This article was first printed in PETRIe 66 (2014). Part five of a five-part article.
The issue of identity permeates all that Daniel Ramos Obregon creates. Yet it took him a while to find his own. Exploring furniture design, communication design and graphic design, it was not until completing a year abroad in Sweden that Daniel discovered his love for 3D. During his recent MA collection at the London College of Fashion, Obregon presented his unique masks, which dissected our identities afresh.
In a similar way to Aldo Lanzini and The Icelandic Love Corporation, Obregon sees each piece of his Fashion Artefact collection - completed early this year - as a mask in its own right. “Masks are commonly related to the face because the face is the most direct connection between people and the world,” the artist begins, “but I wanted to mask other parts of the body.” Unique and untraditional, his masks are used to magnify: “They are not meant to cover or to hide; they are meant to show and make evident,” he explains.
Obregon’s collection of body casts, mounted onto frames and connected to the body with tanned leather or wooden handles, consciously explores the issue of identity. Beginning with philosopher Roman Kznaric’s theory of ‘Outrospection’, which explores the notion that identity is discovered through outward experiences rather than internal reflection, Obregon proceeded to study out of body experiences through his work.
As he elucidates, he chose to explore the “disassociation of the mind and the body while still being connected.” The collection, continues Obregon, is centred on “the relationship between the physical body and the mind; a metaphor of the out-of-body experience and the projection of the soul inside out.”
Taking physical casts from his own body, Obregon notes the multifaceted nature of such a metaphor: “I’m doing my own outrospection by placing my body into other people’s bodies.” Not intended to be a self-portraying work, he notes how elements of his own Columbian-born identity have inevitably crept into his collection: “The wood I used for the handles is called Columbian Kingswood. My tutors were like ‘it doesn’t make much of a difference’ - but I wanted that for myself.”
Though hoping to keep the collection “very neutral and very anonymous,” a personal story inhabits each of his masks. “The tongue cast took five attempts and it was horrible holding your tongue still for five minutes,” Obregon explains. The open eye, his final work – with its challenging cast and unorthodox moulding technique resembles something quite significant for the artist: “A bit of self-realisation; of, ‘oh I’ve come so far.’”
In asking the question: “How can an artefact represent the connection between mind and body?” Obregon had no idea that neither he nor the mask held the answer. As he admits: “In the end, it was the actual material that was more insightful.” The porcelain used to create the masks had an identity of its own: “The slip is like liquid so you can mould it into whatever you want, but once it goes solid, it is so strong and very difficult to shape. Like one’s identity - you are shaping and then you have clarity of who you are.”
Considering the fragility of the material and the ease with which it can break, he adds: “If something happens, you become something completely different. It’s a very poetic resemblance to the project I was dealing with.”
Prepared to be moulded by the next opportunity life throws at him, Obregon believes the issue of identity will remain central to his work: “There are so many ways you feel about yourself, your identity, how you project yourself to other people or how you think you do - and they may see you differently.”
An artist’s search for identity may take many forms, shapes and characters; whether expressing a certain part of the mind, obscuring the body from view or creating an entirely new identity. For now, at least, the mask continues to take centre stage.
Archive: PETRIe INVENTORY 66
Words: Elizabeth Neep
Photography: Daniel Lehenbauer