El vocabulario de las máscaras faciales.

Por Danié Gómez-Ortigoza

abril 10, 2020

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Yesterday I went to the post-office. I hadn’t been ‘out’ in a while. Everyone was wearing face-masks. I made eye contact and smiled at several people like I always do, but obviously they couldn’t tell I was smiling and gave me cold stares in return. It reminded me of the isolation I felt when I lived in Stockholm where only kids would smile back at me. Took me a while to get used to smiles here in Miami, where people have a latin touch and love smiling making you feel part of the city in a beautiful way. The reality is that even through the faintest of gestures we fill important places in each other’s life.

Danie at The Bass Museum
Danie en el Museo Bass
Danie at The Bass Museum
Danie en el Museo Bass

When I was in Japan a couple of months ago people walked in silent herds in perfect order and not looking at each other. Most of them were wearing masks. What for me was truly intriguing, has turned into our reality, and I almost regret having wondered how it felt, because now I understand.

As important as it is, the face-mask deprives us of the most basic gesture, the one that says ‘I see you’, making us feel isolated. This feeling reminded me of Ugo Rondinone’s installation at the Bass Museum ‘Vocabulary of Solitude’, pictured here. The reason why clowns make people uncomfortable is because their makeup makes it hard to read their face.

Danie at The Bass Museum
Danie en el Museo Bass

Vocabulary of solitude is a portrait of a single person’s day represented in 45 acts. They are individually titled in the present tense: be. breathe. sleep. dream. wake. rise. sit. hear. look. think. stand. walk. pee. shower. dress. drink. read. laugh. cook. smell. taste. eat. clean. write. daydream. remember. cry. nap. touch. feel. moan. enjoy. float. love. hope. wish. sing. dance. fall. curse. yawn. undress. lie. Each passive clown is a stand-in for one of these actions. Together they form an endless 24-hour loop.

This is our life right now, with some variants: for me less touching, less enjoying, more home-schooling and less dancing.

Real education comes in unexpected places and for now the imaginary memory of what daily interactions were in the past, must suffice.

Robert Fulgham in a very special book titled ‘All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten’ says that “no matter what you do, anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of what gets wrong with you heals itself if you just give it time and think good thoughts. It’s kind of like staying amused while your body does it’s thing. See, doctors can really do something with only about 15% of what ails you. your body tells the rest. Or else you die.”

So that’s what’s left. Let’s think good thoughts and do what we can to stay positive. As for me, I will continue to smile at strangers under my half covered face, and perhaps one day someone will notice the happy stare in my eyes and smile back.

Y el viaje continúa.