Sunday 17 April 2011

Reflection on masks

This is is a mask I received as a gift a few years ago, a decorative mask in papier-mâché, a strange mix of Venetian and primitive masks, made by a local artist in Chicoutimi. It is on the wall of my bedroom there.

I have blogged about masks before. It is a fascinating object: used to conceal identity, to create a character, for more prosaic, functional reasons, to decorate or a mix of many functions. Even the prosaic masks, say a surgeon mask or a gas mask, can be quite sinister in the proper circumstances. A mask is an artificial layer of skin that deforms or recreates features, or erases them. When a mask is worn, as I said in my previous blog, it reveals just as much as it hides. One of my favourite comic book characters, Batman, does not wear a mask to conceal his identity: it reveals it, it shows his true nature. Batman is the real persona, Bruce Wayne is the disguise. Of course, masks have been used in fiction to play this ambiguity between hiding and revealing. Think about Eyes Wide Shut (a criminally underrated movie). Masks should be used more often in fiction, they have such an evocative power.


PJ said...

Excellent billet. Tu as raison, les masques sont sous-exploités de nos jours dans la fiction. Eyes Wide Shut m'avait inspiré les masques de Curifan à Donjon, moment où je me suis rendu compte qu'il n'y avait pas masques magiques dans la liste d'objets magiques du Guide du Maître, et que c'était quelque chose qui manquait cruellement.

On se rappelle aussi de cet excellent court dessin animé avec le diable et la vieille dame qui jouaient au domino. Une histoire de masques également...

Anonymous said...

Such excellent observations Guillaume. Having studied psychology I am amazed at the unconscious lengths we go to, to conceal our true natures at times. We all do this to a greater or lesser degree, and although we think we know someone, we only see the mask that they are willing to reveal at that particular moment.