Digitally Fabricated Death Masks For Those No Longer With Us In Person
FOR THOUSANDS OF years, the living have used death masks to memorialize their dead. Some, like those cast from the faces of Napolean Bonaparte and Nikola Tesla, clearly resemble their subjects. Others, like the funerary masks of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, favor ornamentation over physiological accuracy. Now there’s Vespers, a new series of spectacular, 3-D printed death masks currently on display at London’s Design Museum. The technicolor masks look exoskeletal—like someone crossed the head of Alien‘s Space Jockey with a bioluminescent jellyfish. In other words: They’re completely unlike any death mask you’ve ever seen.
These otherworldly headgear are the work of designer Neri Oxman and her team at MIT’s Mediated Matter group. Oxman and her colleagues work at the intersection of biology, computational design, and fabrication. For the Vespers series, the team used fluid dynamics modeling software, colorful, translucent resins, and a high-resolution, multi-material 3-D printer to produce hues, forms, and textures that look surprisingly organic—despite the masks’ association with death.