The first thing I do before settling down to work in the Geoffrey Manton building is fill up my bottle with a stream of lovely ice-cold water from the Water at Work machine. This is of course essential for anyone used to Scottish “council juice” rather than the harsh and hard English variety. 😛 Trying to stave off a craving for coffee, imagine my surprise when I was greeted by this:
A student, armed with a laptop and a cardboard box full of masks and hats, sat cross-legged on the floor. Cheerfully he asked me whether or not I intended to walk down the nearby glass corridor, which leads toward the canteen, a stairwell, and various doors which have, in the past, confused me. “Ah, sorry, I’m not. I’m going the other way”. Which was a shame, because it meant that I couldn’t take part in his Masked Exposures project/experiment, losing my chance to consider “the perception and performance of altered identities” while embracing anonymity.
“So how do you make sure you get the masks back?” I asked, as he very kindly let me crouch down to take some photographs of him and his equipment. Another cheerful smile. “There’s a bucket at the end of the corridor for people to put them in. So far only one of them has gone AWOL.” Ah! Such faith in humanity. I wished him luck and went back to Room 118.
It must have been thirsty work because before heading off to TRAUMA to watch excellent film noir The Fallen Idol (sorry for the gratuitous plug but I do have to mention TRAUMA whenever possible) I returned to the water at work machine yet again, empty bottle in hand. The boy and his masks had disappeared. The sign which he’d enthusiastically stuck up on the door had been crossed out with biro and sadly annotated:
I found myself feeling disappointed and a little bit sad on his behalf. On the other hand, I wonder if this is all a semi-intentional part of the experiment? He’s certainly learned something about what people might do when they get the chance to embrace “anonymity”. In fact, his pretense was that anonymity when entering that corridor was “compulsory” – so in some ways it might be said that his participants/subjects were executing a certain predictable (?) act of rebellion through their thievery. Okay, okay, I realise that might be pushing it a bit! I only hope the masks won’t be too difficult for him to replace. He also learned a valuable lesson about University security – who told him that masks or no masks, he didn’t have permission to be there and really would have to clear off 😦
I’ll be interested to see Jake’s footage when the project is eventually completed and I wish him the best of luck.