Instrumental and Symbolic

June 15, 2008

Masks are all around us. Today I was thinking to myself, what makes a mask. What is a mask? What is it for basically? I mean consider these two examples…




Obviously these masks seem very different and yet they’re both masks. It seems to me they represent the two large categories of masks… instrumental and symbolic. Masks ultimately exist either to protect the face or to allow us to take on another identity… to evoke a spirit if you will or to transform…

Of course it can’t be that simple… a mardi gras mask may let one loosen social restraints and take on a “wild” identity, but in some ways doesn’t a medical mask do the same? By placing the guard we are protecting ourselves from germs or protecting others from our germs and yet aren’t we transforming our identity when we wear the mask? Are we not becoming the sick or becoming the authority of doctor, of medical professional? So in a way it seems to me that even instrumental masks have symbolic functions.

Why are masks so haunting? So frightening and compelling?

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One Response to “Instrumental and Symbolic”

  1. Austin Says:

    I’m glad you posted the link to your new blog. 🙂 I really wish I had something interesting and intellectual to say about masks… the mask I own is a sleeping mask. I only use it when I find it, and that’s maybe every six months; I use it for MAYBE two nights only to find it on the floor in the morning. Then I put it away in a tucked-away spot (code words for hiding it from myself). That’s the only mask we have in the house… unless maybe you count masking expressions…

    Hope you’re having a great weekend!


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