We knew one another from high school, we were familiar strangers. This past year we reconnected, and with the air clear of the perplexing politics of secondary school, we had the opportunity to get to know one another. As we reminisced on past times and lives, we uncovered that some of the ideas we had of the other were largely based on incorrect assumptions. The masks we mistakenly read as true purveyors of the other were unintentional ones that did not reflect who each of us are. Persuading others to see you in the same way you see, or rather, present yourself, is easier said than done. You’re in control of your performance, but not in how it is interpreted, and the two do not always align. Such a discrepancy is hardly ever revealed, for it requires parties to feel safe enough to come together to talk to reveal their mask(s) and who they are with it (them). It is a vulnerable act as masks protect and therefore enable us to assimilate into whatever environment we find ourselves in. Distance from that time in high school allowed us to openly reflect, and peel back the layers of our selves cautiously yet curiously.
Under the umbrella of a nine-year high school reunion, a Valentine’s date, and a Purim party, former art classmates will re-get to know each other and try to shed the masks of their high school selves. Issues around sincerity and conformity permeate the story of Purim, cultural traditions around Valentine’s Day and high school alike. Esther must hide her religion to become queen, and is observiant to the King, yet it is only by breaking the rules, and revealing her Jewish identity, that she is able to save the Jews. Wearing different masks help us to reach our subjective successes: the need to go above and beyond to show a lover how we really feel, and the generally fraught high school landscape all require, at times, some sort of disguise or identity experimentation. With this project we hope to use all three events, and the malleable spectrum of authenticity therein, as a framework for a discussion on growing up, creativity, and self-discovery between familiar strangers.
Come by the reunion, you can enter from here: Familiar Strangers
Header image designed by Orly Zebak. Artwork by Lauren Prousky and Orly Zebak.
Lauren Prousky is an artist, curator, writer, and arts administrator based in Kitchener-Waterloo. She received her MFA from the University of Waterloo and her BFA from Concordia University in studio art and English literature. Lauren’s current work involves doing a lot of Sudoku puzzles, trying to paint the concept of distance, and creating sculptures and fiber works that explore the aesthetics and linguistics of cultural Judaism. She has exhibited her work around Canada, occasionally elsewhere, and has done residencies in Iceland, British Columbia, and Brooklyn. Earlier this year Lauren completed a contract as the assistant curator of Gallery Stratford and once co-curated a poetry and performance event in a public pool. To see more of Prousky’s work, visit her website.
Orly Zebak writes, designs sets and costumes, and makes art in various mediums. Her work seeks to challenge conceptions of female performativity in relation to womanhood, girlhood, and coming of age stories. In her spare time, you can catch Orly gardening—usually in her very comfortable off-brand crocs. Orly earned her M.A. at the University of Toronto in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies.