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 credit: Yoram Reshef
In a couple of days, the Kensington High Street skyline will forever be changed by the twenty-five tonnes of Rhodesian Copper that make up the aluminium roof the new London Design Museum. The architecture itself is a marvel of design, with blonde wood panels making intricate geometries across the massive vaulted roofs. Two days before the museum’s opening, we were given a private tour by Justin McGuirk, the museum’s curator, to discover the museum’s inaugural exhibition Fear and Love - Reactions to a Complex World . The exhibition features eleven new commissions that explore both the positivities and anxieties brought about by design today. One special commission entitled Vespers, pushing the boundaries of 3D-printing technology, by creating a series of breakthrough 3D-printed death masks that bridge the gap between matter and life.
“The purpose is to defy simple readings of design. The ambition behind this is to gather a collection of ideas that represent the range of what design is today and to challenge the perception of what the audience thinks design is. Design is a complex process — this exhibition aims to connect design with the underlying issues in the world today and how designers think in today’s world” - Justin McGuirk, London Design Museum
On the cusp of the grand reopening of the London Design Museum, we sit down with Naomi Kaempfer, Creative Director for Art Fashion Design at Stratasys, and discuss their special project with Neri Oxman and the Mediated Matter Group, which serves as the culmination of the London Design Museum’s Fear and Love exhibition. Vespers is a series of boundary pushing 3D Printed death masks that explore the themes of life and death, completely data-driven while at the same time being biologically augmented. These masks explore the contrasts between past worlds and future technologies, by following the evolution of a death mask from a cultural artefact and into a functioning biological interface, even going so far as being able to capture a person’s last dying breath.
“Today it is very challenging to live a meaningful life that is at once timeless and timely. A life that is of all times, and of the time - The New Ancient Collection attempts to explore this. To create objects of art, design, and fashion, that are timeless and timely. Forcing us to answer the question of how we can bring these two things together.” - Neri Oxman, The Mediated Matter Group
Tell us about yourself and your background and your work as Creative Director for Art Fashion Design in Stratasys?
I have been working in the 3D printing industry since 2003, and pioneered some of the first projects that combined 3D printing with art and design for the consumer market. Since then, it has been my focus. I have been working as the Creative Director for Art Fashion Design with Stratasys since the beginning of 2014.
In this role, my work includes researching for creative applications, bringing novel technologies and material solutions from the 3D printing world into collaborations within the design, fashion, and art sector. We showcase new materials and 3D printing technologies, we create design collections for museums and events which highlight contemporary design, fashion, architectural innovation, concepts, and principles. The vision we translate into our art, always has a high artistic value; the art becomes a vessel for the brand and brings across the key messages of Stratasys’ technological competencies.
Tell us about your current project at the Fear and Love Exhibition at the London Design Museum?
Stratasys has collaborated with Neri Oxman and her team to create ‘Vespers’ — a series of exploratory 3D printed death masks, which are being unveiled to the public at the grand reopening of London’s Design Museum. The Vespers masks are part of a wider collection from Stratasys, entitled “The New Ancient” — which marries ancient crafts and designs of past civilisations with advanced technologies in order to reimagine design in and of the modern world. The pieces in the collection all aim to portray this theme; the way that Vespers traverses between modern, cutting-edge technologies and historical crafts is the perfect illustration of this.
For the Fear and Love Exhibition, you will be launching fifteen 3D Printed Death Masks, with five capable of re-engineering life on a microscopic level. What kind of relationship do you believe lies between, nature, art, and technology?
As Neri Oxman explains, the intersection of fields such as molecular biology, ecological engineering, robotics, design computation, and additive manufacturing are constantly blurring the boundaries — between human and machine, and between natural and designed environments — to the point where such distinctions can no longer be considered distinct. They become entangled.
How do you think 3D Printing is changing the face of art and design today?
3D printing is changing the way people think about art and design opportunities; and is increasingly being considered a valuable artistic medium. 3D printing is at the very cusp of innovation, and we are seeing a wide-ranging movement of artists who are celebrating the unprecedented concepts and creations that can be made possible with this technology. Stratasys is leading the way in this, with our unique full-colour multi-material 3D printing technology empowering artists and designers to imagine without boundaries, innovate and create unique expressions and complex designs that are often impossible to produce via other methods.
Interview by Hannah Tan