In Máscaras (Masks), eds. João Laia and Valentinas Klimašauskas, Galeria Municipal do Porto, Ágora – Cultura e Desporto, E.M., and Mousse Publishing.
In the early twenty-first century, a desire to extricate oneself from digital, networked media is becoming ever more popular. Long past early-twentieth-century prophecies of an emancipatory media to come and 1990s cyber-utopianisms, contemporary outlooks on the medial present and future are frequently oriented around control, stressing media as an extension of governance rather than of humanity. Artist Sean Dockray’s 2010 “Facebook Suicide (Bomb) Manifesto” succinctly expresses this sentiment: “Everyone now wants to know how to remove themselves from social networks.”[i] As Edward Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency revelations have fueled global unease over digital media’s collusion in the acceleration of state surveillance, political practices are emerging as exits from commercial and state media infrastructures. Masked protest has become one such strategy to escape. As evidenced by groups like Anonymous and the phenomenon of the black bloc, masking can defeat CCTV recordings and identification technologies such as facial recognition.
Mask making is integral to what Chicana feminist and queer theorist Gloria Anzaldúa calls haciendo caras, making faces, as “political subversive gestures” that rebel against authority.[ii] Writing from personal experience, Anzaldúa explains that to evade oppression, women of color have had to modify their faces, turning them into masks, one stacked crushingly on top of the other. For Anzaldúa, the mask is often a negative accumulation, something sharp and piercing. Masks are performative self-marking that protects but also physically restricts the body and subjectivity. To exit this bind, Anzaldúa theorizes the interface as a site of resistance between faces and masks. In the textile industry, interface is a term for material sewn between two fabrics to give support. Anzaldúa adopts this notion metaphorically to describe the interstice between masks worn as survival strategies to evade oppression and the self-determination of one’s own face. At this interface, change can happen and masks can be torn away.
[i] Sean Dockray, “Facebook Suicide (Bomb) Manifesto,” 2010, http://turbulence.org/blog/2010/05/28/idc-facebook-suicide-bomb-manifesto/.
[ii] Gloria Anzaldúa, “Haciendo cara, una entrada,” in Making Face, Making Soul / Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, ed. Gloria Anzaldúa (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1990), xv–xxvii.