Sunday, 26 August 2012

Shame Masks

Whilst in the heated overflow of new love and obsession (see my previous post concerning artists books), I have found myself inundated with ideas. This is both exciting and exhausting. I do not yet have the skills or the time to physically make the books my brain is busily creating, but that doesn't stop me from doing a spot of research.

Whilst online, and then in the cosy stomach of the Bodleian library, I came across Shame Masks.

I've not been able to find much information yet, save that they seem to originate in Medieval Germany and consist of metal crafted, punitive masks.

As far as I can make out, the various characters of the masks represent different crimes. So the long tongued mask is to be worn by a gossip, as punishment for that activity.

I'd never thought of masks as a form of punishment before.
It is actually a powerful idea; instead of manifesting a character for theatre or ritual, or disguising ones identity, these masks expose identity. They illustrate the most shameful aspects of a person, removing any chance of anonymity.

As a person who loves to be no one in a crowd, a watcher in a cafe, or all alone outside, I find that idea vaguely horrifying. It leaves me wondering - what is my crime, and what mask would I wear to show it?   


  1. Brilliant!
    They remind me of the Scold's Bridle -'s_bridle
    - a horrific thing to be sure.

    Glad of your book enthusiasms :)

    The course I did was BA in Book Arts & Crafts at the London College of Printing. It has now become a BA in Book Arts & Design at the London College of Communication - which sort of sums the art world up quite well.
    Here it is anyway:


  2. Thanks Rima...Oh, I wish I could just be on some course or other all my life long...:)