By applying the stretched nylon costumes in this series, the artist removes the models’ specificity, and the form of the mask takes on the bodily — denying overt signifiers of race, gender or social standing. While conceptually hinting at the capacity for invention or performance in our daily conversations with notions of identity — both our own and those around us — freed from the fixity of judgement or prejudice. The multi-coloured and theatrical costumes operationalise Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin’s language of the carnivalesque, reinforced in the sense of community evident in the “We” of the exhibition’s title. Ogunbanwo finds conceptual traction in the carnival’s extraction of “all individuals from non-carnival life, and because there are no hierarchical positions during carnival, ideologies which manifest the mind of individuals cannot exist (Bakhtin, 1941)".
While this series is most striking, and even garish in some senses, it risks shifting into mere totemic representation of the key themes the artist is focused on. The series does, however, signal a strong move into a freer and more spontaneous capture. In its focus on the spectacle, We Must Not Be Looking is a first step in a new direction, I look forward to such future loosening and expansion of the artist’s controlled oeuvre, known for its careful specificity.
We must not be looking
Solo exhibition by Lakin Ogunbanwo
Ends 18 March
Images courtesy the Artist and WHATIFTHEWORLD