Putting a mask on the body

Xcèntric Archive

In connection with his exhibition "The Mask Never Lies", Servando Rocha tells us that masks were originally conceived as magical objects that could arouse the otherness dwelling within the depths of our bodies. For this occasion, the Xcèntric Archive has brought together experimental films that transform the public image of the body through performative actions and masks. Like filmic rituals, the following cineastes manipulate, conceal and challenge our interpretation of a single, homogenising body, making it disappear.

Flux Film #37, Mike Parr & Peter Kennedy, 1970, US, 1’32”.

A man tries to hide from the camera's gaze. Bit by bit, he creates a manual fade out by concealing his image using sheets of tracing paper stuck onto the lens.

Trypps Number 6 (Malobi), Ben Russell, 2009, US, 12’.

Ben Russell's vision draws on the fascination with shamanism and primitivism of mid-20th century ethnographic cinema.  In Trypps Number 6 we witness, in a single take, a contemporary ritual of the inhabitants of the Maroon village of Malobi (Suriname, South America).

10/65 Selbstverstümmelung, Kurt Kren, 1965, Austria, 5’19”.

Recording of a performance by Günter Brus, a key figure in the development of Viennese Actionism. A thick layer of white plaster becomes the mouldable flesh of a writhing, howling body.

Neurodermitis, Kerstin Cmelka, 1998, Austria, 2’.

The skin as a casing. In this simple action, Kerstin Cmelka treats the surface of medicalised body in a relaxing, routine ritual.

NabelFabel, Mara Mattuschka, 1984, Austria, 3’.

Layers of synthetic skin constrict the face of this Austro-Bulgarian filmmaker. In her attempt to free herself from this mask, evocative perforations are left behind like scars.

Schminki 1, 2 + 3, Fiona Rukschcio, 1999, Austria, 8’.

For Judith Butler, gender identity is created through repetition and this short is an example of how females conceal themselves every day.

Bodybuilding, Ursula Pürrer & Hans Scheirl, 1984, Austria, 3’.

A woman's identity is resistible and modifiable. In Bodybuilding, artifice leaves its mark on a genderless body that touches, experiments, plays and enjoys.  

Take Off, Gunvor Nelson, 1972, US, 9’13”.

In this classic from the American experimental avant-garde of the West Coast, Gunvor Nelson creates her own particular critique of the objectification of the female body. A stripper challenges the spectator's gaze as she deconstructs in an infinite strip.

You can view the works of this playlist in the Xcèntric Archive.