The Mask as a Gesture
Before you throw your old bedsheets: cut a line the length of your face. Hang your bedsheets with a single fold. Place your head inside the opening. Move forward and back so as to slowly pull down the sheets.
Make a plaster mold of your face. Make a cast of the mold. Hang them both in an empty room, at average eye-level.
The aim of epic theatre is alienation, distancing, de-familiarization. The audience is not asked to suspend their disbelief. On the contrary, they must recognize being in the theatre to develop opinions and reactions on what they see, hear, experience. Epic theatre, in that sense, does not pretend to be reality on stage, or the platform to reproduce the world. It refuses realism and recognizes the distance between reality and its representation. To quote Walter Benjamin in his writings on Epic Theatre in Understanding Brecht: “Epic theatre does not reproduce situations, but rather reveals them.” “Epic theatre, which depends on interruption, is quotable in a very specific sense. The gestures used in the process of acting [must become] quotable.” “The actor must show the event by showing herself; and she shows herself by showing the event. She must be free, at the right moment, to act herself thinking (about her part).”
I chose then, to quote my face, to interrupt its action by making a cast of it. The outcome is the extraction of a specific facial gesture. The mask, silicone and detailed replica of my face presents myself to myself at a distance. Here, above me, hangs a frozen moment in time of my physical features. This replica of my face I can look at as a three-dimensional object, from a distance, and from close. I get to, for the first time look at it from the side, from the top, from below, from inside.
My nose is to me the most obvious feature, the one that holds my insecurities, my pride, my kindness and my anger. I was twelve years old when my mother first suggested I went for plastic surgery to improve my physical appearance. ‘You can remove the lower hanging bit between the nostrils’… ‘or maybe just hatch the bumpy bone at the top to make it more straight’. Of course my mother only meant well, she was letting me know there was the option for me to change my physical appearance if I felt uncomfortable or ashamed. She was letting me know that she would be willing to pay for such an operation out of care for my self-esteem. Funnily enough, this did not make me love my face any bit more. But I felt so insulted and surprised by this suggestion that I became angry against it. From that moment on, I had to fight for my nose. The nose of my father, of my Arabness, of my ambiguity. 37