A Universal Feeling

A collaborative installation by 62 international artists

I am creating a set of mask forms inspired by each of the six “universal emotions”: Fear, Joy, Surprise, Anger, Sadness, and Disgust. Each of my sixty-two collaborators will receive an unpainted papier-mâché mask based on one of the six.

Collaborators are then tasked with “completing” this mask, in their own way. Art form, identity, style, experiences, history, aesthetic, nationality, and culture(s) are all explicitly invited to inform HOW they do so.

When they have finished, they each ship me their completed piece, which is then installed around a copy of the initial unfinished mask of the emotion they received.

Universal Emotions

In the 1960’s, a group of research psychologists including Paul Ekman put forward the idea that there were a set of facial expressions/emotions that were universally and consistently understood across all human cultures: fear, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and disgust.

Whether you’ve heard this articulated before or not, this idea has made its way into our lives. Omnipresent in messaging apps are emoji with essentialized expressions frequently utilized to quickly convey a feeling. I recently discovered there’s even an app for representing various emotions based on these studies. I think I first heard about it in theatre training, where masks of these emotions are sometimes used to explore these emotional states through the actor’s bodily expression and breath.

This set of emotions have also been explored by visual artists in many media. In his book Making Comics, Scott McCloud builds on the research of Ekman and also on the work of Gary Faigin to further explore how these basic emotions combine to form more complex expressions. I am indebted to all of them.

Who’s involved?

This project aims to see how the universal is particularized, so I have included a wide net of disciplines, spanning the visual and performing arts. I want to be surprised by the results of the collaboration.

PORTLAND METRO (25)
ACROSS THE UNITED STATES (24)
ARTISTS ABROAD (13)

I began by thinking of all the artists I know from my personal life, my studies, and my work abroad. Accordingly, this list includes friends, colleagues, teachers, and former collaborators whose work I find compelling. Similarly, attention was paid to representing a balance of ages, sexes, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, ethnicities, and current nations-of-residence.

When and Where

I am so excited to begin this project, and institutional support has been great. It will premiere at the Chehalem Cultural Center as a part of Reveal / Conceal in November 2019, and the show travels to Portland in 2020.

Thanks to my supporters

It would be impossible to make a project at this scale without the help of grants and support from the community. Thank you!