Anul Nou – Corina Andrian
27th DECEMBER 2019
On 27th December 2019, I went to “The Festival of Customs and Traditions on New Year in Suceava” (Festivalul de Datini si Obiceiuri de Anul Nou la Suceava). It is a daylong parade celebrating (mostly pagan) traditions from across Romania where all sorts of masked creatures dance fiercely to welcome the New Year in good spirits. I went because I felt that I wanted to find something. On the day of the parade, I was atrociously sick and my camera was hanging so heavily around my neck, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly beautiful and the day came to an end very quickly. I felt I had failed. I snapped photos that didn’t match my vision, but little did I know that I had internalized something very precious, my unquestionable attachment for all that is not known about these rituals, the unknown revealing itself gradually as you try to live your life after the event.
16th MARCH 2020
The first lockdown went into place after a gradual dehumanizing process where most of the people I cared for had left England in complete chaos and panic. I felt so lost, I grabbed a bunch of fabrics and started sewing my first mask. The next few months, I surrounded myself with lots of fabrics and I would sew until I couldn’t see anymore. I wanted to understand what the parade had gifted me and the only real way for me to understand anything is by trying to replicate what I see and feel.
As F.F. Coppola once said: “When you see a good movie it makes you wanna make a movie”. And needless to say, it can apply to anything in life as long as you act on your excitement.
The beauty of a lot of these masks traditionally is that they come to life from the things that surround you. After all, their purpose is to make you feel comforted and protected against all negative spirits. Behind these masks, man has found the power and freedom to express himself fully and speak in a way he might not otherwise be allowed to in normal life. And in a way, all art represents the artist’s mask, not as a way of concealing but as a way of revealing the artist’s true self and spirit. I see the mask as an instrument or a bridge between ourselves and the infinite unknown world past the senses. We only know the world through our senses, what happens when we look beyond?
Their nature is contradictory, playful in the making, and serious in the outcome. In Romanian tradition, these masks are supposed to be as ugly as possible to scare away the evil and the negative energies. In contrast, they give such positive vibes and make you feel protected and happy. The process of making and wearing a mask is incredibly emotional as it involves the irreversible process of giving time.
The masks are a multisensory experience through the materials that you choose.
SOUND: I like the spiritual quality of bells. There is something incredibly purging about ringing bells in a room. My masks often surprise me with their multisensory presence. Sometimes I place a mug in my bookshelf and this mask (which I’ve placed on top of the bookcase) will subtly ring its bells. Other times, I turn in my sleep and hit against the shelves and can hear its bells ringing softly in my dreams.
SMELL: Another mask I own which I bought from a Romanian craftsman is made with real sheep’s wool and cow’s horns. Whenever there’s a draft, I can feel the smell of the wool, of milk, and the countryside and it always brings me back home, at peace.
TOUCH: I love all things textural and even in films doing the effects in-camera and keeping everything as tangible as possible. These masks are made of an array of layered fabrics and tactile impressions. Sewing was my refuge for a long decisive time, decisive for my mental wellbeing. Textile art like dancing is something which you can dive into fully as it’s physical and it instantly materializes before your eyes. You get an instant impression of what you’re giving birth to and you love as you create.
Apart from the incredibly meditative process contained in the sewing itself, my favorite part was discovering the mask’s personality in the photoshoot where my dear friend and flatmate Keita Ikeda would usually embody them. The photos are but a mere witness to the melancholy, playfulness, and fiery qualities the mask instilled in the body, a colorful range of emotions that don’t require a human face to transpose them.
This is why I adore the body for its ability to help the spirit transcend the flesh and to mutate infinitely. Discovering the mask’s qualities is like a conversation and sometimes you’re afraid maybe you didn’t enquire enough, and you might’ve missed something. These masks revealed themselves to me as a child, impressionable, moody, scared, and jolly. But whenever I’d attempt a close-up, the eyes, the horns, the back, would reveal a strong character, a powerful fearsome entity. That’s one of my favorite aspects of Romanian masks, their dual contradictory nature. I’ve always admired the quality of masks of “concealing and revealing” something simultaneously as Magritte would put it. One of my best friends Cristina noticed that sometimes the masks stay the same, but the environment changes in their absence. I’ve always wondered however if their main purpose in life is to protect others from evil spirits, who protects them? Their bells are loud and forceful, but their soul is gentle.
After the 3rd mask sometime in the summer and a pile of other things, I was burnt out. I went home but felt maybe I should’ve done more.
Whenever I get a wave of motivation or passion, I just dive blindly right into it. It is so important to act on your excitement because it dissipates just like a sea wave and it soon becomes foam. It’s interesting to observe what’s left after the wave. Your eternal wave/passion is that which will roll on forever in the back of your mind, no matter how big of a break you will take. Act on your excitement.
