I always thought that puppeteers are supposed to be (or at least aim to be) invisible during the performance. Even though you may see their arms, or get a glimpse of their feet, they stay largely hidden behind the screen. They are out of sight in order to be out of mind. When I saw this picture, I was taken by surprise. My friend Vida, who is Chinese-Canadian, said that Chinese puppeteers are usually very obvious. She said that there isn’t the attempt to hide them like there is in some kinds of western puppeteering, so, “you just ignore them and it’s no big deal if you see them by accident.” This image is of Bunraku, Japanese puppet performance. While these puppeteers are noticeable, the guy on the right is less so. So, when I first glanced at the picture, I immediately saw absence of his face. Why is he nearly invisible? It turns out that visibility (i.e., exposing the face) is a form of honor to the skill of Master puppeteers, whose character is major in a play. Invisibility here is both literal and metaphorical. Absence is an indicator of insignificance.

Insignificant face

  • April 24th, 2011
  • Posted in Absence

4 Responses to “Insignificant face”