Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Gillian Wearing Masks

Wearing questions how much we can determine about someone's personality by looking at a person's face and facial expressions. She makes a point to show that the face does indeed determine one's personality. In "Self-Portrait 2000", Wearing takes a photo of herself wearing a mask. It is intended to be deliberately misleading because one cannot establish what she wishes to express. The use of the masks is not a new phenomenon; the photo is an allusion to Oscar Wilde's The Truth of Masks, whereby he explains that the mask conceals, yet allows for more. In fact, one may be more truthful through the use of a disguise.
Wearing exploits this idea in "Trauma", where she allows people to choose a mask and confess on video. Through the concealment of people's identities (with only the eyes showing), her subjects talk about things that they normally wouldn't. It is unnerving to see tragic and depressing stories told through dispassionate masks. At the same time, however, the mask is liberating in a sense, because it allows the people to say what they want, and not what others want them to say.

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