Masks. Whether physical or otherwise, have always been a part of humankind’s multi-faceted cultures, and also a part of life itself.
Every day we use masks of one form or another, whether we recognise this fact or not, as a means of projection and / or as a means to try to shape how others perceive us (for example: the manner in which we project ourselves at work, is not the same as how we present ourselves among family; who we are in courtship is not necessarily reflective of who we are going to be in marriage, and so on).
We use these masks so subconsciously, that the majority of times we’re not really aware of them. Even when we are alone, we will often adopt and outlook or frame of mind to mask the anxieties and fears that might otherwise plague us. However, there is another way we use masks: to hide that which we do not wish to see. Whether it is the homeless man asleep on a park bench or the images of war and strife on the television or those fears the come upon us in the night, we mask them out out by focusing our attention elsewhere in the park or in the room or in our thoughts, so we are no longed plagued by what we are seeing / thinking.
It is these latter uses of masks – the tuning out, the looking elsewhere, and on on – that Milena Carbone uses as the central theme to her latest exhibition, called simply Masks, and which is currently open within her personal gallery space at the Carbone Gallery.
I wanted to explore our relationship to the mask, an object that dates back to the beginnings of time mankind … to ask the question of the masks that we do not see as masks; what hides our sight, our anxieties, our fears, ours disgusts; what hides the real that we do not wish to see.
Offering a series of nine images (together with support texts and quote) in the minimalist style that Milena executes so well, Masks explores our subconscious use of masks and projection in a manner that is both stark and richly nuanced, each with layers of narrative to be peeled away.
For my part, I found myself drawn to The Tyranny of Truth, with its triple layering of ideas of courtship, the manner in which “truth” can be used as means to enforce authoritarianism (look at the stance of the figure in white), or an inconvenience to be denied, shied away from (the attitude of the masked figure), together with We’re Fictions and Burned Out.
These latter two in particular framed – and to me – the ideas that whether we are aware of it or not, we frame ourselves in so many masks we risk losing ourselves within fictional projections and that when all has been peeled away of the masks in which we shroud ourselves, nought by a shell of whom we might have been remains. In this, We’re Fictions and Burned Out brought to mind two further quotes which might also frame this exhibition along with the Banksy quote (itself a variation on Wilde’s more famous comment on masks) Milena uses with the exhibition, and those quotes are:
You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.
– Alan Moore
We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.
– André Berthiaume
Masks is a carefully understated exhibition that actually has a lot to say.
Masks – The Carbone Studio (Woiler, rated Moderate)