A gas mask is a gadget often underestimated in many countries. If there are no grave occasions it is not necessary to possess one. In Istanbul – after the Gezi Park Protests 2013 – a gas mask can be a very useful item – a fact that inspired artists Ruben Aubrecht and Maria Anwander to turn gas masks into art. The results of this idea developed during their stay at the Bosporus in 2014, granted by the Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs of Berlin, can be seen at Galerie allerArt in Bludenz, Austria at the moment.
In Bludenz Anwander and Aubrecht are presenting selfmade gas masks produced out of ordinary materials: plastic bottles, cans and charcoal find a recycling usage in the exhibits. Some of the objects were rebuilt after photos taken during major demonstrations, others are completely newly developed and some are constructed according to the suggestions of DIY manuals. All of them are in fact to be used to protect their owners agains tear gas attacks.
With the exhibition Maria Anwander and Ruben Aubrecht are connecting this modern, martial item frequently symbolizing violent protests against superior govermental units to original mythology and historical tradition. They are detecting roots of the word „mask“ not only in the Arabic „maschara“ but also in Germanic mythology and the Langobardic „masca“, which used to be a ghostlike witch devouring children. For them ash is the most archaic form of covering a face and ritual masking.
In their exhibition, which is going to last until May 17th, Maria Anwander and Ruben Aubrecht are presenting their gas masks in a way referring to classification in ethnological museums: They are sorted and entitled by the area or city where they have been seen during major protests. Between Bangkok, Ferguson and Caracas there are some objetcs alluding to Turkey as well: One inspired by Diyarbakır, and another one representing Istanbul.