And it seemed to us that the collation of textual, iconographic, archaeological or living materials would alone deserve to be the subject of a study day. Who says collation also says working with the populations who hold these masks when it comes to materials used regularly, an interest in policies for the conservation or non-conservation of the dance mask in dedicated spaces and exhibition places, an interest in restitution policies, and finally an interest in all written sources that speak of dance masks, whatever their nature. But these sources are lacking in several cases. The day will examine the methods by which researchers collect their data on dance masks, especially when textual sources are lacking. Around this theme, we will examine the following issues:
1. How do anthropologists work with the local people whose masks they study? Many of these populations have not compiled written sources on their masks for multiple reasons. It is therefore very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain information prior to living people (for example: when do the oldest masks date from?). Investigating masks requires being there at the right time, when they are being made, repaired, or at events where they are worn. Outside of these specific contexts, any question is difficult, even during a visit to a place where masks are stored, since the same mask can be worn on various occasions and represent different characters.
2. How do historians work on the masks of the past? Regarding the 5th c. BCE for the case of Greece, the only trace that we have of a theatrical spectacle is the text of the tragedy or the comedy when it is preserved, because nothing remains of the scenography, of the acting of the actor, costumes and masks. This can only pass through the crossing of diversified and sometimes much later sources. Do all periods of history pose the same problem?
3. A particular discipline is that of the history of religions, especially that of Christianity, and of the Orthodox religion which maintains an original relationship with icons, not only in the churches but more generally in Hellenic and Slavic culture, notably the Ukrainian one. These icons can be likened to masks around which people gathered to dance, thus recalling that the first mask around which women in Greece moved was that of Dionysus, placed on his pole... The effectiveness of icons as a means of re-presenting the divine and of mediating communion with it is thus prepared and reinforced, even promulgated and perfected, in relation to the theory of theurgy, adopted in (Orthodox) Christianity mainly by the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. (an anonymous 5th century CE scholar, who deliberately introduced Theurgic Neoplatonism into Christianity). How does the study of icons/masks of the Orthodox religion provide access to older pagan practices from antiquity? There also arises the problem of written sources.
4. Finally, in the field of literature, can the novel, which we know is a work of fiction, give us access to masks and what type of information will it give us? In other words, how to use a material that has nothing to do with history and that does not necessarily reflect reality?
The study day will take place April 7, 2023 in hybrid mode (face-to-face + videoconference)
Please send your proposal before February 15, 2023 to :