Arts & Entertainment

From Ku Klux Klan to Covid, Barcelona exhibit explores power of masks

Barcelona, Spain, Dec 14 (EFE).- From the Ku Klux Klan to Pussy Riot, the Mask Never Lies exhibition opening this week in Barcelona explores the political, social and cultural use of the mask at a time when many of us are walking around with our faces covered due to Covid-19.

“We could never have imagined that the public would come to see the exhibition wearing masks, and that’s exactly what has happened because of Covid,” Servando Rocha, who came up with the idea for the exhibit before the pandemic, told Efe Tuesday, on the eve of the art show’s opening at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB).

The emergence of Covid-19 took curators Rocha and Jordi Costa by surprise but only made the mask more of a talking point.

An FFP2 mask opens the exhibition and a surgical mask closes it, reflecting their ubiquitous presence in public, especially in Spain, over the last two years.

“On the one hand, it is a symbol of solidarity,” said CCCB director Judit Carrera. “But on the other hand it is a dystopian object linked to the crisis of free speech and bio-political control.”

This notion of ambivalence is explored in the exhibition by juxtaposing the use of masks as a form of oppression, such as by the Ku Klux Klan, or as a tool of subversion, as is the case with Mexico’s Zapatista militants or online activist group Anonymous.

The exhibition is based on a book by Rocha that explores the use of masks over the last 150 years.

“There are some old masks on display, but we have not focused on the anthropological significance of the mask, but rather on its recent history, its present and its future.”

The exhibition comprises 700 pieces, ranging from documents, audiovisual material and artefacts such as the colorful ski masks worn by Pussy Riot, World War I-era gas masks, Masonic objects, comics and posters. EFE


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