All totalitarian countries pretend that they are very “democratically” oriented and humane and turn on surveillance technology only to watch particular individuals with suspicious contacts and behavior. But nobody but especially the wealthy and despotic decision-makers like to voluntary limit their own power. So, total surveillance becomes a way of “screening” whole population.

Man Ray, “Mask With Point” (1946)

Man Ray’s “Mask…” is semantically organized around a symbolic head (inside a box or a box-like mask) with multiple technical functions: one pointy antenna to send and receive (to spit or suck in) information, two organs of direct observation (technological equivalent of human eyes and/or “smart” magnifying lenses which function is to visually analyze information. These protruding observing instruments have a piercing – aggressive function towards the observed objects. And finally we can discern here the equivalent of human mouth which is as dangerous for the people-the observed objects as arrow would be. The mask, probably imprisons an “electronic brain” inside and at the same time “protects” it (or the human brain desperately trying to function as an electronic one in order not to be behind the epoch).

It seems that the totalitarian rulers are hooked on the necessity to permanently check the populations in order to protect themselves and their existential prerogatives with surveillance mask which Man Ray lets us to observe. The procedure of total surveillance having belligerent intention hinted at by Ray’s “Mask With Point” is confirmed by our experience today – we could prefer not to rely on the dehumanized – technical “brains” of mechanical technological mechanisms – on whose conclusions our lives depend on. In short, according to Man Ray our life depends on a mask of four points.

When Man Ray started to work on his “Mask…” right after war the mass surveillance was still in crude condition and for this reason quite an exotic topic. He, as if, is telling us – see how those who preside over you and lead you look – they’re already interwoven with their technology which has already become an organic part of them. Surveillance becomes their high-tech weapon which is pointed at us and our neighbors, at nations including our own, and at nature. Man Ray’s “Mask with Point” has a strong dystopian orientation, but it, as Godard’s “Alphaville” (1965) is telling us that the real danger for our soul and life is not in our future and is not in “other (alien) worlds” but in our own way of living and our self-aggrandized leaders whom we either love more than ourselves or are afraid of more than a degenerate with a semi-automatic machine gun under our window.

In short, according to Man Ray, evolution of our lives is from head to mask, from brain to electronic aggregate inside mask-box, and from the human soul to the manipulation of the world including ourselves in the process of transformation into the high-tech miracle of being able for artificial calculation of advantage.

Man Ray between sun, car and photo-camera

Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp (on the left) – a life time of friendship