Vespers is a collection of masks exploring what it means to design (with) life. From the relic of the death mask to a contemporary living device, the collection embarks on a journey that begins with an ancient typology and culminates with a novel technology for the design and digital fabrication of adaptive and responsive interfaces. We begin with a conceptual piece and end with a tangible set of tools, techniques and technologies combining programmable matter and programmable life.
The project points towards an imminent future where wearable interfaces and building skins are customized not only to fit a particular shape, but also a specific material, chemical and even genetic make-up, tailoring the wearable to both the body and the environment which it inhabits.
Imagine, for example, a wearable interface designed to guide ad-hoc antibiotic formation customized to fit the genetic makeup of its user; or, consider smart packaging or surface coatings devices that can detect contamination; finally, consider environmentally responsive architectural skins that can respond to, and adapt—in real time—to environmental cues. Research at the core of this project offers a new design space for biological augmentation across a wide breadth of application domains, leveraging resolution and scale.
The collection includes three series. The first series features the death mask as a cultural artifact. The final series features a living mask as an enabling technology. The second series mediates between the two, marking the process of "metamorphosis" between the ancient relic and its contemporaneous interpretation. The living masks in the final series embody habitats that guide, inform and "template" gene expression of living microorganisms. Such microorganisms have been synthetically engineered to produce pigments and/or otherwise useful chemical substances for human augmentation such as vitamins, antibodies or antimicrobial drugs. Combined, the three series of the Vespers collection represent the transition from death to life, or from life to death, depending on one’s reading of the collection.