Masked Culture


Nanjing: With bird flu and pollution causing fear and paranoia among the Chinese population, masks are commonplace. Interestingly, the papered masks have given way to more fashionable ones, made of cloth and an assortment of patterns and materials. The mask has become a stylistic piece of head-wear, like glasses or earmuffs. Personally, I find the masks a frightening articulation of a fearful state state of mind, but here in China (and even more so in Japan) masks are just part of the everyday life in a 21st century Asian city. With bird flu reports coming in every few minutes via the mainstream media, it only makes you wonder just how far people will go to protect themselves from social and contagious diseases. With gas masks here in the hotel closet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see air tanks and total body suits becoming part of the Asian fashion.

In this Orwellian society where information is heavily monitored, where large scale video projections flicker across the facade of downtown buildings, the Blade Runner vision is no longer science fiction, but an emerging reality here in the East.