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September 11, 2012
By Tiffany Moore
As students enter into the E.L. Cord Foundation Atrium of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada Reno, they will be greeted by Mahatma Gandhi.
Or rather, they will be greeted by a 17-foot cardboard statue of College of Liberal Arts Professor Joseph DeLappe's avatar MGandhi Chakrabarti from the online world of Second-Life. The statue, designed to be the same height as Michelangelo's David, was the next step in a project reenacting Gandhi's 1930s Salt March. DeLappe wired a manual treadmill to his computer and physically walked his avatar the complete 26-day, 240-mile walk.
"It seemed meaningful to bring Gandhi out of that space and into real life," the art professor said.
To translate the avatar into cardboard pieces, he used a program called Pepakura Designer, which created templates that were then laboriously hand-cut, scored and assembled to create the monumental statue. The program is one of the five 3-dimensional programs recently installed at the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library and the @One Multimedia Center in the Knowledge Center to use with the DeLaMare Library's new 3D printer. DeLaMare is the first academic library in the United States to make the leap to offer 3D printing and scanning as a library service to all students.
"Students have the capability to do this same thing with the software and hardware available," said Maggie Ressel, director of information services at the Knowledge Center.
Angela Bakker, a communications and marketing specialist at the Knowledge Center, worked alongside DeLappe, commenting "In theory, we could make a miniature Gandhi statue this afternoon."
And to put action to her word, they printed a 12.62-inch plastic version of the statue in the DeLaMare Library overnight. The miniature statue is also available for viewing.
Having the large cardboard statue on display at the Knowledge Center was the idea of Lisa Kurt, a librarian at the University, who took one of DeLappe's digital media classes. Kurt is encouraging DeLappe to bring in and show more student work as well.
"The library is such a great place for departments to communicate and interact," she said. "It's for everyone."
The atrium is this statue's second stop; the first was in New York, and DeLappe hopes the next will be in India. The Knowledge Center statue is also the first of three he has built using the same process. It took two days and a scissor-lift to build at the University. Bakker and DeLappe also worked with the building team on a time-lapse video of erecting the statue.
The statue was initially built at Eyebeam Art and Technology, a unique international residency program in New York, where DeLappe was a commissioned resident artist and did the virtual Salt March. The project took six weeks to build and engineer.
"The biggest challenge was the vertical build with the skinny legs," he said. "It was made from about $200 worth of materials, all recycled cardboard."
A second statue was commissioned to be built and shown in China for the Third Guangzhou Triennial: Farewell Post-Colonialism exhibition at the Guangzhou Museum of Art and is now part of the museum's permanent collection.
The third statue was built at the MUKA Gallery in Mechelin, Belgium and rebuilt in Belfast, Ireland. After being transported and reassembled in Belfast, the statue was taken apart for recycling. To DeLappe's joy, one of the student volunteers who helped install the piece in Ireland made sure that some of the cardboard was used for compost for local "guerrilla gardening" or "graffiti with plants" as DeLappe described.
"The statue really captures his personality from the game," he said, describing the shape of the avatar, as well as the manual labor needed to build it. "It was as physical as the walk itself, and Gandhi felt you should use your body; that physical labor is necessary."
More of DeLappe's work and work from graduate students will be on display at and around the University at DeLappe's third iteration of Prospectives International Festival of Digital Art in October. DeLappe's cardboard Gandhi can be viewed during regular Knowledge Center hours: Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. - midnight; Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. - midnight.
Tiffany Moore is a student writer for University Media Relations.