OCTOBER 2020/ the 4th mask and the film “Anul Nou”
Being away from sewing reignited something in me as if I realized I hadn’t uncovered the whole story of what the parade had made me feel. And just like I felt something move me at the parade, it only made sense to transpose this feeling into moving images. The 4th mask in my collection I felt I’d made with no real purpose apart from knowing that I needed another character for the dance short which included all the other masks. This mask was going to be the protagonist. Each mask became a reminder of a stage in my life. The first mask represented the beginning of the most uncertain moments of this world (1st lockdown) but the process of sewing brought me comfort. I found it hard to sew this 4th mask. I felt genuine anxiety and abandoned it initially. Even though the first mask was comforting to sew, the context and times were painful.
Gradually, a most incredible team had started forming and the dance film “Anul Nou” (New Year) came into existence in between 2 lockdowns in London. The team I had put together was formed of some of the most important people in my life at the moment.
The renewal of the year embodies the idealized perfect new beginning which is why humankind has always anticipated the arrival of the New Year (“Anul Nou”). However, the very first New day is already decaying and old with accumulated time and loss. Time rebirths annually, matures, ages, and dies. The presence of the Romanian masks marks a necessary process of renovating time and space when nothing is created nor revealed. Their complex ritual celebrates the sacred interlude between two years when one can briefly identify oneself with the truth, as eternal.
The experience was so meaningful it still makes me feel that my life has somehow started weaving another narrative. To be able to create along with people who wholeheartedly throw themselves into a project with all their sincerity, passion, and trust, is the most precious and indescribable feeling, which is why we thankfully have art, to be able to express those feelings. The protagonist and one of my best friends, Cristina Tudor, flew Bucharest-London where she quarantined for 2 weeks, we shot the film in 1 day, then she flew back where she quarantined for another 2 weeks. The people you work with are also the people who willingly decide to slice their lives for you and give you their time; they give life to create life. I am not sure nowadays people’s time is appreciated enough in this context. I have learned from working with music composer Adrian Piciorea what I feel I can maybe learn in a lifetime. I am very grateful to have been able to work in the presence of such superb beings and gifted artists like cinematographer Nikola Auterska, and performers Lia Marin, Andrei Catalin Nistor, Alessandro Piccato (also production assistant).
The film encapsulates the regeneration of time and space. It is a display of vitality, force, and dynamism. I don’t like to say that I actively use symbols or create them intentionally, I simply use reality in the way it unveiled itself to me at a very specific point in space and time. I like the traditional sign that the crossing into the New Year used to have for ou ancestors and the fact that the masks played an important collective role in purging, renewing, and celebrating life (New Year) after death (Old Year). The film is inspired by lived events but also dreams where I found the meanings and importance of the exorcising power of the masked dances and their revitalizing force.
The New Year was a way for people to control time by slicing it and allowing it to rebirth every year. Everything behind this date is accumulated days which aged, degenerated, and caused losses. After this date, we begin to reborn like nature in a ritual of renovating time.
It is argued that the traditional masks’ role in a society transformed in time and they now occupy a different dimension characterized mostly by entertainment and their cultural-artistic value. However for me, just through the fact that they are still present in the modern world, they go beyond just entertainment. The pagan mask has managed to transcend strong manifestations of Christianity throughout centuries and with its characteristic power has succeeded in concealing itself as a historical artifact. Even if we don’t use the masks literally to protect the harvests anymore, we still “re-enact” these ritual dances in key moments of human life (wedding, funeral, arrival of spring, New Year). I say “re-enact” because the act in itself is so powerful once experienced in person that you would be lying to yourself thinking you are just experiencing a fine piece of entertainment (even though they are highly entertaining, playful, delightful to watch). Dancing satisfies a primordial human need for communication and masking oneself the desire to express oneself fully without any restrictions or judgments. To me, the masks represent a powerful and timeless reminder of the values humans need to embody in order to survive, they need to experience playfulness and stay young, the frenzy and exorcising power of movement, the respect, and appreciation both for the seen and unseen and the spirits who protect or challenge us.
The article was originally posted on CVLTARTES BLEMISH ISSUE.
Story by: Corina Andrian
Director/ Producer: Red-Cor
Director of Photography: Nikola Auterska
Music composer: Adrian Piciorea
Performers: Corina Andrian / Cristina Tudor/ Lia Marin/ Andrei Cătălin Nistor / Alessandro Piccato
Mask design/Costume: Corina Andrian / Cristina Tudor (ritual master mask)