At my recent trip to the new Design Gallery in Holland Park I visited the ‘Fear and Love’ exhibition. I think perhaps my favourite piece was ‘Vespers’, this stunning series of death masks by Neri Oxman.
3D printed in high resolution using resin, the series is based on 5 imaginary martyrs, illustrating their last breath and the transformation beyond. It is split into three parts, the first representing the person as they are dying, the second as they exhale their last breath, and the third their decomposition and transformation back into the earth.
The colours and style of the 5 characters are derived from cultural and facial features of the wearer and the patterns printed within are informed by the air flow around the face. Data was recorded from the wearers breathing and used directly to make the swirling forms in the masks.
I love the variation in the forms and colours produced, my personal favourite is the spiky pink hued mask. Both the colours and shape are fascinating and it makes me wonder what the person who wore the mask might have looked like. The intricate thorny shapes and beautiful swirling patterns are testament to the potential of 3D printing.
The masks were constructed using a Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 multi-material 3D printer, which creates 3D objects by depositing polymer droplets layer by layer. New software was also created specifically for this project to achieve the high-resolution and complexity based on the data collected.
I love the evolution through each character’s trio, telling a story of their personality and physical presence through the past to the future. I think Oxman has really fulfilled the function of a death mask in such a new way. Each mask appears to capture the essence of whoever wore it, literally holding their last breath. It’s such a fresh and beautiful approach to the somewhat macabre, traditional death mask and promotes a healthy acceptance of death and responsibility for our decomposition beyond death – an issue which society seems all to happy to ignore.
This kind of transformation from data to physical object is facilitated so well using the 3D printing technology and Oxman has opened the door to a world of new possibilities using this concept. Bespoke belongings and items of clothing appears to be the future of design .
Morby A. (2016) Neri Oxman creates 3D printed versions of ancient death masks Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/11/29/neri-oxman-design-3d-printed-ancient-death-masks-vespers-collection-stratasys/ (Accessed: 13/01/2017).
Morby A. (2016) Neri Oxman’s Lazurus death masks visualise the wearers’ last breath Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/12/12/neri-oxmans-lazarus-death-masks-visualise-the-wearers-last-breath/ (Accessed: 13/01/2017).
Mendoza H. (2016) Neri Oxman and Stratasys team up to bring death masks to live through 3D printing Available at: https://3dprint.com/156164/neri-oxman-and-stratasys/ (Accessed: 13/01/2017).
Stinson L. (2016) The next generation of the death mask is freakishly beautiful Available at: https://www.wired.com/2016/12/next-generation-death-mask-freakishly-beautiful// (Accessed: 13/01/2017).
MIT Media Lab (2016) Vespers: Lazarus Available at: http://matter.media.mit.edu/environments/details/vespers-lazarus (Accessed: 13/01/2017).
All other images are mine