We Look Out & The World Looks Back At Us

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Everyone wants to fall in love in a strange town,

Everyone wants to dive in that river of dreams

where the incense swirls toward the stars

and the mirrors on the hearts of the saints 

make it impossible to lie to yourself.

John Oliver Simon from “Gringo Trail”

In “Mirror”, by Sylvia Plath, Plath finds a mirror thoroughly uncanny. “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately. Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.” In “Through the Looking-Glass”, by Lewis Carroll, Alice is playing with her kittens in front of a large mirror. “How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty?” she asks. Before you know it, she is up on the mantelpiece. “Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through.”

If you shine a light into a mirror, does the fact that the light reflects back mean that you are effectively doubling the amount of light in the room? If you throw an apple against a wall and it bounces back at you, you don’t have more apples than you started with, do you? Having said that, covering your room with mirrors will certainly discourage you from throwing things indoors.

I’m certainly not a scientist, but I can tell you that the wattage “effect” is noticed as I’m currently around a reckless use of mirrors. Light, she’s a tricky thing. Mirrors bring to mind illusion, self-love and self-loathing, and to an extent, fear. But they also show the wildness, weirdness and wonder of what’s possible. The effect of meeting ourselves in the eyes of friends, lovers and strangers, is more than a postmodern pig-out: these pieces are a vision of what happens when the ‘dance of similar’ becomes something much more meaningful.

In feng shui, mirrors are used both to bring things toward us and to push things away. There’s something mysterious about our mirror images, like our shadows, like photographs – because obviously keeping up with your actual reflection may be a near-impossible task. As if a part of us that lives in a non-dimensional alias can ever be richer, stranger, and noisier.

Like most shiny talismanic objects that are both protective and decorative, as soon as you think you’ve managed to get a handle on what they symbolize, the next act of discovery will pull the rug out from your feet. What else could become as strangely seductive but disturbing? In truth, smoke and mirrors isn’t weird at all, it’s a miracle-flecked song of desire for souls who find reflection, identity and revealing mandatory, and are quite fond of watery glimpses – metaphoric associations at their most potent and anonymous.

“The world is no more than the Beloved’s single face. In the desire of the one to know its own beauty we exist. We are not alone. The world we face faces us. We look out and the world looks back at us.”

Ghalib

 

source: Olafur Eliasson


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