A magazine about masks

by Kitty Drake in October 2020
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Art & design Craft & making

The latest issue of Italian arts magazine Alla Carta is about masks, which makes it horribly relevant to our current moment. In the opening pages, an interesting tension is established between the idea of the mask as something which obscures the personality and humanity of its wearer; and the mask’s original function in the ancient Greek theatre, as a tool to make the audience better able to see its wearer. The first and only interview in the magazine is with Guerrino Lovato, the Venetian artisan behind the masks in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, Franco Zeffirelli’s La Traviata and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Asked what he likes about masks, Lovato’s answer is evocative:

“I like the fact that masks represent transformation and are an amplified expression of the human self and soul. A mask, if you think about it, is the accentuated characterisation of the human face. And what is a face, if not the summary of life? The mask is therefore the centre of the human being.”

It is strange to think about a mask as a distillation of everything that is most human. A few pages along, there is a photo-shoot of a cast glass mask of Jesus Christ, with exposed copper spikes for his crown of thorns and gaping holes for eyes. At first I found myself agreeing with Lovato; this mask, in its very simplicity, distils something about the essence of suffering. But at the same time that very simplicity makes it horribly inhuman, a caricature.

Another shoot, by Francesco Nazardo, pictures disembodied hands, holding iphones. It makes you think about the barriers we put between ourselves and the things around us; and whether it is ever really possible to go about the world without a mask.


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