About four years ago Sharan Elran began a series that reads like the kind of penance you would have to do if you offended a god in a Greek myth. Unlimited Edition, 1 of 6,227,020,800 is a concept that could create a unique artwork, a vase, for every human being on the Earth (give or take a billion). Elran raised about $4,000 for the project back in 2012 and used it as his MFA thesis at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
The concept begins digitally; Elran used a computer to launch an assault on the impossible number by designing a mold with billions of permutations. Once that first phase is over Elran (who I’m fairly sure is a mortal) takes on the task of assembling each vase by hand and cataloguing it. His concept casts the number 6.2 billion in a new light, allowing my mind to glimpse at something it couldn’t imagine on its own. I also like the way the concept dares me to suspend my disbelief. I know it’s impossible but, dammit, I want to live in a world where someone is willing to try this. I’m helped in that regard when Sharan tells me, with an air of perfect sincerity:
“I’m committed to produce these objects myself. The edition is limited by the time I still have on this planet and my ability to produce, but not by any arbitrary number.”
Going back to an earlier comparison, that line by Elran is exactly the kind of stoic, tossing-your-mortal-frame-into-the-maw-of-infinity thing a mythical character would say. Again, he gives a glimpse at something that, by virtue of its titanic size, lies beyond your experience. He describes his process on his website and you can see it in action in the video below.
The mold is designed on the computer and then a negative is produced by a computer-controlled milling machine. Into this negative I cast plaster to create the actual production mold. I then use the plaster mold to cast porcelain vases. Unlike traditional casting here the arrangement of the mold pieces is alternated each time to produce a one-of-a-kind vase. Each piece of the mold carries a number or letter stamp, and so in each cast a unique ID number is stamped on the vase, I record these ID numbers to make sure I never make the same piece twice.
I reached out to Elran this morning to ask him a few questions about his project. I wanted to see how his output over these four years compared to his final goal. Though I’d still like to talk to him about Unlimited Edition, I’m not sure that I care to have the original question answered. I’m afraid that it would be like watching someone debunk an otherwise convincing photograph of the Loch Ness Monster— informative, but a little disappointing. I prefer the myth. I prefer to speculate about a future in which everyone walking on the planet has their own similar, but entirely unique piece of art.
My vase exists somewhere within the hard drive of a computer, or even more abstractly, within the belly of an equation. I can picture what my vase looks like and I know that, if he had an infinite amount of time, Elran would eventually get around to firing it.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily
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