Artist Uses Robotic CNC Printer to Create a Self Portrait — with His Own Blood as the Ink


Ted LawsonSome people say that artists pour their blood, sweat and tears into their work — and now one artist is aiming to prove that the first part of that statement is true.Ted Lawson, an artist from Brooklyn, has created Ghost in the Machine or “blood robot selfie.” on a robotic CNC printer that uses human blood as ink.

Although any type of blood would work, Lawson hooked himself intravenously to the machine to use his own. This process of getting the blood straight from the veins prevented it from coagulating during printing.

The image that Lawson’s printer created is a life-sized nude self portrait. And the image didn’t come from a camera: the CNC printer was pre-programmed to create this image (and could make other images, too) in a style reminiscent of old dot matrix printers.

CNC (or computer numerical control) machining is typically used in manufacturing, as the machines allow for computer programming and automation in production. CNC machines commonly include parts such as CNC tool holders, boring heads and lathes.

Like CNC equipment, Lawson’s printer can be used to pre-program a design, and the machine will create it from those instructions.

CNC art is actually a movement that’s getting attention from the manufacturing sector. One group, the VMA Manufacturing Alliance, is currently accepting entries for a CNC art show and contest to take place on October 2 in Daytona Beach.

As for Lawson, he also filmed himself using the printer to illustrate the project’s creation in action. The process seemed to take some time, as Lawson is shown sipping juice regularly to replenish his blood sugar during the two minute video.Lawson told AP reporters that he doesn’t normally like to use “selfies” (self portraits) for his work. “But when I came up with the idea to connect my blood directly to the robot (CNC machine), it just made too much sense to not try one as a full nude self-portrait,” he said.

As for a specific medium, Lawson said that he considers the works to be more similar to works made by hand than by machine. “I do consider these works to be drawings and not prints,” he explained, “in that I allow the robot to make certain mistakes or leave in certain glitches on purpose.”

The finished print, along with his other work, will be on display in his solo exhibition “The Map is not the Territory” at the Joseph Gross Gallery in New York City between September 11 and October 4.

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