Masking: Subliminal Tricks
the art of posing:
what the eye gets, in other words
how the world is refracted/ reflected back
The use of the mask both subverts identity and draws attention to it.
To remove one’s face is an intensely personal act, the body becomes a mirror offering back in many ways the norms and cultural neuroses of the times.
“Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish lifting up all these faces.”
The mask is the “escape valve.” It plays as a child does with the notion of singularity, of unity, of wholeness. In adults, the mask signals a break with normalcy. It’s a signal, a cipher that notes the movement from expectation to realization from the world of the real to the world of the unreal; the mask creates a bridge. The elaborate display of the body enacts first and foremost the promise of the elaborate display of the narrative, of the action and of the imaginary world.
The body is intimate and vulnerable, offered up for sacrifice. The body is armed and hidden at the same time, layered in costume and personas, so that the true identity can never be pinpointed. It reveals by hiding. The “world” of the body becomes a theatrical display. As such, the promise of the body is one of pleasure, one of entertainment even in moments of discomfort and disgust.
The self is flexible. It is the quality of the illusion that counts. To be indebted to an “other” is less important than the act of embodying the mask. The mask is a tacit agreement between the wearer and the viewer; it promises to excite and the viewer in turn promises to enact the role of awarding attention, be it positive or negative. It is an art of seeing and then an act of choice in the gaze or the refusal to participate.
“feminists have used self-images to describe a gender specific phenomenon” –Joan Rivéres “Womanliness as a Masquerade”
Aggression contained within the personal odyssey.
Vulgarity is a display, a language mask that provides a barrier while also signaling what is inclusive and who is excluded. The adoption of racial slurs and sexist epithets draws a line between the user and the other, and it includes those who are willing to trespass. It handles the uncomfortable, and it abuses the standards by which any “body” of people decides what is acceptable in language. Aggression shaped by language and enacted in language allows the mask to remain armed. It accepts into it the rite of a culture of aggression and attempts to contain it, in the same way that the mask and rites of mourning and funeral practices attempt to contain grief.
“it’s a subtle abyss that separates men’s use of women for sexual titillation from women’s use of women to expose that insult” -Lucy Lippard, “Scattering Selves”
If we accept this as true, then we must also ask what is subtle and who defines the edges of the abyss from the actual descent into it, and also in bounding holes, who guards the borders.