Tân Khånh Cao has been developing this body of work for several years. The exhibition is the culmination of this work and exploration.
If I had been born a boy,
What would the world have taught me?
How would the world treat me?
How would I treat the world?
How would I wear my insecurity? My pride?
What would I do with my vulnerability, my fear, anger?
How would I have understood and expressed myself?
How would I have navigated the constraints and freedoms of “manhood”?
How would I love?
WHAT KIND OF MAN WOULD I BE? is a photo series of self portraits of myself as a man that investigates how the mask can bring truth closer to the surface. What we hide behind is informed by what we have to hide. As an artist, I am interested in the lives behind a face — a presence lived, dreamed, remembered, forgotten – and in the mask that obscures it. We most often mask to hide hurt, fear, and the soil of experiences those feelings grew from. If you look closely, the covering, rather than concealing, points out – the mask reveals. We understand that this is not to be acknowledged in society to the point we often don’t see it. It is symptomatic of the syndrome in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. We all tacitly agree to this and expect it of one another. No one told us why while we were being taught to do this. We are conditioned into this collective cultural blindness so early that we rarely think to ask.
In many non-Western cultures, masks are spiritual or magical tools. Masks are used to get closer or connect to something outside of the self; to draw spirits or bring the rain; and to communicate with the divine. Here in the west we mask to get further away from each other and ourselves. We mask to contract rather than to expand. In the Man series, I do both. I expand and contract to illuminate. I rearrange myself to reveal. I am both Inside and Outside. My ‘disguise’ reconciles.
And then there’s the carnival. Step right up! Guess who’s behind door #7! The project is interactive. Using the title WHAT KIND OF MAN WOULD I BE? I disseminate the photos via blog, facebook, and email, inviting people to participate by speculating about who the person in the photograph is. Like making up a story about someone you see on the bus. No rules, anything goes.
If you would like to participate, please visit whatkindofman.wordpress.com