Mary Rose Cook

Beneath this mask, another mask

The title begins a quote by Claude Cahun (1894-1954). It appears in Cahun’s book, Aveux non Avenus, and in the original French it reads, “Sous ce masque un visage. Je n’en finirai pas de soulever tous ces visages.”

There is disagreement on the English translation of the second part of the quote:

“Beneath this mask, another mask. I will not stop peeling off all these faces.” - Neue Gallerie, an exhibitor of Cahun’s work.

“Beneath this mask, another mask. I will never be finished lifting off all these faces.” - Printed on the inlay of V For Vendetta’s album, Beneath This Mask, Another Mask.

“Beneath this mask, another mask. I will never cease to carry all these faces.” - Some random person on flickr.

Regardless of the translation, the quote is the closest I’ve come to defining both blogging, and my queerness.

Masks And Blogging

I used to keep a secret diary. I gave myself a pseudonym, and also gave all those who featured in the diary some sort of false name, generally based upon an applicable adjective.

The point of all this obfuscation was to allow me to write totally freely - put down my innermost feelings and saddest thoughts and deepest fears and desires. In short, to say everything, whilst maintaining complete privacy for me and the people I knew.

However, despite the diary being pretty frank, I still left stuff out and changed events and reinterpreted motivations and was too easy and too hard on myself. Inevitably, I wanted to project an image - to don a mask - both for me and my unseen readership.

All my representations of myself are masks: Facebook, Twitter, this diary, the real world, my reflection in the mirror.

Does one ever peel away the final mask?

Masks And Queer

The translations of Cahun’s quote have different tones. The first is sort of combative, saying: I will not stop changing the way you perceive me. The third is much sadder. It makes Cahun sound like she is not evolving, just becoming more burdened by her projections.

I transition from gender to gender and sexuality to sexuality. I think there is probably a close coupling between the two: boyish lesbian became girly straight became androgynous whatever. The umbrella term for all this is queer, but, by definition, the word queer doesn’t really mean anything. Like situationism.

So, each new combination of gender and sexuality is a new mask that I wear for a while and then stuff in my little black rucksack.

But, sometimes, I think there is a face under there somewhere.