When I left my last field module, Magical Objects, I was learning about and inspired by masks. So I used that as my springboard for my dissertation proposal research. I learnt so much from that particular module, including that traditionally masks had not been used solely as art. They have always been seen as having purpose or function within the artefacts culture or society. Some of these so called magical functions included contacting the dead or aiding the wearer in entering into spiritual realms through ritual performances. At the end of that Project I was left reflecting upon the true purposes and common uses of masks. At that stage in my research I wished to investigate where the lines had blurred from traditional use to the modern day and when did the mask lose its functional purpose within our society?
In his book John Mack discusses the ‘Art of Expression’ and sheds light on broader cultural patterns and social or personal transformations included in the act of concealing or changing one’s appearance. He argues “The Masquerade does two things: on the one hand it hides the masker, and on the other it introduces a new element, the Masquerade and what that reveals” (Mack, 1994, pg.17). One may see contemporary use of masked performance as merely something made to be appreciated for its aesthetic. This less complex use of the masquerade, compared to traditional supernatural or cultural functional uses, is more often than not how masks are used in modern day Western society; as a fashion statement or a costume accessory. However I felt my work went beyond this definition and so I wished to place myself and my work within my own context and history. Considering Mack’s argument, if the masquerade is truly about identity, the choices an artist makes within masked performance are extremely important as they become inner reflections of one’s own self. Our current subject module titled ‘Make Your Mark’ has made us focus on our creative identities. It became clear to me that I must use this channel of interest to investigate the true function and purpose of my work.
Pagan tradition and folk law have always been an interest of mine so it seemed the perfect opportunity to amalgamate this with my creative practice. Whilst doing the research for this project i have been aiming to explore fully the background underpinning the performance-based art that I am specialising in. Including masks, puppets and other similar performing objects from traditional Pagan, British folk traditions, with particular reference to authenticity, appropriation, identity and culture, in terms of the way these elements may impinge on, or enhance, the development and delivery of culturally sensitive, artistically challenging yet functionally robust performance-based masked costume. One must acknowledge how choice of dress can signify predisposed characteristics and how these choices identify an individual. Even those who try their hardest to not judge others on their outward appearance make these assumptions, therefore iconography and semiotics within costume and dress are extremely important to consider when designing. Whether to avoid offending certain sacred/ religious traditions or to correctly associate a design accurately with a particular specialist area of study. By investigating thoroughly these historical traditions I am ensuring my own work will accurately portray a desired effect whilst ensuring sound ethics. As an artist I must be conscious of every choice i make in my work, understanding the context of my designs, both of the finished product within the art realm, as well as where it fits historically within my own culture is crucial.
Having researched about traditions such as Processional figures, for example the Hooden Horse, the Mari Lwyd, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers and the Norwich Snap, I have seen that many have considerable ancestry and I feel my work could be itself a revival of these ancient traditions. By investigating folkloric processional British traditions I am able to explore their origins and determine as far as possible how much their antiquity and authenticity have a bearing on their legitimacy according to the identity of the performer, which in this case is me. I aim to try to determine whether it is important or even possible to ascertain whether certain traditional cultural practices are survivals or revivals – and whether it really matters if they are or are not. I will be looking at what point cultural artefacts become ‘traditional’ and whether cultural artistic influence is ever inappropriate.
Over all I feel like this research project has greatly helped me with all areas of my practice both academic and practical. It has been extremely beneficial to each of my separate modules, and mostly resonates with Subject’s Make Your Mark. I feel this project in contrast to my formative Constellation submission has really helped me narrow my focus toward my own practice. I now feel as though through exploring the past i have turned a critical mirror on my own work and inspired possibilities towards my final piece for our end of year exhibition. I have learnt through this project that organizing my note taking process,through the use of colour coding and creating separate documents for different academic resources means i am able to use those notes faster and more effectively. But also, separating my analysis of these texts has allowed me to understand them better. I have realised that I am very much a visual learner and due to my dyslexia I have trouble tackling large bodies of writing. By separating the texts into their own documents with different colours picking out key information i am able to recall a vague synopsis of each text from memory simply by these distinctions. My main area I still need improvement on is definitely my time management for these academic projects. I often find myself swamped by the smaugusboard of information and therefore am reluctant to settle on a specific research area or question. I feel proud that I have been able to specify my research and because of this i feel I have bettered my understanding of my own practice.