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Ancient art of origami goes digital

Monday, February 21, 2011 - 02:39

Feb 21 - A laser physicist and artist in California is revolutionising the ancient Japanese art of origami. Creating recognisable three dimensional shapes from sheets of paper began as an artform in the 17th Century but Robert Lang has fused his love for mathematics and technology to take it into the digital age. Ben Gruber has more.

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The art of extreme origami requires skill, patience, and attention to detail. To produce a model of a Koi fish, complete with scales, takes approximately 14 hours. This particular design comes from the mind of laser engineer, physicist and origami artist Robert Lang. Lang has a passion for origami and he practices the Japanese folk art form with the eyes of a mathematician.. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT LANG, ORIGAMI ARTIST, SAYING: "Take the problem of folding a bird or an animal and turn it into a problem of packing shapes. We can make use of all of the mathematics that applies to packing," The principles of origami are simple - take a square sheet of paper and transform it into a finished sculpture by folding it. But for Lang, origami is anything but simple. He is the creator of a new form of the art known as "technical origami" which blends math and technology into what is traditionally labelled as arts and crafts. He is now considered one of the world's foremost experts. Lang says traditional origami, which started in Japan in the 17th century, relied on human intuition. Technical origami utilises the laws of math and physics to sculpt pieces that could not have been created with human intuition alone. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT LANG, ORIGAMI ARTIST, SAYING: "By establishing these mathematical laws it allowed me, and ultimately allowed many other people who are now using these same laws, to design the things we were after, the shapes we had visualised fairly efficiently." Sculptures like the Koi are made up of thousands of folds. Lang says the processing power of computers combined with math and physics are a new set of tools applied to the art. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT LANG, ORIGAMI ARTIST, SAYING: "You can imagine this whole process of creating shapes, packing them and drawing lines. That can be followed in a very step-by-step way and you can imagine even automating it or writing computer program to do that. In fact I and other people have now written computer programs to carry out this process of the mechanics of constructing the equations." But with automation has the "art" of origami been lost? Will technology make the art form obsolete? Lang says no - it just enhances it. Lang says the beauty of origami is that, like mathematics, you are only limited by your imagination.... Ben Gruber, Reuters.

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Ancient art of origami goes digital

Monday, February 21, 2011 - 02:39