crazyface

I wonder who this guy is.  I must be fond of him since I have had his picture somewhere in the files on my computer for more than ten years.  More than once I have gone back rummaging through http://www.nicktingle.com/crazy1a.jpgcrazyface1files trying to relocate him, and I always do because I called him or his picture rather “crazyface.”  That’s easy to remember.  It speaks to me somehow—that crazyface—and recently I looked him up again and reduced him mightily to 16 by 16 pixels and stuck him up there next to my URL as my favicon.  And, as you will note, I have over stuck him in my last three entries on depression.  He seems right stuck there in ruminations on depression.

In fact, I think whenever I write an entry on depression and related mental illnesses I will stick him there in the entry as a sign to the reader: this is about depression and mental illness, read at your own risk.  Perhaps I will construct another little site with a photo gallery of this guy and the ways I have massacred his face, hack it, chopped it and colored it.

I first came across this fellow in Darwin’s “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,” and, as the reader will note, the picture here is labeled by Darwin as being from a photograph by one Dr. Duchanne.  Darwin uses Dr. Duchanne’s photographs constantly throughout his book and also refers to Dr. Duchanne’s work, “The Mechanism of Human Facial Expressions,” (1862).  The man in the picture was called by Duchanne “The Old Man,” though honestly I don’t think he looks that old.

He was Duchanne’s model and his experimental subject.  I say model because Duchanne photographed him and experimental subject because the various expressions on the “Old Man’s” face were not spontaneous but the result of a galvanic or electric discharge.  Duchanne applied electrodes to muscles as a way to isolate the muscles most responsible for facial expressions in general and for particular facial expressions. 

He would then make a photograph of the Old Man under the influence of electodes, show that picture to regular, ordinary people and ask  them what they thought this particular contraction of configuration of contractions “expressed.”  As indicated, people thought the Old Man’s face, as pictured here, expressed Horror and Agony.

I find something troubling in all this. Or should I say: quite modern.  My crazy face is not expressing as from his psyche, Horror and Agony.  He is not even an actor mimicking Horror and Agony.  He is being electrocuted in a very exacting way.  History records that the “Old Man” was

afflicted with almost total facial anesthesia. This circumstance made him an ideal subject for Duchenne’s investigations, because the stimulating electrodes he used were certainly somewhat uncomfortable, if not actually painful.

If this is true—and I hope it is—my poor “crazy face” could not even feel his face.  I wonder, if this is the case, if he knew when he was smiling or when he was frowning.  Or did he have to carry a mirror around with him.

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