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‘Rottlace’ masks for Björk by the Mediated Matter Group / MIT Media Lab

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Designed by the Mediated Matter Group in collaboration with Stratasys and inspired by her most recent album—Vulnicura, The Rottlace (“skinless” in Icelandic) is a series of masks for Björk, exploring the themes associated with self-healing and expressing ‘the face without a skin.’ The series originates with a mask that emulates Björk’s facial structure and concludes with a mask that reveals a new identity, independent of its origin.

The designs are informed by the geometrical and material logics that underlie the human musculoskeletal system; specifically, the complex structure of muscles, connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments that modulate the human voice. This continuous weave of dense collagen fibers form functional ‘typologies’ of connections: muscle-to-bone, bone-to-bone, and muscle-to-muscle. As in the human body, where continuous, collagenous elements alter their chemical and mechanical properties as a function of the tension they exert or endure, each mask is designed as a synthetic ‘whole without parts.’ The masks incorporate tunable physical properties recapitulating, augmenting, or controlling the facial form and movement behind them. Inspired by their biological counterpart, and conceived as ‘muscle textile,’ the masks are bundled, multi-material structures, providing formal and structural integrity, as well as movement, to the face and neck.

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One of the masks from the series was selected for Björk’s stage performance at the Tokyo Miraikan Museum, and 3D printed by Stratasys using multi-material printing. Rottlace is printed as a single, multi-functional material system, composed of rigid materials combined with nano-enhanced, elastomeric structures. The intricate tissue is printed using soft and flexible materials designed to accommodate facial movement. These are computationally generated as modified principal curvature directions of Björk’s facial scan—obtained as point cloud data—while the bone-like behave as support structure at points of high divergence from the principal curvature field.

Mediated Matter researchers include Christoph Bader, Dominik Kolb and Prof. Neri Oxman.

Project Page | Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab

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↑ Visualisations on the human body of the final, selected and refined mask designs. Each mask comprises over 20000 individual fibers with varying material properties in stiffness and translucency.

↑ Objects 3D printed with material-gradients allowing for graded modulus variations in a range from 1MPa to 1GPa. Our method allows for volumetric modulus gradients over arbitrarily complex geometric domains utilizing a variety of heterogeneous material modelling methods and mappings.


↑ Design variations for the Rottlace mask series, employing the generative system to rapidly create variations from which a final design was selected and refined.

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↑ Bjork wearing Rottlace mask during live performance in the Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Tokyo). Rottlace (2016) designed by the Mediated Matter Group in collaboration with Stratasys Ltd. Photo: Santiago Felipe