On tricksters and masks

Tricksters and masks share an interesting relationship. The trickster archetype surfaced throughout the entire human history. You have Hermes and Promotheus in ancient Greece, Tanuki in Japanese mythology, Saci in Brazilian folklore and Coyote in Native American mythology, to name but a few. One of the things they have in common is that they have no way of their own. Most species on earth have a certain way of doing things. Let’s talk about that by collecting some examples of how species create their homes.

Many types of birds make a nest in a tree out of twigs that fell from the tree. Termites work their entire lives, building mounds, tall standing strong cathedrals hosting millions of residents. The bee colony builds a hive out of a beautiful mathematical structure. Penguins collect in a dense crowd on the centre of the south pole, for several months in almost complete darkness and enormous coldness. The cuckoo uses the home of another bird, the mothers drop off their eggs in another birds nest, to let her chick be raised by a non-consensual-foster-parent. Turtles, snails and crabs carry their home on their body. Amongst many others, worms, rabbits and moles live in burrows and tunnels underground. Humans usually buy or rent a home, which is mostly build by other humans, out of concrete or wood. Humans also systematically map and register their homes, with numbers and names. Many times a home houses smaller homes. Such as small cavities or dark corners inside the human home, in which a spider cobs a web or a bat builds a nest.

Trickster doesn’t have their specific own type of home. They are known for being aimless wanderers anyway. But if they would live somewhere, they would rather be living in another species’ home. Stealing that home, taking over, or to make the host of the home belief they should make a bet with them in trade of their home. That’s just some of their ways-of-having-no-way. Another method they use is mimicry. Cuckoo’s use mimicry too, some let their eggs look a lot like the eggs of their host-bird so that they won’t recognize them and kick them out. That’s a real sneaky trick. Trickster would like that, and do something similar. They could mimic another species' way of making a home, if that would gain them any kind of benefit (food, shelter, joy, etc). They even would try to become that species, to shape shift completely into it. The joyful part for us, their spectator, is that they are very clever to do such things, but also have a very dumb side. They often fail their elegant attempts in some kind of humorous way (they are also shameless).

The nice thing about trickster is that they are shapeshifters in any way possible. Not only can they, as written in myths and legends, physically mask themselves by changing their physical appearance from a man to a woman or an animal to a human, also do they change the appearance of their behavior from shy to arrogant, from acting like a bird or a snake. That made me think about how trickster actually is continuously wearing a mask. I wonder who they are behind that ever changing mask. I can’t think of something, they seem to never be themselves. They seem to not-be. Don’t advice trickster to ‘just be yourself’. They are always acting, doing ‘as if’, pretending, mimicking, deceiving. Somehow they can’t take their mask off. Thats why instead of instead of wearing a mask I would say that they are a mask.

* Bernice Nauta (1991, NL) often collaborates with characters in the artist’s quest for identity and authorship in a world where reality and fiction are intertwined in a promiscuous dance. With them she builds webs of antagonistic perspectives. The specific properties ofcharacters and fiction is what interests her, they reflect and speculate on reality, at thesame time they are very true and honest.