Kristina Cranfeld's masks amplify or distort facial expressions

Kristina Cranfeld amplifies and distorts facial expressions with Ownership of the Face masks

Istanbul Design Biennial 2014: London artist Kristina Cranfeld has created a series of masks that exaggerate different facial features, and a fictional training guide for exercising facial expressions (+ movie).

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Airhostess Training Tool. Photograph by Zhanna Bobrakova

Working on the premise that facial expressions and body language define social interactions, Royal College of Art graduate Kristina Cranfeld developed her Ownership of the Face project to highlight how this can be exploited for commercial gain.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Airhostess Training Tool. Photograph by Tomas Valenzuela Biejer

"Ownership of the Face is a speculative narrative, where the human face is an artefact that is highly commercialised and manipulated by external forces," said Cranfeld, who is presenting the project as part of the Istanbul Design Biennial 2014.

"The project portrays the future, where facial expressions of the workforce are exploited purely for corporate needs and to advertise a strong and successful company image," she explained.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld

The devices she has created include a pair of magnifying glasses designed for an air hostess. They force the wearer to smile – a response expected from airline staff.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Media Mask. Photograph by Tomas Valenzuela Biejer

There is also a mask featuring three zips, allowing the wearer to hide or reveal different parts of the face. "This plays on the contradiction that the media undermines individualism in creating depersonalised, yet perfect, human products," said Cranfeld.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Digital Uniform Mask. Photograph by Zhanna Bobrakova

The Digital Uniform Mask comprises a digital screen that can be worn in front of the mouth. Making use of real-time technology, it allows the wearer to edit and improve their appearance.

"It removes individual identity and creates ultimately beautified characteristics," said the designer.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Digital Uniform Mask. Photograph by Tomas Valenzuela Biejer

The final adornments, known as the Deformation Masks, offers a full distortion of the face through a series of colourful textiles that can be extended outwards to create new facial features.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Deformation Mask. Photograph by Zhanna Bobrakova

"These masks give power back to individuals to express their personalities," explained Cranfeld. "The masks bring attention to the notion that we have reached a point where, without this intervention, we can no longer take control over our own face."

In addition to the masks, Cranfeld has produced a short film intended as a training guide, to demonstrate how to perform a variety of facial expressions that might be expected in the workplace.

Ownership of the Face by Kristina Cranfeld
Deformation Mask. Photograph by Tomas Valenzuela Biejer

"Ownership of the Face raises empathic concerns of workers to increase our cultural awareness of social standards and attitudes, and thereby bringing about positive changes to our working environments," added the designer.

Cranfeld, who was born in Uzbekistan and now lives in London, developed Ownership of the Face as her graduation project from the BA Design course at London's Goldsmiths university.