Accepted Paper:

Masked I Go Forward: Exploring the Impact of Covid-19 Through the Collage and Photo-Essay  
Laura Bergin (The University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Combining the artistic and anthropologic mediums of the photo-essay and the collage, the project attempts to visualise the burden of Covid-19 through an analysis of the face mask. Accompanied by statements written by the participants, the images serve as ethnographic vignettes of their experiences.

Paper long abstract:

A result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the face mask has become a new part of everyday life for many. A topic deeply rooted in anthropological literature, the mask often 'appears in conjunction with categorical change' and contains a 'special efficacy' that resides in its transformative and paradoxical nature (Napier 1986: xxiv). This project examines the efficacy of the face mask through the mediums of collage and photo-essay, analysing the face mask as an intersectional object saturated with personal, national, and global significance.

Employed as 'a medium for exploring formal boundaries and a means of investigating the problems that appearances pose in the experience of change', the face mask is excised, leaving its notorious outline on the faces of its wearers (Napier 1986: xxiv). The 'formal boundaries' of the mask become a frame, bursting with news clippings from the BBC's coverage of the pandemic. Combining the artistic and anthropological mediums of the photo-essay and collage, the project attempts to make visual the 'problems that appearances pose' by displaying the burden Covid-19 has forced many to carry. The masks, now divorced from their original material form, are laden with words and images, appearing to weigh down their wearers as they confront the daily realities of life during a pandemic. The images confront the viewer, bringing them into an intimate physical and mental space, and complicate the tedious hierarchy between image and text. Accompanied by short statements written by participants, the images serve as ethnographic vignettes detailing their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

Panel P08b
Mask: the Face of Covid-19
  Session 1