Monday 3 August 2020

Picture Post 57: A Clown's Playground

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Photo credit: Rebecca Tidman
Posted by
Tessa den Uyl

Putting on a clown’s nose is a subtle and non-violent gesture to distinguish, but what exactly? The red ball on the nose un-identifies its wearer immediately, almost as if to become part of another species. Clowns may be funny and dramatic, stupid and incredibly smart, poetic without prose, offensive, scary, or sweet. Clowns attain to a world that mirrors the exaggeration of our being human.

The image of the clown offers the spectator a space to de-personalise in its turn, and in this psychological game the clown creates its playground. If a clown communicates, this is by touching all the unfolded layers we carry along within ourselves.

Indeed, clowns could very well have become a branch like ‘action psychotherapy’, only that clowns are much older than psychotherapy itself. Perhaps this is why many ideas about clowns are misapprehended, and a partly negative view or childishness in their regard belongs, not that much to them, but rather to how being human has been abased by their former appearances.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

They had and have the freedom to portray people's oddities and stupidities and get away with it. Perhaps we need more clowning in our own day -- the person who can critique society and get away with it because, as you say, they are un-identified.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Thank you Thomas, it would need an essay to talk about clowns, which would do them more justice.

I am thinking how, once upon a time, masks in f.e. Venice were used to prevent embarrassment for (free) expression in the private sphere. What distinguishes the clown is to publicly hand a message.

I do like to think of clowns beyond solely entertaining figures, which has gotten exploited 'recently' in the idea that they would enhance that particular aspect. Again, this might tell more about a population than it would willingly like to admit?

Keith said...

There’s an intriguing matter of proportion here. What’s curious is that just a single, comparatively small thing — the red bulbous nose — manages to transform this individual from someone with a serious bearing and otherwise casual business attire into a presumed clown. Nothing else, beyond the Rudolph-like nose, was required to trigger passersby. Reactions and opinions and judgments, fair or unfair, snap into place. Hopefully, in this case, with a playful grin. I wonder, though, if just one, comparatively small thing on us or about us — even if much less dramatically and stereotypically associative than a clown’s red nose — similarly transforms who we are in the eyes of others. Perhaps that’s the point: it doesn’t take much by way of deviation from norms to set us apart, whether agreeably or disagreeably. Determinations are hastily arrived at, with all else other than our metaphorical ‘red bulbous nose’ possibly cancelling out other qualities.

Martin Cohen said...

Just on "masks", which Tessa says were once used to "prevent embarassment" - and then the ladies of past periods used to have little eye masks that served a bit like this - isn't there a whole lot of social experimentation now in the virus mask experience? People wear them specifically to distance themselves from others, and they also wear them alone - in cars for example. Does the clown, by contrast, reach out to others? Or are they in a way also "social distancing"?

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