One’s face ... is a sacred thing, and the expressive order required to sustain it is a ritual thing.

— Erving Goffman

The face is the prow, that which leads into the world: this is a biological assertion of thing-face made Elias Cannetti or mathematician and biologist, Rene Thom. He who wrote Virtual Catastrophes: Metamorphosis and Morphology, or the other way around. Look it up. 


Masks as cuticle - to protect, deceive, enchant… (detail) Photographer: John W. Bennet OR Chris Marker in Sans Soleil. John W. Bennnet, Japan and the Allied Occupation 1948 – 1951: A Personal and Professional Memoir, Ohio State University]

Masks are arrested expressions and admirable echoes of feeling, at once faithful, discreet, and superlative. Living things in contact with the air must acquire a cuticle, and it is not urged against cuticles that they are not hearts; yet some philosophers seem to be angry with images for not being things [who might these philosophers be?], and with words for not being feelings. Words and images are like shells, no less integral parts of nature than are the substances they cover, but better addressed to the eye and more open to observation. I would not say that substances exist for the sake of appearances [Leibniz? Bergson?] or for the sake of masks, or the passions for the sake of poetry and virtue. Nothing arises in nature for the sake of anything else; all these phases and products are involved equally in the round of existence …

— George Santayana, in the epigraph to Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 1956

Photo by Brassai, Paris, 1930s

Face and threat. Between the white wall of the sign and the black hole of subjectification is face; the wall could be black and the hole could be white. What matters is the constitution of the assemblage called ‘face’.

Deleuze and Guattari in their feast of a treatise, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, have dedicated an entire section to the face.


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Georges Demenÿ was a 19th century chromophotographer and gymnast who was fascinated by movement. He worked with Etienne-Jules Marey as his principal assistant. For a long time — since I made this little gif from the scanned images in the back pages of The New Library of Science and Invention, Communications* — I've thought perhaps he was trying to communicate with me from that time. I still can't hear or understand what he is (sic) saying.

* This ageless (I didn't say timeless) library of twelve volumes were designed and produced by Eric Nitsche and published in 1962-65


Scrawled carelessly across the top of this mug shot is the name of the otherwise anonymous young woman. She looks afraid — she's obeying orders; 'Look left!' SNAP. Her cuticle is thin. What was her shame? We share a family name. I don't know her. She could have lived anywhere … white. Are we related? What do I look for in the face of this young woman whose name I share? The photo was emailed to me, the image a message in itself, by a NYC graphic designer.

I took the photo above while wandering around the dawn-lit docks of Port Adelaide. In the first light of day the vacated buildings came alive in a ghostly kind of way. Pareidolia multiplied: relayed from a colonial painting a metres-high stain gives the sea-kempt hair of an 18th century sailor, competing with the 'face' of the building itself, eyes, nose-mouth. There's an unheimlich feeling that some one looks out at the interloper pointing a camera to capture the scene.

I read of the name for seeing faces in surfaces—pareidolia—in Ben Lerner's  10:24, the e-book version, so I can't give you a page number. He uses the same wikipedia example that I'm going to use now. 

The Face on Mars was one of the most striking and remarkable images taken during the Viking missions to the red planet. Unmistakably resembling a human face, the image caused many to hypothesize that it was the work of an extraterrestrial civilization. Later images revealed that it was a mundane feature rendered face-like by the angle of the Sun. (source: Wikipedia)

The photos were taken by none other than 'Viking 1, NASA' that would be the first viking that went to Mars.