We never get to see ourselves the way others see us, not in 3D and with our facial features “on the right side”. Not all of us have the privilege to see ourselves in what scientists call a true mirror. The closest we ever get to our true face is in form of a mask. And I am not talking about the kind of “neutral” plastic mask that you’d use in theatre.
A couple of weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, artist Allun Turner took a mask of my face in Emmy Horstkamp‘s studio. Later we cloned it. Now both the mold — which can be used for what seems like endless clones – and my head are ready to go one step further. We were several people there, working on masks for various creative projects. Once again, I was impressed by the collaborative atmosphere in the Munich Artists group. Beyond the mask for my project with Emmy, this was an unexpected chance to meet creative people living in Munich — like writer and artist Kristina Jordan — who enjoy sharing their passion for art.
Have you ever had the entire surface of your face gradually covered into something that is both wet and soothing? To some extent it is like putting on a regular facial mask, except that you are not in control of the process, and you’re not leaving anything out. After I applied vaseline on my skin and covered my hair, Allun and I sat in front of each other on two chairs. I gradually felt how he first covered my chin and my mouth in plaster, then my cheeks, my eyes, and eventually my nose, minus — to some extend — my nostrils.Then we sat there for some time and waited for the mask to dry before he took it off.
During this time, I could not talk, blink, or smile. Through the open door, I could hear the pouring rain, as well as Kristina and Emmy laughing and taking pictures inside the studio. I could hear them blowing the dryer over their “faces”. I could hear everything but I could not smile, I could not laugh. I was behind my mask, but it didn’t feel like I was hiding in-there. I just could not put up the face that the world is most used to see: a smiling, bubbly, positive person. It felt good to be in that kind of silence. Everyone should get to experience such silence. As Allun pointed it, having your plaster mask taken is like meditation. Once you get used to the procedure, you can apply your own mask. You can use this tutorial.
Or better yet, if you live in the greater Munich area, why not contact Allun? He will make you feel relaxed and comfortable throughout this unique experience.
Emmy and I had talked about how to decorate various masks to illustrate the characters in my story On Death for our collaboration. Even though we did not get to develop as many masks as we had initially planned for our project, the first mask of my face (before cloning it) did end up inside the Wall. I passed by Odeonsplatz last night and it was strange to see it there, behind a glass window. It was also last night that I got my “entire head” back from Allun. Once it’s dry, I’ll polish it some more, and turn it into a character for one of my new short stories.
We rarely get to see ourselves as we really are. Sometimes, as writers, we get to explore different versions of ourselves through our characters. Now that I have learnt the basics of making masks, I feel inspired to keep taking masks of various people, decorate them, and allow them to become starting points for new cravings, new characters. I feel inspired to relive the special kind of silence I felt when someone else casted a mask of my face, on a rainy afternoon. If you’re feeling stuck when working on a story, try unblocking it with a mask.