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The Mask

by on November 30, 2012

From studying Commedia Del’Arte, an interest in masks evoked and i’ve chosen this sinister looking Noh Theatre Japanese mask from the RAMM Museum as my performing object.

Masks really bridge a gap between humans and objects. It’s difficult to say whether audiences can relate or empathise with a masked a character. Their autonomy is questionable, as even though the movements and bodily parts uncovered are free moving and up to the wearer, the mask that hides their facial expressions is also hiding their ability to relate with the audience, especially when thinking of Freud’s theory of finding the eyes as a gateway to a persons soul.

Commedia Dell’Arte uses masks to assert certain recognisable characters, establishing a role with the audience that they would be familiar with and take humour from. The Commedia Dell’Arte characters often have set and heightened physicalitys in order to express their characters effectively as they only have the fixed facial expression of the mask to rely upon. In looking into Noh Theatre, many of the Japanese masks were made and gave way to buffoonery, however, whilst researching on website i came across this statement:

“In 1647 the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (the Shogun was the Japanese military ruler) ordered that no variations were allowed in Noh performance. At that time stage directions were written down, costumes and masks were clearly defined and actors were allocated fixed positions on stage.”

This seemed to be an ultimate detraction of agency. The mask in itself was making an object out of the human.Ultimately, this example adheres to “Jonson’s fundamental fear: the utter evacuation of the self, of character, of identity.” Whilst an audience may enjoy this type of performance, their reaction would be different in comparison to if they were watching a play of uncovered performers. Whilst watching these masked characters may seem a commodity,they’re truth and sincerity is hidden beneath a fixed expression. An actor has become an object for the audience, their performance doesn’t hold any subjectivity that the spectators can connect with, rather their character is fixed and has only one objective – to represent the expression (or lack of) they were given.

Japanese Noh Theatre Mask pre-1920’s

[Do we reference these blogs? I didn’t have time to go to the RAMM Museum because of Staging the Text (no excuse), I took this postcard from the website and i also don’t know what the questionnaire was? Have i done it wrong? God have mercy]

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