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.
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.
And the journey continues.