“Imitation-Classification–Construction: Vessels of Vanitas and the Changing Meaning of Ornament” presented by Klein and Kraemer


Session Title:

  • Digital Fabrication

Presentation Title:

  • Imitation-Classification–Construction: Vessels of Vanitas and the Changing Meaning of Ornament




  • Keywords: Algorithmic Art, Ornament, 3D Printing, Rococo, Symmetry, Asymmetry, Landscape, Wunderkammer

    This text analyses the ornamental engravings of Rococo, Art Forms of Nature by Ernst Haeckel, and the digital paintings of Robert Lettner. Together, they create forms, applications and methods of the ornament as contemporary catalyst reflected in the artwork Vessels of Vanitas. The following observations of the works, their differences and similarities, allow a speculation on emerging synergies between method, media and context of the ornament and what each can learn from the other. All these works and objects were brought together in one exhibition, constructing the guiding principle of a Wunderkammer. As a result, a better understanding of the multi-layered concept of ornament as a naturalistic imitation, a classification tool, and as an algorithmically generated construct has been achieved.


  • First, the authors would like to express their thanks to Kathrin Pokorny-Nagel, Peter Klinger, and Thomas Matyk of the MAK Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Library and Works on Paper Collection for their support in giving access to their valuable collection of rare Ornament prints.  Secondly, we would like to express our deepest thanks to Margit and Markus Lettner, Vienna for allowing access to the works of Robert Lettner. Lastly, we would like to thank the MA and MFA students participating and organizing the exhibition New Wunderkammer of Rococo shown between March 25th and April 3rd 2017 at the Run Run Shaw Centre for Creative Media in Hong Kong. The work Vessels of Vanitas described in this paper was partially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (project no.: CityU 21611115).