Unity of mask and body

When the mask and the body appear to be made of the same living material, the observer experiences a “click” of recognition, rather like that which one experiences with optical illusions. This effect is deeply rooted in our biology, and is even observable in animals.

Because of this, if one approaches a research of the mask with no other tool than to look for this "click" of recognition, one will make similar discoveries independent of the researcher's culture.

Children and animals will react very differently to a mask that is held in the hand, compared to when they see it placed over the face. In fact, children are hard-wired to respond to the human face from birth.

Direct, fixated eye contact with an upside-down face, for instance with one person lying on the floor while the other stands at their head looking down into their eyes, generates a bizarre, grotesque effect.

The human eye does not see in pixels. Movements have a visual quality of their own that the eye is quick to encode even before the signal reaches the brain. For instance our peripheral vision is much more sensitive to movement than it is to the object that is moving. An extreme example in nature is the frog’s eye, which cannot see a fly that is not flying, and will starve if surrounded by juicy but motionless flies.

What all this supports is the importance of trusting the eye of the outside observer when working with masks. The eye is intelligent. Enter into an open research without imposing any concepts. The eye will recognise when the performer's body has found the solution to the mask.

‹« Glossary
Jonathan Paul Cook © 2010