Floating City

Mackenzie Rowe

The masking activities had a different effect on me than I originally expected. We walked into the dance studio and participated in some activities without masks where we were being watched and observed by our classmates. During these exercises I felt incredibly self conscious because all the other students in the class were just staring at me as I walked around the room. As a result of being watched so carefully, I paid more attention to each step I took and how my body moved as I walked. I did not change the way I moved, but there was more pressure not to stumble over anything or to misstep. I looked around the room and observed that the others that were walking around with me and they seemed to be just as uncomfortable as I was. Once we completed all the activities without the masks on, we completed the activities again with the masks on and I did notice some changes in the way I felt, but not the ones I expected.


I am a fairly self conscious person, I laugh and smile when it is not appropriate and my face tends to turn bright red as soon as someone looks at me. When we did the masking activity my face was hidden from the rest of the class, which took away some aspects of my self consciousness but not all of them. I felt as though my body was on display more so with the mask because my face was hidden and my body was exposed. It was comforting knowing that my classmates could not see my face turning red or my smiling when someone did something funny, but it put more pressure on the rest of my body. I felt as though there was more pressure on how I moved my body, especially once we were instructed to walk and move how we thought someone wearing the mask might have. I have never been comfortable acting as anyone other than myself, so when I had to walk as this woman, who I assumed would have been a noble because of the elegant nature of the mask, I felt even more uncomfortable than I had before. This was different than what I had expected. I was expecting to feel somewhat liberated once I put the mask on and expected to be able to comfortably act as anyone because I was no longer Mackenzie and I was now an elegant noble.


I got this idea of being "liberated" by the mask from the examples in the readings where the Venetians felt “free” and “liberated” during Carnival because their real identities were hidden. Wearing a mask allows Venetians to act as someone other than themselves. Because of this, it allows them to act differently towards others than they would on a normal basis which sometimes leads to them showing their true feelings about the other classes. They did this by wearing masks that made them look like they were in a different social class and they would drink more and act as they thought that social class did. The instructor exemplified this for us by having us do the activity where we had cards Ace through King and we were supposed to act towards others according to the card they were. If you wanted to show someone that they were of a low social status you would ignore them and if they were a high social status then you would bow or try to talk to them. This activity was interesting to me because according to the card each person had, which signified a mask, people would act drastically different towards each other. People acted differently enough towards each person that everyone was able to place themselves into the correct order of the cards, which was the objective of the activity. The Venetians had a strict social hierarchy and during Carnival, the lower class was able to break out of the shadows and the nobles were able to sneak out of the spotlight. This is one of the appeals of Carnival, people get to let go of their responsibilities and take on a new persona.

The variety of masking activities we did showed me what it would be like to dress up like someone other than myself for Carnival. I did not experience the same feelings as those who participate in Carnival. I was not "liberated" by the mask, in fact it just made me feel more self conscious than I would have without the mask. I think the reasoning for this may be that the Venetians have a very strict social hierarchy and Carnival is the only way they are able to break out of it. Because of this they put everything they have into acting “as the mask.” During our exercises, I was masked, but only part of my face was covered. The mixture of the partial coverage of my face and the full exposure of my normal clothes and body did not allow me to fully let go and act as someone wearing the mask would have. In addition, I grew up in California and was encouraged from a very young age to act as myself and no one else so it was very difficult for me to drop my personality and embody another as the Venetians do during Carnival.

Mackenzie Rowe