We’re continuously tethered to each other by what lies underneath our masks: lips, ancestry, reality. The idea of something more than ourselves. To shed our masks is to bare the multitudes contained within us, giving from the self to another. Historically, kitsch has relentlessly pursued the act of revealing, and celebrated its path to connection; between artist and writer, writer and reader, and the surface self with the ones that remain hidden. Last spring, kitsch connected us from far apart, provided an outlet for our tangled emotions of fear, loss, and sometimes—if we were lucky and with the right people—sudden, unexpected joy. This semester, kitsch helped us to reckon with our new modes of normal, to laugh over zoom about our uncomfortable common room encounters or endless distanced picnics, and, through the act of creating, to make us forget for a moment the physical distance between us.
In 2020, it feels like the whole world is a masquerade ball. We fail to recognize even close friends when we bump into them on campus. TV shows and movies jar us when actors move unencumbered through public spaces without masks. The MASK issue bears witness to this time while also encouraging our writers and artists to reckon with the kitsch tradition of uncovering the deeper self. In a period of tucking away, forcing closed, and restraining, the Fall 2020 issue plays at the awareness of our new boundaries, while also reminding us of the other masks many of us already wore. In “Smudges,” Vee Cipperman explores the power of makeup to both conceal and reveal, creating simultaneously strong and vulnerable new selves. In “Unmasking my Identity,” Bex Pendrak dives into the way quarantine, without the external structure of “society,” provides a new freedom to explore gender presentation and identity. While in “Things to Do With Your Mask when the Pandemic is Over,” Zahavah Rojer imagines a time after the pandemic, what all these objects and memories may come to mean to us.
We hope this issue will give you the same sense of relief as stepping into your bedroom or house, or out into a cool and empty street, and, at last, tugging off the mask.
Emma and Annie