Masks and Projections

Artist Blog by Debmalya Roy Choudhuri

“Under this mask, another mask” – Claude Cahun

I am a ghost, no one really knows me. What they make sense of is through these words, which they may read or scroll through based on their prejudices and privileges. But this is all I must share. The mask I had to adopt was first due to me being discarded by many and now this very mask is my sword.

This “mask “ takes many forms in my work, and death is one of the reasons why this “mask” becomes a continuous thread to link my images with. Photography has always been associated with death, not just as an event but as a code. But when this very violent fact is something you confront at an early age, your understanding of life changes and so does your way of connecting to people.

There is a certain power and freedom in the ambiguity of images. I cannot and do not want trauma to be repackaged for mindless consumption under the garb of capitalist ideologies. This is where the mask and my game come into play. The mask in my work is only a metaphor. It is a certain mystery that I look for, a certain passion I am always searching for. It alludes to my own absence in a world of spectacles, to my own mental condition that necessitates a certain distance from all that is pseudo and grand.

I have photographed and continue to photograph people and friends who exist with me and some who sometimes live dual and vulnerable lives. This mask tends to ascribe an honest attempt at self-affirmation. It only reveals what is meant to. All images are masks, and I only amplify this very inconvenient truth through my collaborations. How one uses this “mask” is a matter of chance and choice. A consequence of shared solidarity that develops over time. A certain semblance of proximity. Even love. Performance plays an essential role in how people use the image to express their truths, even for a brief moment. By acknowledging the human figure in its basic form, bare or clothed, devoid of all the grandeurs, I try to create a narrative that links my life to all those who, through their mere presence, continue to give me hope.In this world, everyone wants to play safe and seek comfort and be close to power. Only through more intimate and intense encounters do I try to seek something more passionate and profound, something beyond such falsities. Only through a certain intensity, can I again be able to take risks that keep me alive and confront this aggressive masculinity that the world at large and the heteronormative art world imposes.

Perhaps given my state of being and personal way of working, photography may never be my job, in the pop culture or hypercapitalist commercial way of things, as unfortunate or tragic as it may sound, but it still can remain an extension of life itself. I want people to read these words as they come from a very honest and innocent position of solitude, and also from an informed self-awareness to know what is at personal stake. To embrace and see each other in our vulnerable moments is a feeling more precious than anything else. Photographs allow me to be part of that moment. And this mask perhaps is my reality. Misunderstood as it is, but still striving. Unless you accept the darkness, you can never see the light. All you will see are masks and projections of curated optimism and controlled reactions, in a society that keeps regressing, keeps oppressing, keeps controlling. By adopting this mask as a motif, I disrobe all these logics of control.

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