When masks reveal | MIT Information

A Covid-19 mask is typically witnessed as a type of safety. But what if our masks grew to become prospects for exposure — the physical expression of our views, preoccupations, and the way we relate to the turbulence of the outside globe?

That was the challenge faced by MIT undergraduate pupils assigned to structure a mask that reflected specific and collective experiences for the duration of the pandemic. As component of the interdisciplinary system 4.302 (Foundations in Art, Structure and Spatial Practices: Design and style and Scarcity), operate by the MIT Long term Heritage Lab and the MIT Method in Art, Tradition and Technology (ACT), the assignment was influenced by the world wide Co-MASK project initiated by the course’s professor, Azra Akšamija, a school member in the Division of Architecture. Whereas Co-MASK focuses on coming up with do-it-you material confront-coverings for defense from Covid-19, the college students have been inspired to envisage a mask that would serve as a actual physical extension of the intellect and the body — a web-site of trade and a way of relating to a much larger community.

The private and the planetary

The “Design and Scarcity” program introduces theoretical and useful instruments for art and design in fragile environments — an expression of the ethos of ACT, which highlights the significance of creative procedures for experimental issue-fixing and arduous important apply. Supported by the MIT Alumni Class Fund for undergraduate curriculum, this class was formulated by Akšamija as the household edition of her Structure & Shortage MITx training course, the to start with on the internet hands-on art and style and design training course at MIT. 

The pupils interpreted the concept of fragility in varied techniques. Even though reflecting on particular encounters of isolation through the pandemic, the process of designing the masks became a means of empathically connecting with present-day world movements and shared traumas. In their engagement with difficulties such as racial discrimination, migrant exploitation, and ecological destruction, the masks are manifestations of the issues that pervade the college student encounter and their priorities as designers. The task addresses the fragility of environments at multiple scales from the personal to the political to the planetary — and ideal down to the scale of the virus alone, which is concurrently battling for its very own survival.

This expansive scope mirrors the aspirations of the Co-MASK undertaking, which is intended to be borderless and multilingual. “The Co-MASK patterns made by the students point out one of the central demands that Covid-19 pandemic built apparent for us all,” states Akšamija. “That we — humans and non-individuals — need to have to occur with each other in a new way and demonstrate solidarity with the most susceptible in our planetary community.”

Reinterpreting shelter

The perform of numerous of the students engages critically with the concern of shelter and the defense of persons and communities.

“American Aspiration,” a mask designed by Diego Yañez-Laguna, a second-calendar year undergraduate art and design and style important, addresses the plight of migrants held at borders. “The aim of this mask is to clearly show how the immigrant experience in the United States is far from the American Dream,” describes Yañez-Laguna. “That concept of opportunity and welcome is represented by visible references to the Statue of Liberty — but the corruption of these beliefs is revealed via the use of barbed wire, which represents a heritage of mistreatment, scare strategies against migrants, and an obsession with borders and division.”

Caleb Amanfu, a fourth-12 months undergraduate double-majoring in architecture and mechanical engineering, chose to use a bandage as the primary product for his mask, “Seen” — a representation of societal repression. “This mask is hoping to get in touch with to consideration the sensation of being observed and not heard though contacting into concern the devices and societal predicaments that result in all those encounters to persist,” suggests Amanfu. “This mask, like the devices themselves, is blocking the person from talking up when simultaneously ‘suffocating’ them underneath the issues they are attempting to communicate out towards.”

For Janice Tjan, a 3rd-yr undergraduate double-majoring in mechanical engineering and artwork and design, the challenge was an chance to give voice to the ordeals of homeless young children in the course of the pandemic. “Blazon Mask” is designed to provide the inside out, providing a site for the wearer to self-advocate and show their anxieties. “The contrasting colours, rudimentary stitching, and scout-like badges add to a loud glance and a youthful attitude,” claims Tjan. “These masks are manufactured from recycled cotton cloth (previous T-shirts and bedsheets), which adds to their bricolage physical appearance and amplifies the resourceful voice of the maker.”

Thoughts and material

The students had been tasked with investigating the social, environmental, and technological implications of distinct resources — components that also offered an outlet for psychological expression.  

Felix Li, a next-year undergraduate artwork and structure major, titled his mask “Resonant when Struck,” evoking the two the materiality of porcelain and the audio of breakage. “For as lengthy as I can recall,” he claims, “I’ve used the same set of low cost Chinese grocery store porcelain bowls and plates. These fragile but strong ceramic vessels are a monument to my heritage, my mothers and fathers, my Asian identification. The shattered and scattered variety displays the collective pain and grief across the AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] group.”

Eva Smerekanych, a second-year undergraduate architecture big, sculpted her mask, “Clean,” from polymer clay to represent how ingesting disorders may be exacerbated during a period of time of isolation. “Polymer clay is a delicate, waxy medium with the unique trait of remaining malleable over lengthy intervals of time,” she suggests. “As this sort of, this medium provokes a sense of uncertainty about the long term. Will it crack? Will it get warped? Squished? Stretched? This uncertainty mirrors the uncertainty that triggers a lot of to develop ingesting ailments.”

The guiding theme of scarcity prompted quite a few to examine the environmental price tag of their selected product, a stage powerfully communicated by “Ocean Blues,” a mask developed by Izzi Waitz, a second-year undergraduate architecture key. Made by knitting jointly 10 solitary-use synthetic blue masks, her mask evokes the sight of plastic caught in a fishing internet. “An abundance of masks, gloves, hand-sanitizer bottles, and other kinds of Covid squander are pouring into our oceans and landfills,” suggests Waitz. “These artificial components, with a lifespan of 450 years, pose a big menace to maritime life.”

Open futures

The students’ masks demonstrate how an creative setting for investigate and discovering can develop common ways to style. The culture of experimentation fostered by ACT opens new approaches of confronting up to date critical problems — but it also can make house for own expressions of fragility and vulnerability, thoughts which can be the source of transformative creativeness.

The project’s negotiation involving the public and the private will be further amplified at the 17th Global Architecture Exhibition Venice Architecture Biennale 2021, where the masks of Akšamija and her learners will be on perspective in the “Foreseeable future Assembly” collective exhibition in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini. The Potential Assembly is a reflection on the earlier 75 yrs of UN multilateralism, inviting Biennale contributors to envisage new methods to impactful collaboration, and to imagine how a long term multilateralism can develop further than the human-centric worldview to turn into a a lot more-than-human assembly. 

As one of this year’s exhibitors, Akšamija invited her students to portray the Covid-19 virus as a stakeholder in the Future Assembly. Given the truth that the virus survives and mutates by way of human transmission, the sort of the mask represents a shelter for human beings and a menace to the virus’ survival. Nevertheless the masks developed by the students also express the instinctual requirements that the pandemic has designed so obvious: the necessity for toughness, inspiration, and hope for the foreseeable future at a time that calls for resilience and resourcefulness. By redefining the private in phrases of the collective, these masks expose the central paradox of the pandemic: the virus that divides us has also exposed the fact of our infinite interconnection.