by Fang Wen
The mask is a cultural objects used throughout all countries in all periods. The mask is a form of disguise, usually worn over to hide the own identity, to play and to interpret a role or a character. The masks of Maskbook - as well as for all masks worldwide - are varied for appearance, use and symbolism: they are ten thousand from more than 40 countries, made of different materials and drawn from the wildest imagination, from fiction or everydaylife. People participate together for a collective purpose: to raise awareness on crisis of our planet and man’s hand on Earth. Each mask is a personal creation, made from recycled materials, or digitally manipulated: everyone is invited to create a mask from waste in a creative and ecological way. Each mask-creation is unique because it communicates its creator’s message in response to the environmental crisis. Maskbook is a collective and engaged work of art, made up of masked portraits from around the world, from all countries (more than 200 collective workshops and exhibitions). It mobilises the creativity of artists and every individual on a major issue: the link between human health and the environment, which encompasses many issues, global warming, air pollution, biodiversity loss, pandemics… The protective mask has been used as the symbol and basis for this creative action. The anxiety-provoking image of the protective mask is transformed into an expression of optimism and commitment to the planet.
Wen Fang (Beijing, 1976) graduated from the Department of Photography at L’ENS Louis-Lumière, France. When creating art, she often collaborates with ordinary people: migrant workers, women farmers, children. Her works consist of photography, installations, sculptures, performances, etc. Social interventions are also a major feature of her works. Finding hope in hopelessness is another consistent thread in her works. She says: «I am not a moralist, I focus a lot on the bottom of the society, not out of pity, but because through them, I see a strengh of character very much alike new grass growing out of stone cracks. This strength helps me to stay alive». Her works have been exhibited in France, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Korea, Japan, Shanghai, Beijing and in other parts of Asia. LVMH, Renault Art Foundation, and Banque Neuflize OBC, among other agencies, have collected Wen Fang’s art.
The Maskbook project is an international, participatory and artistic project initiated in 2015 by Art of Change 21 and Wen Fang, on the occasion of COP21, and led by Wen Fang, the Windowfish Collective in China and by Art of Change 21 in the rest of the world. In 2020, Maskbook has been chosen by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. A film was broadcasted on the very day of the anniversary of the Paris Agreement, December 12, bringing together many personalities, wearing masks created by artists committed to environmental action. Art of Change 21 is a French association on the arts and the environment, founded and chaired by Alice Audouin. It is supported by Schneider Electric Foundation and UN Environment. In 2020, Maskbook workshops stopped due to the pandemic. The project continues online (everyone can participate on the Maskbook web site and join the portrait gallery) and through outdoor exhibitions. www.maskbook.org
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