Lately, I’ve been talking to people about what they think and feel when they look in the mirror. It’s fascinating. Sometimes it’s about a cursory check of your appearance on the way to work. Sometimes it goes deeper, and is about your very identity, your sense of who you are and who you want to be.
Some people are comfortable with it; others find it unsettling, defamiliarising. Poet John Ashbery writes, “This otherness, this ‘not-being us’ is all there is to look at in the mirror.”
There’s a wealth of psychological research on this topic, most of which I have still to discover. Art, film, poetry – all of these have explored the relationship between the mirror and the self.
Rachel has been kind enough to go along with me in exploring some of these ideas. We’ve swapped poems, articles, photographs – anything from fairy tales to poetry, from academic texts to exhibitions about superheroes. This latest was our third mirror shoot together. Her acting skills are considerable and she brings all these ideas to bear as we shoot.
I imagine and hope there’s more of this project to come. I may well be looking for some more volunteers in the autumn, once I’ve dusted down some physics textbooks and worked out some fiddly issues to do with optics and the like.
In the meantime, I shall leave you with the words of artist Nathan Sawaya, in his Art of the Brick exhibition on Lego Superheroes and Super Villains. On Bizarro, the mirror-image ‘negative Superman’, he writes:
“I think you have to be careful of mirrors. You don’t want to look in them for too long. The longer you look, the less reality you see.”