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Queer Masks

This work designs some queer “masks” which could protect users physically and mentally. Besides, any slogan and virtual face could be attached on the masks if users want.

produced by: Junqiao Luo



Due to the coronavirus situation all over the world, there are many interrelated problems appearing except the COVID-19 itself. Wearing a face mask or not become a hot issue especially in Western countries. One side supports face masks could be used to avoid infection, while the other believes that people wearing them will have little effect but cause panic. This debate happens not only in official settings among doctors, scholars and politicians, but actually in our lives.

The answer to this question is not the focus of the work, but the discrimination even violence caused by masks deserve everyone’s attention. In fact, the phenomenon is mainly because of cultural difference, but racial discrimination or other bad motives cannot be excluded. Based on the “Disobedient Electronic” theory, an idea of creating some kinds of “face masks” which are allowed for users to design for expressing their thoughts or irony is appeared.


Concept and background research

Mainly inspired by Garnet Hertz’s handbook “Disobedient Electronic”, using common things to do unusual things is a very expressive way. ‘Artists and designers that used electronics in an interesting way to highlight social problems and political issues’, which was proposed as the concept of “disobedient electronic”.

Jacob Gaboury argues in his book, ‘If it is not possible to work outside the conditions for engagement produced by a given technology, then we must work with technical practices to critique and disrupt the values and assumptions that structure that technology.’ As for the mask that appears frequently recently, its meaning is not just protection or sun protection any more, but something beyond its objective structure. Queer masks is coming out.

The masks are supposed to meet two requirements – protecting users and preventing discrimination.

Firstly, consider to the convenience for using and transforming, normal face masks are initial choice. However, it has relatively less effect for those perpetrators, who may be aggressive when they recognize your race or region. The mild reminders might be useful for most people, but violence is not in the “most” situation.


An ultimate idea is that create a face helmet, which are able to protect users themselves absolutely. Some kinds of virus can spread through not only nose or mouse, but also eyes because eyes also have mucous membranes. Through helmet, undoubtedly, it can isolate users from the outside environment, isolate the virus. After self-study about Blender to build models, a simple helmet was born, which could express the “helmet-mask” concept through the virtual model. Slogans such as “for protect”, “for COVID-19”, or some pictures are easy to be attached.


But consider to the complexity of making or 3D-printing a “helmet-mask”, another accessible and convenient way is to use recycle bags. Recycle bags are easy and cheap to get since they could be seen anywhere. In this way, this kind of “bag-mask” can be made and used widely. Besides, people are allowed to write some words or slogans or paste some pictures on it.


A kind of pictures could be very special, which are a virtual human face synthesized from computer big data. They looks like real people, but the face doesn't really exist. If we attach these face pictures on our mask, people who are aggressive won't be able to identify users and discriminate. What is more important is that the use of such a face will not violate the right of others' portrait. An interesting website called “This person does not exist” gives us a way to find such virtual faces.


Actually, it’s a very ironic concept. Why is it that in such a modern society, you can't communicate directly but you should write what you want to say on your face to avoid misunderstanding? Why do human civilizations need masks to protect themselves as they progress? Why do we need faces of other races and genders to protect ourselves when we can't go out freely?

Both ordinary masks and special “masks” are just a way to protect users themselves and others. What we need in this particular time is not discrimination, not a struggle over who is right and who is wrong, but everyone getting through it.



Software: Blender, Adobe Photoshop


Future development

If there is more time or better ideas, more elaborate and accurate models will be built. In addition to the theme of this coronavirus outbreak these days, there are many similar themes to ponder around the world. It will be a huge project to turn the strange mask into a series of works.


Self evaluation

In the process of research, I learned Blender on my own. Although it takes a lot of time and the models are not sophisticated enough, the feeling of finding and solving problems is good. Learning new software, new skills, and getting a virtual theme expressed is the biggest payoff.

In this study, after referring to some relevant references about queer art works and masks, I proposed such an ironic theme based on the cultural background and epidemic situation of various countries. This work may be very immature, but it is really worth facing and thinking about.


  1. Garnet Hertz (2016) ‘Disobedient Electronics’.
  2. Gaboury, J. (2018) ‘Critical Unmaking: Toward a Queer Computation’.
  3. Beirendonck, Walter Van, Patrick Lennon, and Wereldmuseum , Host Institution. Powermask : The Power of Masks. 2017. Print.
  4. Barth, Fredrik. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries : The Social Organization of Culture Difference. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland, 1998. Print.