The Glass Road refers to the spread of hot glass working that originated around 3500BCE in Syria, Egypt and Mesopotamia then moved throughout the ancient world to the Far East. Much later, the well‑known Silk Road was established between 206BCE‑220CE. Muqarnas, also known as Mocarabe, stalactite vaulting, or honeycomb vaulting, are a visually compelling and unique feature of Islamic architecture that began to proliferate in 1100CE.
To contribute to this ISEA 2014 conference theme of Technology, Science, and Art: East meets west, I will discuss how reviving ancient creative precedents of hot mould‑pressed glass and muqarna has led to a new body of sculptural work. This work unites digital rapid manufacture, electronic art techniques, and hot glass. Molten glass is first pressed into muqarna which then form the architectural components of mixed sculptural and electronic media installations. Conceptually, these forms expand traditional interpretations of muqarna into contemporary sculptural contexts; from tangible metaphors of celestial light and spiritual communication to the ability to transmit and transform light and communications electronically.
The methodology for making these forms lies in reviving and integrating the creative potential of pressed glass and muqarna for contemporary art aims. The advantage of mining and reinterpreting these precedents of ancient analog making can benefit current electronic art methods. They provide ready‑made adaptable infrastructures that can ensure that rapid manufacture and electronic art‑making retain invaluable hand and material feedback. These are not merely manual techniques with nostalgic appeal in an era of rapid manufacture, but prolific, invaluable sources of innovation in making and conceiving of artworks.
From a technical standpoint, this presentation highlights glass’ unique potential as an electrically inert, versatile structural material for making fasteners and mould elements. Once joined and assembled, both fasteners and mould elements can be heated and fused together. The implications of making things this way are that objects, utilitarian as well as artistic, can be made modularly from component parts of a homogeneous glass material, then melted until the components coalesce into one form. While homogeneous, the constituent parts retain the tangible memory of their original function in the form of discrete zones of colour. Chemically, these zones could be made from electrically reactive rare earth elements or metallic foils so that in addition to providing color, these zones can respond in specific ways to electricity.
This work is being produced through my PhD research in digital manufacturing of press‑moulded glass at the International Institute for Research in Glass at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, UK. It was also undertaken, and continues after a 2011‑12 Fulbright China grant at: The Craft Department of the School of Art and Design at Tsinghua University, Beijing China, Guangzhou Polytechnic, Suzhou Polytechnic, Hong Kong Baptist University, Xinchejian MakerSpace in Shanghai, and private glass companies in China.
- Mark Hursty, University of Sunderland, UK, is a researcher at the International Institute for Research in Glass at the National Glass Centre of the University of Sunderland, UK. His project concerns the creative use of digital fabrication and press‑moulded glass.
Full text (PDF) p. 167-173