They say that in every breath of fresh air we take, there are molecules exhaled by Jesus, Cleopatra, or Julius Caesar in their dying breath. In a very physical way, we live amongst the spirits, and they live amongst us. Lazarus is a mask designed to contain the wearer’s last breath. This was the precursor—a kernel—for a larger collection of masks, entitled Vespers, speculating on, and offering a new interpretation of, the ancient death mask.
Traditionally made of a single material, such as wax or plaster, the death mask originated as a means of capturing a person’s visage, keeping the deceased ‘alive’ through memory. Lazarus serves as an ‘‘air urn’’ memento that is a new form of 3D printed portraiture, combining the wearer’s facial features while serving as a spatial enclosure for their last breath. The mask’s surface is modeled after the face of the dying person, and its material composition is informed by the physical flow of air and its distribution across the surface. Unlike its traditional hand-made analogue, the design of Lazarus is entirely data driven, digitally generated, and additively manufactured. It approaches the resolution of the physical phenomenon that it is designed to capture, thereby creating a unique artifact that is perfectly customized to fit the wearer and her last breath.
The New Ancient collection produced by Stratasys, a 3D printing company, marries ancient crafts and designs of past civilizations with advanced technologies to reimagine design in and of the modern world. Created for this collection Vespers expresses the intertwining of Fear and Love through the continuity of death and life. Vespers ‘masks’ five imaginary martyrs. Each martyr is memorialized three times, through sequential interpretations at three different moments: the past, the present, and the future.