You look in the mirror every day, me especially, or any reflective surface for that matter. You notice the small things – how your hair is looking, the folding of your clothes. Confirming conformities in the mirror as uniform normalities. Now imagine if you can only look in the mirror once a year, once a decade, once a lifestage – what do you notice then? Decay? Progress? An identity you do not recognize at all? Stare long enough into your mirror and you might catch a glimpse of how it would feel to see change. The mirror, is a central symbol.
Coming home I sat down on the matrass against the wall and sighed. Plans were discussed for the rest of the night – which project to work on, what class to study for. I felt clouded and clouded I made my suggestions, unconvinced of my own ideas. E. left the room to start downstairs. I was to follow soon. I did not. Rather, with every passing second I became more immovable. Opposite of me stood a long mirror against the wall. More than half an hour passed before E. came back to check what was taking me so long. I was not fascinated or intrigued, nor too fatigued. I think I kept staring at myself because the mirror saw its opportunity, to take possession. Claiming my physicality and swapping it with my reflection before it was so crucially interrupted.
I have always been surrounded by them in every place I have lived. I want to understand, or no rather capture, the endless questions behind every reflection. I see in a mirror not only my tired eyes – but also a passage. Passage. Hallway. A passage seen in a passage that has usually been in passage overlooked.
The mirror is a central symbol. Today it is taken for granted. Reduced to glass. We have stopped to converse with the mirror. It becoming common has made us forget. The accurate reflection did not even exist until a few centuries ago. Nature’s glittering gemstones, polished metals or pools of water only took us so far. And when it did arrive, the accurate reproduction could only be crafted in a small circular size. Suited for nothing bigger than the palm of a wealthy late medieval noblewoman, yet worth more than entire farms.
I mean, by definition, a mirror is unnatural for it enables sight into that what cannot be seen by the default state of nature. As such, from the perspective of nature, we were never supposed to see ourselves so perfectly clear. Any mirror is human, an artificial testament to our hubris to extend beyond our original state and in doing so, risk the consequences.
First, it was seen as divine reflection and in some stories God was equated with being as a mirror. Morality, made it into an education for the virtuous before the churchfathers denounced it as a trap of vanity before Versailles made it into a courtly instrument of etiquette and aesthetic competition before it slided back into scientific enquiry before resuming its role as vanity’s ally before ultimately becoming a gate to insanity as the last phase prior to it being common.
When M. looks at himself in the mirror, or C. when dancing, or me during a jamais-vu, what does the mirrored version see? How does the world look like from there? Am I a mirrored reflection myself to him in a kind of dual and ever reflecting pair of dimensions? Most of all, what is that other side trying to tell me in those shocks of Sonder.
The intimate and constant act of seeing creates the opportunity for judgement and with judgement, dreams of change. Melchoir-Bonnet in her musings on the mirror speak many now literally overlooked truths: ‘Through this doubled gaze, however, both introspective and mimetic, the individual could define himself as a subject. Examining the self in the mirror of ‘Know thyself’ allows the individual to understand himself through the mastering of his consciousness, whereas by creating his image in the mirror of others, he becomes a spectacle for himself under exterior gazes. […] Consciousness of the reflection, and reflection of the consciousness, the mirror image never cease to be an illusion. Yet the illusion is not always deceptive. It can even provide a useful moment of psychic reality. The mirror is the place of transfer, a space of imagination in which the subject disguises his self and makes contact with his fantasies. The fiction of the mirror refuses the rigid distinction between real and imaginary and allows a more subtle dialectic of the subject.’
In another way, inventing the mirror was the materialization of a ritual older than civilization. Love. In the love of the other you see yourself, and in your love for the other you return his’ – creating a mental space inbetween where the self is mirrored. This can be seen felt best when two lovers look into each other’s eyes.
I loved going to his practice room just after I woke up, where, every day without fail, he would already be hard at work. The first couple of days I dared nothing more than only a few stolen glances when I walked past the large glass doors. As we became more and more comfortable with each other I actually went inside one day. I simply closed the door behind me, sat down against the wall and looked at him practice. C. dancing in front of his mirrors. His full attention on the exact movement of his body. Through the mirrored walls I always looked at his eyes. And sometimes, for a brief few seconds, we would make eye contact in the mirror.
The mirror is a central, symbol. I look in the mirror every day, but my relationship only really changed with them when I start seeing the inverted mirror. It must have started when I was fifteen ; a couple of times a year I would get these violent autoscopic shocks where I left myself and felt as if I looked at myself for the first time. It never lasts longer than 10-20 seconds but during that time I feel like I am looking at myself from the other side of the mirror. Afterwards I am as pale as a ghost, completely unnerved but also deeply curious. With every attack, it has changed me in an invisible way and I am reminded of the existence of a barrier that weakens with every occurrence.
You look in the mirror every day. You notice
things – how your personality has changed
years, oh the folding of your insecurities,
now I also
look beyond those
Hoping that, every time I look in a mirror, my reflection will betray itself and show its secret:
one where the barrier is broken
the pact breached
and both realities flow back into each other – in bracing implosion.