For my very first gallery as a budding artist, I decided to play around with a CNC laser printer. I had been exploring identity, digital identity in particular, in places like Chatroulette and Facebook. In a casual conversation, I heard about a feature that allowed you to download a copy of your Facebook to your computer. I went ahead and had Facebook send me a copy of my archive data and began to think about what I could do with data from the past 5 years of my life. Generally, what do we do as a culture when we have a lot of digital data? We print it! So, I decided to experiment with a CNC laser printing of the data on a paper with archival type properties. I ended up settling on Bristol Smooth drawing paper. Thus began the process of transcribing the digital data into something physical.
If you need more info on where to get access to the tools I used, check out TechShop.ws. I made it at TechShop.
Step 1: Facebook: Downloading Your Data
- Log into Facebook and click on the gear in the top right hand corner.
- Select Account Settings.
- On the bottom of the Account Setting page, there should be a link to Download a copy of your Facebook data.
- Click on that and it will take you to a page that submits a request for your data.
Step 2: Data: Now What?
The data archive that Facebook provides you with comes in HTML format. In order for the data to be printed on a CNC laser printer, you need to prepare the data in a format that the laser can read. In my case, I used Illustrator but there are other programs out there, like Corel Draw or Inkscape. Upon opening the HTML document in Illustrator, I discovered an unexpected result. Illustrator imports all the HTML code in addition to the content of my pages.
Step 3: Data: Preparing the Files
To create depth, I had the CNC laser cut out the HTML code in each document and had it raster(etch) the content that was actually displayed on my Facebook page. The laser cuts items that only have outlines and etches items that are filled.
Step 4: Laser Printing
Once the files were prepped, I set up the CNC laser printer. Each CNC laser printer is a bit different. I used the one at the local Techshop. Once the print is done, repeat as many times as you want.
Step 5: Conclusion
The project soon turned into an endurance piece. There were 66 pages in total to create the wall across the gallery. Each page took 20 to 40 minutes to print. It took roughly 35 hours of CNC laser printing alone. The process was an interesting psychological dig through a self portrait of myself and my identity on Facebook.
Want to see some of the work I have worked on? Check out my portfolio.