London’s Design Museum reopens this Thursday the 24th November and, as additive manufacturing giants Stratasys have an art commission featured in the opening exhibit, 3DPI were invited along to an exclusive preview of Fear and Love.

The opening to London Design Museum's inaugural Fear and Love exhibit. Image via: Luke Hayes

The opening to London Design Museum’s inaugural Fear and Love exhibit. Image via: Luke Hayes

Stratasys art, design and fashion director Naomi Kaempfer, commissioned MIT researcher and designer Neri Oxman to create a series of works for her ongoing project The New Ancient – the concept being to create an interaction between the past, present and future through the use of technology. Previously, Oxman has helped in developing technology to 3D print with glass at MIT, though for this commission she has returned to using plastic. In the Vespers installation (named so after the evening prayers of select orthodox, Catholic and Anglican religions) Oxman interprets the ‘New Ancient’ brief through a collection of fifteen 3D printed death masks, historically created as mementos of the dead.

The Stratasys Vespers installation at the London Design Museum. Image via: Luke Hayes

The Stratasys Vespers installation at the London Design Museum. Image via: Luke Hayes

The mask shapes came about as an attempt to visualize a way of capturing someone’s last breath – and each one can hold up to 500ml of air. They were also created to show-off the color capabilities of Stratasys’ J750 and Connex printers. In order to get such a broad spectrum of color Oxman worked with a team of engineers at Stratasys to translate computed color into its physical, brilliant equivalent. For the latter row of masks, subtitled Rebirth, she also worked with biologists from the Wyss Institute in order to create color that is reactive to e.coli bacteria. In her introduction to the piece Oxman highlighted how in the breaking-down of the body, it is full of living bacteria, going on to say that:

Death is actually the time when we are most alive.

The masks are very other-worldly in their appearance, not dissimilar to Alien and Predator races of the sci-fi film franchise, though all are intended as representations of fictional martyrs, taking inspiration from the world’s real martyrs with one having a vague iteration of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

In terms of 3D printing technology however, this commission actually encouraged Stratasys to improve their printers. As Kaempfer stated at the event, many of their printers had to be converted from 32 to 64-bit memory to account for the sheer size of the death mask design files.

Beyond Stratasys’ Vespers installation, the Fear and Love exhibition explores many other areas of technology for design, including a ‘sentient’ robotic arm titled Mimus, programmed to respond to visitors by artist Madeline Gannon with the support of Autodesk. Intel also have a collaboration in the event with Hussein Chalayan’s Room Tone – image based software that reacts to readings of a person’s stress levels recorded by specially designed eyewear. Another expected feature is an installation interrogating Britain’s exit from Europe. As curator Justin McGuirk commented when commencing our private tour of the Design Museum:

Fear and Love is a title that has become increasingly relevant in the events of 2016.

Entrance to the new Design Museum. Image via: Beau Jackson for 3DPI

Entrance to the new Design Museum. Image via: Beau Jackson for 3DPI

The London Design Museum opens 24th November 2016.

Featured image shows VESPERS, Mask 3, Series 2, 2016. Designed by Neri Oxman and her team as part of “The New Ancient” Collection by STRATASYS and 3D Printed on a Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer. Photo via: Yoram Reshef 

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