• Jessica Bellef

We all wear masks...

Updated: Jan 16

Image by Leigh Bowery

In 1994 as I watched Jim Carrey writhe and rubber-band around in the movie 'The Mask', I was very unaware that one particular quote from the film would find a way to wedge itself deep into my cerebral matter and resurface time and time again. That sticky line was "We all wear masks, metaphorically speaking", delivered by Carrey into a mirror as he imitated a dead-pan therapist he had seen on television. The depth of the line may have been lost on me as a 13 year old; I was probably more interested in Carrey's bone-dislocating approach to comedy than leaning into a biting satire of humanity. The quip sailed over my little head back then, but I feel the idea now has never been more pertinent.

Masks represent complexity. They can symbolise centuries of ritual and story telling, or they can be the product of fleeting trends and cyclic aesthetics. They can be functional, purely decorative or somewhere in between. Masks conceal the face and act as protection from physical or spiritual threats. They allow us a freedom to act outside of our norm, expressing parts of ourselves that we would otherwise keep hidden. Masks simultaneously deliver levels of anonymity and accent when they are worn, creating a 'look at me, don't look at me' dichotomy.

And here in lies the proof that we all wear masks, metaphorically speaking. It's 2019 and we live with the fact that our identities exist in very concrete ways outside of our physical self. We attend to our online personas on a daily basis through social media, often veiling the true self with careful curation, considered word play and artfully applied filters, with the hope that this presentation of the 'best self' will manifest a legion of followers and lashings of public adoration.

The word 'mask' in Latin translates to 'persona'; when it comes to our digital persona, we chuck on the mask that we think the world wants to see and we tentatively push on from the safety of the mask's flip side. We conceal elements of ourselves behind a screen, while at the same time we reveal chosen parts of our identities to audiences that span the globe; it's a beautiful paradox at play.

Mask by Studio Bertjan Pot

Mask by Paul Toupet

Image by Carlos González Ximénez

Mask by Bunnie Reiss

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