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Masks: Bowie and Artists of Artifice is a proposed interdisciplinary anthology that will explore “the complicated, even paradoxical relationship between fiction and fact, presentation and existence, within an artist’s life and work”, using the late, great David Bowie as a touchstone.

An artist exists as a character in the public’s mind, every bit as much as their creations. Quite often, such creations are themselves doubles of the creator’s life, though they are never one and the same thing. The tensions that exist within the duality of art and artifice are highlighted using artwork as double for the life, and the life as double for the work, with the understanding that neither are perfect representations of the others. Thus, artifice can very well become a route to art, which is a central anxiety that drove postmodern and pop art to theoretical excess. This is why the device of the mask is so compelling, because it reveals this relationship, and it also creates an amount of discomfort over the questions it raises — who is it that chooses who we are, when we are so often cast into a role as much as choose it? What does authenticity mean in this context?

Amongst the possible artists treated, David Bowie stands out for making a career out of creating and discarding such doubles. Further artists worth exploring include Yukio Mishima, Hunter S. Thompson, Aleister Crowley, Oscar Wilde, Antonin Artaud, et al., or specific works of art that emphasize this point, like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”

…Where appropriate, we will delve into the occult and shamanic traditions, balancing the anthropological approach of Eliade with the narratives of practitioners themselves. Aleister Crowley can provide a bridge into these subjects, as a popular occultist who both emphasized the idea of identity as performance, and also served amongst the legion of Bowie’s influences.

Submissions for the anthology are invited from artists, writers and academics and are due by April 24, 2017. Full details at the Modern Mythology website.