MASK DOWN | A Breakthrough Art Piece From Cinthya Chalifoux

Cinthya Chalifoux is a multidisciplinary visual artist with a fascinating background in fashion, bespoke and textile.  You can read more about her intriguing practice in an article here.  Recently, she created a breakthrough video “Mask Down” which was transformed into a photographic tryptic.  We sat down with the artist to learn more about this beautiful and multi fascinated art piece.

Jano Lapin (JL): What is Mask Down and why? 

Cinthya Chalifoux (CC): The Mask Down project unfolds in a video (audio-visual) and photographic format. I enjoyed working with a dear colleague, Marcel Cristocea, who took on the cinematography and photographic images while I conceptualized the project and performed it. The series addresses the connection between mind and body and the layers we wear to control self-image and outside perceptions. As doing so, a part of one’s identity remains hidden until that part recalls its right to be.

The idea came about as I was prompted by a mentor to cross an intimate boundary. Amid the process, I researched archetypes, the unconscious, and was personally going through a reconnection between body and mind. I then decided to approach the mask and the embodied performance format as a vessel to approach a storyline that unfolds the concept of image control (masks), perfectionism, and identity loss, concerning performative ways of measuring self-worth.

JL: It is quite a new work format in your practice, how did you approach the process?  

CC: Very organically- I started by writing in a format that brought about rhythm and movement. The poem turned into an emotionally charged narration; added sounds enhanced a sense of rigor and time, highlighting the notion of a process unfolding in front of our eyes. Following the soundtrack editing, elaborating the choreography aspect was highly influenced by the implied tempo. The hands and the body became extensions that show successively restraint, discomfort, and finally, fluidity.
I chose to show a body moving in space towards a representation of perfection; in this case, it is a tailored blazer on a dummy- the razor blade cut garment expresses a yearning for perfection. The hands seem to move gracefully at the beginning, mimicking the making of it. We then see the embodied persona losing ease, engaging in mechanical poses, and then falling into states of confusion and pain. Somewhere between the chase for perfection and image reflection control, a sense of identity gets lost. As a play on form and meaning, she starts feeling choked and removes all layers upon herself.
In terms of scenography, the vignette type of high contrast light orients the sight direction towards the persona. Simple yet highly stylized aesthetics bring about a theatrical sense that cues its audience towards the topic of performance; are we doing so for others or for ourselves? Why do we really wear masks, and what is the cost attached to them? These are some of the questions raised in the process that highly influenced this work format.

JL: Can you tell us about the photographic series following the digital artwork?

CC: This process was of high interest as it sublimates the narrative behind Mask Down’s video format. I enjoyed playing on the line of relatable archetypes and symbols as creating this photographic series. While the use of archetypes implies collective or social conventions, the following leaves space for personal interpretation. The triptych format shows the following states; “Perfection” shows control in a rigid body position, “Illusion” recalls the sense of loss, identity absence, and confusion, “Vulnerability” shows both sides of a reconnection process. The upper body, curved upon itself, illustrates introspection and resilience, while the strong presence of the grounded leg implies strength and determination.

In all honesty, this photographic format also hints at my previous career as a couturier and image-maker. As an artisan, I worked by hand and achieved prestigious levels of couture craftsmanship. While the series discloses that I lived in the shadow of my work for years, it also contributed to achieving that emotionally charged yet aesthetically pleasing photographic series.

There is beauty in madness; there are also more important things than attaining perfection. A balance should prevail; kindness to self, truth, transparency are modes that sublimate humanity and bring a real sense of meaning to being. The masks we wear do not protect us; they only put an unnecessary distance between us and genuine happiness.


The Mask Down video format is exclusively available in total length within this article below.

Furthermore, the photographic series is available in a limited edition of 20 on the Jano Lapin Gallery website here.

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