Leeds Surrealist Group

Masks of the City

At our group meeting on Wednesday, 10th May, we played a collage game using two maps of the centre of Leeds, in the form of ‘heads’, one a colour satellite image and the other a black & white A-Z street map from 2004, to create two ‘masks’ of the city. From lots drawn at our previous weekly meeting, we had determined how the features for the masks (eyes, ears, nose, mouth) were to be provided by the players. For the creation of the masks, the collage pieces were then assigned by separating them into two piles, so that each player contributed one feature for each head. The players then in turn glued the collage pieces onto the heads.

The participants were: Kenneth Cox, Luke Dominey, Jan Drabble, Bill Howe, Sarah Metcalf, Jonathan Tarry.

Contemplating the masks upon their completion, it struck us that they might represent nocturnal and diurnal aspects of the city centre, or its industrial (working class) and post-industrial (gentrified) countenances, and that the latter was a mask grafted onto the former. The city’s face has been transformed over the past decades, old derelict mills demolished or converted, factories flattened, terraced houses erased, shadows banished. The ‘dangerous classes’ of the old city have long since been driven outside the parameters delineated on the maps that we used, to be replaced by young professionals, office workers, ‘creatives’ who thrive in the new city. With an air of malevolent violence, the nocturnal mask can still inspire fear; a priggish bourgeois distaste is ill-concealed by the diurnal mask. Somewhere in this city, the mask of revolt worn by the Luddites might be uncovered or, in the future, an even more disturbing mask created.