Create a series of photographs or short filmed piece where you become someone else. This can follow Rosy Martin’s example and be someone who has shaped your sense of self, or it can be an invention. What is important is the transformation
Using my phone and an app I became a teenage girl with the click of a few buttons – I show the transformation by posting me – nearly 47 – and then a series of selfies taken in Snapchat. I have only used Snapchat filters – nothing else beyond that. The text I’ve used is lifted from the images I looked in my ‘research’ (Thanks to my son for his brilliant help with this, although he did also say “You’re actually spying on my friends, Mum!”)
Although there are signs of my age in them, mostly those signs have been bleached and filtered out by technology. If I were playing a teen on stage or in a film my age would show through makeup too as it has done in these pictures around my neck, and by my lips in the penultimate one. But perhaps the Snapchat filters has succeeded far beyond anything makeup alone could do – my boys were certainly quite taken aback by the impression. A middle-aged actor played a young Karen Blixen in a stage performance I went to see recently, and in fact, the youth was in her acting rather than any mask she put on – which wouldn’t have worked anyway for her as she had to switch to the older version constantly.
These apps make it very easy for anyone who wants to, to put on a digital mask. When you work with actual masks, one way of doing it is to put the mask on and then look in the mirror and allow what you see to transform your physicality. It’s very powerful and effective. Thinking about that and how people look at their digital masks makes me think about how we adjust our behaviour according to the proprietary masks we look at in our selfies online.
The code behind the app, driven by the motivation of the commercial network, is what shapes and dictates the ‘ideal’ for many young people nowadays. I was worried that these pictures might have seemed judgemental but the truth is the culture we live in shapes all of us, which means although I am unlikely to post these images as renditions of self or signs of my own identity, the fact I am able to make them at all suggests the culture is in me and I am of it.