There is a place up North, where masquerades are not that popular; maybe, because people wear masks everyday. Those masks are very tight. So much so they become second skin …
The suspension of the socio-moral order through masquerades up until modern times unmasked the truth that order was as suspendible as any convention.
What happens during the Carnival cannot or can be used against you.
You never know.
That is the thrill.
The carnival mask lets you be who you are. The mask lets you be who you are not. Je est un autre (Rimbaud). This modern freedom found in “I is someone else” is the ultimate gesture of masking. Is it necessary to choose between the I (je) and the other (autre)?
Enjoy yourself! Forget yourself.
The mask is not a representation, it is a screen, and many superimposed masks are displayed onto it as well as unexplored unconscious desires (Freud). It is you who fills in the ‘inner emptiness’ of a mask (Deleuze).
There is no Darth Vader without the mask.
In a society there are always masks before the face. “The masks do not hide anything except other masks” (Deleuze). There might not be the original mask - the face.
Your carnival mask can cover some things for you. With the mask you can uncover some things for the world. Have fun!
Masks inside masks inside masks inside masks… Some are theirs and some - yours. A Russian nesting-doll situation: only ever worked to the advantage of the “Russians”. Is it the old bourgeois or the new super-rich technocrats with their algorithmic realities who are in power to superimpose masks and to entangle everyone and everything in moral techno-orders of their devising?
Try the mask on. Look through the eyeholes. Doesn’t life look different?
But the mask doesn’t allow for mere observation, the mask pulls you in. The situation is your own, but you are the other. If you put on a mask for a disguise, inevitably you allow the mask to use the masks within you.
Choose at least a mask you want. Choose at least this mask - prosthesis, a technological body-extension: your advanced, bettered, cyborg face. Only the cyborg mask can be an ally in fighting the system. The continuous carnival might be a war.
Since the art begins at two meters as Benjamin wryly remarks, everything that comes close to the viewer, to their body, is kitsch. So is the mask.
We still live “in kitsch” (following Benjamin, the great guide in (un)masking), in times of eternal dealings with (trans)modernity and its sacrosanct variations: colonization, enlightenment, civilization, industrialization, modern art, modern war, etc., masks among masks.
The carnival is not anymore an exceptional respite from order. The eternal carnival became a reality of the 1%, and a virtual reality, a promise just behind the corner, but beyond reach, for the rest.
The virtual is the real; the masks are all there is.
What could the carnival mask do now? It could suspend more than time or identity. “The primal fact of the mask” is the opening of possibilities - “the masks of our fate” (Benjamin). The carnival mask has this primordial power, to reintegrate and reconnect the unconscious parts of life. In the way that all the technological, digital, virtual, cyborgization, are expressions of life, the cyborg can reconnect with nature.
The carnival mask might be a cyborg and a hybrid between art and kitsch. Benjamin sees a mask as a “space to figure the fate within”. Art can change fate. Are you ready?
* Agata Mergler