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An anecdote and an examination
Doubling as Myself
The man I was seeing had a small son who went through a phase of referring to me as a witch. My good humor was wearing thinner with each weekend visit. It was October, sputtering sleet outdoors, and Halloween meant costumes that could be managed with big overcoats, hats and boots, for kids Trick-or-Treating and for grown-ups getting to parties. We agreed the grown-ups would go with masks only: our friend, Jerry, would wear the rubber gorilla mask, which, in other years, “went with” his buy-one-get-one wedding dress; Steve had a hard plastic Frankenstein mask that fit underneath his everyday cap; and I had to come up with something. It was obvious to me, if not to the others—just what kind of witch was I?
I too was in a phase those days—a self-portrait phase—and for reference, I had made a plaster-bandage mold of my face. The more I thought about witches, the more intrigued I became with the dichotomy of the witch and the innocent, one hidden within the other. A mask is possibly the ultimate metaphor, the second skin: I would go as myself—a tad contrast-heightened for night-time viewing.
The night’s Trick-or-Treators trickled out early, the sitter showed up, and the guys had their coats on. I came downstairs wearing my mask—our maiden voyage— “For gods’ sake, Mae-gret, put on a hat.” Steve said.
My yellow beret arranged atop and hair just so, covering the cast-paper edge of my mask, I was set to go out, when four-year-old Aaron came running at me full steam, yelling, “What is it!”
I said, in the calm, reasoned tone of my expressionless mask, “Aaron, I thought I would go as myself.”
Then the hammering high and hard as he could reach with his little fists, a kind of hug to assure it was me inside the mask, and punishment, too, for a grown-up world when it isn’t right, “Take it off!”
An Examination with Christine Laffer
C. L: Finally finding words that begin to open the Selfie out from a singular social configuration. It still ties to the self-portrait but goes further, branching off in ways that the self-portrait would not. I found a way via philosophy because that is how I encounter new thoughts aside from my time at the loom or when drawing. Here is a rough map….
Simulacra— images that appear to convey reality based on appearance but are based on a system of differences rather than sameness. The simulacrum is artificial (does not attempt to be true to reality) and does not pretend to be an exact copy, in fact relies on distortion.
M.S: I am making theater/film/ photography connections like: suspension of disbelief, smoke-and-mirrors, illusion (magic tricks rely on distortion—a sophisticated understanding of perception which allows it to be manipulated via its natural consequence, distortion); and, relating to portraits and Selfies, I’m thinking about automatons, puppets, wax figures… effigy figures, fascinating because they arouse emotional responses in humans, while clearly being fake. These representations might look convincing, but they wouldn’t smell like people. (How many of the senses are applied in determining distortion?) I like to read about the history of photography, especially how it cross-fertilized with other arts, because the nature of perception (and distortion) is acted out so concretely in the stories of those early experiments.
There is an art history term, which I have lost—it means the phenomenon of one medium imitating the formal attributes of another medium. An example is when pottery was made to look like woven basketry. This occurs when the imitative medium is in its nascent stages and has not yet developed its own formal vocabulary. The change in medium would be an obvious distortion (one could not kiln-fire a basket—for long), although the resemblance would also be obvious. ? morph?? This concept relates to the historical orders of simulacra.
next: automatons, stuck in the mirror, me and my selfie, definitions, the uncanny valley, symmetries—why weave?