This week, like the previous week, was still so much under the sign of the Siren that it was a little harder for me to focus on The Mask. Actually, it was only yesterday that the Siren was properly premiered on the radio and on Facebook. Online concerts, performed without the audience and broadcast live or later – that is a separate, difficult topic. Perhaps the most striking issue is that of silence. The silence of an empty audience is something completely different from the silence of an audience that is present, alive, and full to the brim. Passive silence versus active silence. Emptiness versus... height of attention. If one can consider art to be a transaction of sorts, attention is its main currency. The creator (including the performer) first invest their attention in the widely understood creative act and then expects a return from the recipients. The value of the goods – of the work – is determined in this exchange. There seems to be a certain link here, which is expressed in the amount of attention on both sides, although that link is neither simple nor obvious. As in any transaction, one can overinvest, underestimate, take risks; the proportions of values on both sides of the transaction may change over time. In any case, the technological mediation of attention, the distance between the recipient and the sender, and the cutting off of a huge range of ways in which the recipients express their attention – they all do not work too well. Perhaps these online events should also include some way for the audience to give feedback to the performers. Or to expand it; set the screen and speakers also on the side of the audience. "Thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” are not enough.
The Mask has a lot in common with the Siren, even though it might not seem so. Here they are again, she, he, and something, or someone else. The Girl, Arrhodes and the Mantis – the second incarnation of the Girl and an instrument in the hands of the silent King who is present in the background. And only the Girl-Machine has a voice here. As if contrary to the world ruled by men. Even though she is a puppet, she is what the story is focused on. Even if only seemingly, it is she who takes action, puts out a challenge to fate, and tries to change it. Lem empowers the woman, and although he makes her a tragic figure, he gives her great, superhuman strength. The Girl-Machine cannot make decisions for herself, but she inspires dread.
The moment of transgression is yet another moment that the two stories have in common. The Siren ends with the words “the best thing for you would be to just die”. These are the words of Silenus from Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. It is nihilism, though constructive. Diagnosis, but not prognosis. One needs to die to go on, in a new incarnation, in a better version of oneself. But it is not always better in every possible respect, not necessarily in accordance with the universally understood code of good and evil. Beyond them. Lem's Mantis is better – faster, stronger and more efficient than the Girl in achieving her goal, but assessing that goal is a completely separate matter. Simple, unequivocal morality does not apply here. Just like it does not apply to life, if you look at things as widely and honestly as possible. We devour each other, we are food. We exist at the expense of our predecessors, to the benefit of those who come after us. All we can really do is watch. Direct our attention without getting carried away by illusions. Without looking away. Which is very difficult, because this process hurts and the view dazzles. But when the time comes, one has to stand in front of the mirror, take a lancet and cut oneself in half to let out what is inside.
Some stage is ending – this is what it clearly seems to me. Let’s see what happens next.
(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)