technology, Budmen meticulously finishes the sculpture in aged bronze. The Budmen Cyborg Sculptures fuse art, technology, and design to challenge visitors to think creatively about our shared future and perceive a deeper reality.

Meet the Artists: Isaac Budmen and Stephanie Budmen are co-owners of Budmen Industries, manufacturer of the award-winning Buildini 3D printer. During the COVID-19 PPE shortage they led a global grassroots manufacturing revolution to 3D print over 3.3 million Budmen Face Shields. They have been invited to lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University, New York University, George Mason University, SxSW, Haystack Mountain School, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and other venues. Their pioneering work in digital fabrication has been featured on CNN, Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC News, The New Yorker, Wired, Forbes, Fortune, The Verge, The Hollywood Reporter, People Magazine, and other publications.