Noxious Sector Projects
312 S. Washington St.
Seattle WA 98104

Cindy Baker

Personal Appearance

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had a theory about how identity is formed. According to Lacan, when we look into the mirror as children, there is a moment - particular to the human species - when we begin to recognize a difference between who we think we are and who we see in the reflection. As we grow older, this sense of strangeness grows too, getting stronger and more firmly defined until we begin to call it ourselves.

This is where the idea of personal appearance is born, and with it an identity that fluctuates between the boundaries of subjectivity and reflection. Like voices on the answering machine, so too is our individual image always at least somewhat different from how we imagine it to be.

It's a proposition that the Canadian artist Cindy Baker has taken literally, exploring the idea of of her own identity as a social interface, and a character to be performed. Baker has made herself a mascot costume - a mascot of herself - through which to interface with the world in a way that breaks some of the conditions of her otherwise material identity. It's a version of personality that is both real and imaginary of course, but the reality of the fiction is deceptive. This mascot is not simply an idle cheerleader for the artistic performance but also in some way a metaphor for the larger questions of identity. Is the artist trapped inside of herself, or wearing herself on the outside? Or is this inner self simply placed another layer deeper - a self within a self within a self - as if to suggest a version of identity that is more like a set of Russian matryoshka dolls than a quest for inner authenticity? And the project only gets more complex when it is an image rather than the mascot that we see. Not just a cuddly version of character self, but a photograph of a character. A photograph of a costume of an image of a person.

All this to ask how far would you have to go to meet and know the real Cindy Baker? Is she right on the outside or buried far within, a figment of the imagination or the person standing next to you on the street? Is the mascot a space suit for our journey into the imaginary, or is the real imaginary what we always see right there in front of us?