As a child raised by fast paced digital simulacra, I have developed quite a keen taste for cartoons, camp and hyperbole. Having the opportunity to meet a real life cartoon, or rather, an amplified mascot version of a real stranger was similar to a comic book enthusiast/avid collector of super hero paraphernalia suddenly becoming Citizen Justice. When the festival began, so did my quest to find Cindy Baker.
Every day, I dressed in my super secret espionage ensemble (which happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to my everyday attire). Every morning as I left my apartment to embark upon my daily adventures, I approached my final destination in my super secret espionage walk that I like to call the panoptic strut (which involves walking and spinning in full circles simultaneously). It was imperative that I didn’t blink as I anticipated that at some point I would spot Cindy Baker out and about, performing ordinary Cindy Baker activities... whatever those may be.
Then finally it happened!
I was sitting on the floor in the EPCOR Center, deeply engaged in Cheryl L’Hirondelle’s êkâya-pâhkaci (don't freeze up), when suddenly out of the corner of my non-blinking eye, there she was. In all of her disproportionately important grandeur, Cindy Baker made her appearance and then... she just stood there... as a spectator.
Photo Credit: Erica Brisson, 2008
This merging of the spectacular with the anti-spectacular may seem anticlimactic after days of suspense and waiting. However, I will admit that I did not realize that I had been gawking at Cindy Baker in all her glory for a relatively long period of time until a flying insect decided to make a cave out of my mouth, snapping me back into reality. It was at this exact moment that the five year old child inside of me began to comprehend the problem with staring. I began to make connections to the suit representing the actual person inside the suit. While her felted eyeballs behind the oversized glasses were not looking into mine, her wide grinning mouth was pointing right at me. Could Cindy Baker see me staring at Cindy Baker through the black mesh of her open mouth? I finally blinked and refocused my gaze on L'Hirondelle's ethereal tent in front of me. Perhaps this was the purpose and antithesis of Baker’s performance.
Performing the self, especially an exaggerated representation of the self, brings issues of body politics to the forefront. The active spectator isn’t asked to just critique a work of art but also to critique the body of the artist. While the mascot costume of the artist evokes jovial laughter and pointing at the absurd, it discreetly calls attention to the way some people interact with human beings whose bodies do not represent popular culture’s notion of a normal body.